Imagine a small village near a valley, so isolated that they just call themselves “the people.” One day they find out about another village on the other side of the valley, and they start calling them “the people across the valley.” They can keep talking about “the people,” but sometimes they need to make a distinction: right now, we’re talking about the people on *this* side of the valley, not the people on both sides.

Not incidentally, the Latin prefixes for “this side of” and “the other side of” are cis- and trans-. English uses trans more frequently, as in transport, transform, transmit, transnational etc., all of which involve something crossing a divide. Sometimes it’s quite literal, like the old terms Transjordan and Cisjordan referring to the lands on the far and near sides of the Jordan river. Or more modern terms, like the cis- and trans- forms of a molecule that can have more than one structure. Or in space exploration, translunar space (beyond the moon) and cislunar (including the moon’s orbit and Lagrange points). (Who’s that contractor for the new moon missions, again?)

Come to think of it, the moon’s another good example of the same sort of thing. When we’re just talking about life here on Earth, we can say “the moon” and it’s clear which one we mean. But if we’re talking about the whole solar system, and how Earth’s moon compares to Titan or Europa, we have to specify which one we mean.

So if we’re talking about transgender people and their experience compared to non-transgender people and their experience, the clear term to use based on English grammar is cisgender, and just as transgender is often abbreviated as just “trans,” cisgender is abbreviated as “cis.”

It’s a description, just like “acoustic guitar.” They’re still guitars, but when you need to talk specifically about non-electric guitars vs. electric ones, that’s the term we use.

“Cisgender” or “cis” isn’t a slur, no matter what Twitter’s owner thinks. It’s not casting negative judgement any more than “acoustic” is casting negative judgment against the guitar, or insisting that space on one side of the moon is better than the other.

DC Comics recently canceled its Minx line of graphic novels aimed at teen girls, leading to much discussion amongst comics bloggers. I don’t want to talk about why the line folded, but why the line existed in the first place. Why did DC create an entirely new brand in order to go after this audience?

A big advantage to creating a new label: no preconceptions. Prospective readers won’t look at the cover, see a DC logo, and wonder where the super-heroes show up and rip off people’s arms. And they won’t see a Vertigo logo and assume that it’s a “mature readers” book. On the downside, a new label has to build its credibility from the ground up, instead of starting with name recognition.

This got me thinking: an established brand associated with customers of one gender creates a new brand in order to target the other half of the population. Where else have I seen this?

I own a jacket labeled Claiborne, which is of course made by the Liz Claiborne company.

Mervyns sells (or used to) H&H Men clothing, which was clearly a variation on their Hillard and Hanson brand.

All the examples I could think of (other than Minx itself) were companies that had traditionally been aimed at women, but were adding lines aimed at men. It made me wonder: is it the names? Do men feel odd buying a product named “Liz,” while women are used to buying brands named after both men and women? (Sara Lee notwithstanding.) Maybe it’s the stigma of a man participating in something perceived as feminine? Sort of like the assumption in children’s TV that boys will only watch shows about boys, while girls will watch shows about girls or boys (so they make shows about boys instead of girls, figuring they’ll get a bigger audience).

Then Katie pointed out LEGO Belville, the line aimed at girls which entirely misses the point of LEGO by making as much of each set prefab as possible. And pink. On the plus side, unlike Claiborne, Belville doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s a LEGO product.

That makes it more like Men’s Vogue, a copy of which is sitting in the lunch room at work. In this case they’d have to call it something different (unlike a clothing line) because it’s not just a brand, but the title of the magazine.

I still think the craziest example of this has to be Men’s Pocky. It’s a cookie. One which I’d hardly consider a “girlie” cookie, but maybe it’s more associated with girls in Japan. I still can’t figure out whether it’s a case of cultural translation or deliberate absurdity.

This week’s issue of The Flash featured brief introductions to all of the reformed Rogues. The inclusion of Magenta on that team got me to thinking: she’s the only woman on either of the two Rogue teams. She’s also one of only three who have ever been part of the Rogues Gallery. Of the other two, Golden Glider had an in—two, really: her brother and her lover were both members of the group—and Blacksmith actually had to form her own team.

Still, they’re not doing so bad in proportion. It turns out there just aren’t very many female villains in Keystone and Central City. I’ve got 72 villain profiles on my site right now, not counting teams, and just 7 solo women. (8 if you count the second version of Colonel Computron, but who can tell under all that?) By my reckoning 19 villains have been members of the Rogues proper. (That’s counting legacy villains, like the original and replacement Trickster, both times, and counting all of Blacksmith’s team.) 3/19 is roughly 16%, and even 8/72 is roughly 11%, so women are actually represented a bit more in the Rogues than in the general Flash villain population.