Whenever I complain about how females are portrayed in mainstream superhero comics, inevitably half a dozen people pop up to tell me this:
“Men are idealized in comics, too.”
Yes. Yes they are. I am aware of this. While I think the idealism is harmful, that isn’t actually what I have a problem with. (Well, not the main thing.) Because while the men are impossibly muscular and the women are impossibly skinny/boobular, the men aren’t being sexualized out the wazoo.
It’s not the characters’ bodies themselves that are the biggest problem, but how they are dressed and posed. Tits out, ass out, lips pouty, legs spread, hips cocked, eyelids at half mast. Outfits that make Wonder Woman’s star spangled panties look fit for a Mormon picnic. Short skirts, cutouts, stilettos, fishnets, thigh-highs. I’m not describing Playboy here.
You don’t see male heroes wearing these costumes or posing like this. Outside of statistical outliers like Namor, their costumes tend to have full coverage, and when they pose, it’s to inspire fear, not boners.
To prove my point, I spent yesterday morning creating this:
Looks pretty ridiculous. You would never see this as a serious illustration. Comic fans would be in an uproar. Way too much man-ass. And you know he’s not going to be graceful on those heels. And why is he looking back with a come-hither look?
You might be thinking that I drew him extra sexy, just to prove my point. Well, perhaps you’d like to see the source image:
Yeah, I literally drew Man Canary right on top of her. (*snicker*) I drew Black Canary’s skeletal position, then added the idealized male superhero physique over top. See, it really isn’t his muscles that are freaking you out. It’s the fishnets doing their best to contain those man cheeks.
And it’s not just heroines who deal with this:
I feel uncomfortable looking at this. And also, perplexed. How is that costume staying on? I know most comic artists don’t have much experience with real-world fashion, but let me tell you, double sided tape does not work all that well in combat situations.
I get that some of these characters are “using their sexuality to blind men so they can attack them,” and I bet that could be an effective attack. But there are so many chicks doing this that even the dumbest, most weak-willed superhero/villain is going to catch on eventually.
And lest you think DC is all alone in this, I present you with this little gem:
SO MUCH BULGING MAN PELVIS!!! For everyone!
I actually had a lot of fun with this one. Most of the characters are actually pretty covered up. But between Black Cat’s absurd front zipper and her pose, yeah, it’s ridiculous.
There were so many more images I could have parodied, but I got tired of spending so much time rendering man ass.
Dudes, I want you to imagine a world where most of the portrayals of your gender in comics look like the above. Are you going to think “Well, I really like the stories so I’ll just suck it up and read this anyway”? Or are you going to be alienated from reading most comics? Be honest. Are you willing to stare at that much thrusting crotch just to find out if Spiderman is gonna win?
Lots of people in the comics business look at their demographic breakdown and think women don’t like superheroes. The creator of DC Women Kicking Ass made a very apt point when she said, “Let me put it this way, if you keep keeping putting food on a kid’s plate and they don’t eat you do you assume they don’t like to eat or they don’t like the food? Right.”
Women like comics. And not just flowery manga and autobio stuff. We like superheroes.
I don’t have a problem with cheesecake, and I don’t have a problem with lady-flesh. (I make a fair amount of money drawing lesbian porn.) But there’s a time and a place for it. Unless you are specifically going out of your way to create porn comics, stop putting porn in comics. Stop using Playboy for anatomy references! (I wish I was kidding about that.)
Now, there will still be many of you who are unconvinced, who think us ladies are making a big deal out of nothing, that this is trivial. Many of you will bring up examples of female superheroes who are covered up, non-sexualized, and non-idealized. I’m not denying that those characters exist, and that there are several. But there are still far too many female characters more concerned with showing- off ass, rather than kicking it.
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