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There are several qualities that have hurt the overall portrayal of women in comics and several suggestions from the interwebs and myself that I think could help further equality in comics. That’s what this new series, “Women in Comics: Do the Super Ladies Need Saving?” is all about. Inspired from a Gender Studies inquiry project and a “Gender and Comics” survey I created a couple of weeks back, this series will take an indepth look at women’s portrayal in comics. It was originally going to be one feature, but after hitting almost 4,000 words I thought people were much more likely to stay awake if I made it into multiple parts.
If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to talk about, let me know! I already have a lot planned including the way women in comics dress, their poses, the types of angles they’re drawn in, how women of race and other ethnicities are treated in comics, how women in comics are abused and I’ll be listing some empowering women in comics. But today, it’s all about the hotness of comic book women.
For most of the examples I’m going to be using the two mainstream comic book companies Marvel and DC Comics. Independents and other publishers like Image Comics and Dynamite Entertainment have their problems too, but the “Big Two” are the comics that are most widely read, meaning they have a huge impact when it comes to how women are portrayed in comics. These examples are also not limited to just superpowered heroines but also non-superpowered beings and villains.
Beauty: One Size Fits All?
There are exceptions, of course, but a majority of comic book women often have voluptuous curves, perfect skin and come-hither hips. Human beings are not shaped like comic book characters – it’s comic books, they’re allowed to be, and I’m not against eye candy. After all, I don’t mind a little of the male variety myself sometimes. But by having every women basically looking like a model and shoving their boobs in your face it can undermine characters and have a negative impact on female and male readers.
Sexy women are everywhere. Not just in comics but in music videos, movies, television shows, anime (oh god, anime…) and video games. In all of these mediums, the negative impacts on men and women have become more apparent. People say men are beginning to expect all the women on the street to have a Catwoman body under their clothes. I think men think more realistically than that, but one popular opinion of what sexy women in comic books can do to real women I think rings true: they can hurt women’s self-esteem. Now, I don’t believe all women fall for the idea that if they starve themselves long enough or nip that and tuck this they’ll become as lean as Starfire, but some women do feel that way. It doesn’t help that rarely if ever are female heroes anything other than the popular idea of “beautiful” (a.k.a. the sexy and would topple over in real-life because of the proportions woman).
The only time women are allowed to be ugly is if they are evil, and even then there are a lot of hot female villains. Why aren’t there “ugly” female heroes? Even when women become “beastly” like She-Hulk she still preserves a to die for figure, while her counterpart Hulk can enjoy a more exacerbated mutation (the only counterpoint I can think of comes in the form of Miss Thing in her costume). Though technically Hulk shows more skin than her.
In the comic book realm women of size don’t seem to be considered attractive because of the small number of characters that are overweight. The only ones I can think of are evil. But I’m sad to say I didn’t even notice this weight issue until the New 52 revamped Amanda Waller.
For those who don’t know, Amanda Waller runs Suicide Squad, and because she hates superheroes and villains she has often been a member of government organizations plotting to rid the world of heroes and villains alike. Before the New 52 I only knew Amanda Waller from the television show Justice League Unlimited and she was awesome. Not only was she a member of the government who was against the Justice League but then decided to help them, but she actually figured out who Batman was and didn’t tell anyone. She was an intelligent woman who was beautiful and it just so happened she didn’t have a slim waistline.
However, during DC Comics reboot Amanda Waller appeared in Suicide Squad ready to appear on the cover of vogue with a slimmed down waist. I think the main reason women of bigger sizes aren’t in comics is because a lot of writers believe they’re unattractive which isn’t true. There’s also the connotation that a person who is fat and lazy does nothing but eat all day. This simply isn’t true. Some women have more meat on their bones because of a physical disability like diabetes or a thyroid problem. Men are allowed to look like muscle heads like Hulk and Thor or be leaner like Spider-Man without comment and while women with muscles sometimes have bigger body types they’re always given lucious curves and gigantic boobs. I wouldn’t mind more women of size in comics who aren’t muscleheads trying to take over the world and aren’t the stereotypical Throw Mama From the Train type.
I’m not asking that hot women be removed from the comic book world. I know people like to look at what is considered the “normal” attractive female and if I can enjoy some attractive comic book men why can’t others enjoy attractive comic book women? I don’t want She-Hulk to be ugly just because Hulk’s not, I just don’t want the majority of heroic women to be constrained to one body type and some characters shouldn’t flaunt it if it’s out of character for them. I wasn’t upset at how Catwoman was sexualized in the New 52 because she’s always been a very sexual character. She has her fleeting heroic attributes which make me love her character. She’s sexually liberated which I can admire from afar.
Please let me know what you think about women’s physique in comics books. Would you want to see more women of size in comics without rippling muscles? And please check back for the next part of “Women in Comics: Do the Super Ladies Need Saving Part 2” which features the sexy Victoria Secret styles worn by many comic book women.