Being both a feminist and an avid comic book reader is tough. We have to witness our favorite female characters turned into sexual objects right before our eyes. Their suits are tight and unrealistic. Their bodies are drawn with large chests and butts, and small hips and waists. Their clothes, when torn after a battle, are ripped in very specific places, typically the chest or butt. It’s truly disgusting how artists get away with turning these beloved characters into nothing more than sex objects. I’m sick and tired of seeing characters like Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman, who I look up to for their leadership and courage, being dehumanized and turned into nothing but a pretty face and nice rack. It doesn’t matter how well they’re written. If you’re drawing Spider-Woman with a huge chest and a suit that leaves nothing to the imagination, the words that come out of her mouth have less and less meaning.
I’ve heard from too many people, mostly men, that female comic book characters don’t have it as bad as I think they do. Do not tell me, “Well, the men in comics are sexualized, too! The size of their muscles are unrealistic and their suits are pretty tight!” While all of that is true, it doesn’t diminish the problem of women being sexualized in comics even a little bit. The artists aren’t drawing men with large muscles to appeal to a female audience; they’re drawing them to appeal to the male audience. They want the male characters to be manly and tough so that men reading the comics will idolize them and continue reading. This isn’t very different from how they draw women. They draw them with their chests and butts protruding out so that men will be attracted to them and will continue buying their comics so they can see more of the ‘hot babes’.
There’s a constant argument between fans and artists over whether or not Black Widow’s suit should be zipped up all the way. It’s honestly ridiculous that people believe that Natasha wouldn’t zip up her suit. It would be a safety hazard otherwise. It’s incredibly impractical for a super spy who’s doing hand-to-hand combat to not have herself completely covered. If her suit is unzipped, one wrong move could lead to a very poorly timed nip-slip. It’s also out of character for Natasha to not zip up her suit. As a super spy, she understands the importance of safety and stealth. Natasha wouldn’t leave herself in the vulnerable position that she would be forced into if she was showing cleavage during a mission. This never-ending bickering is completely pointless. Those who agree that Natasha should be showing cleavage have no valid arguments as to why her suit should remain impractical. It’s obvious that they’re only interested in Natasha’s chest and not her character — which, ironically, is the exact opposite of what the Black Widow stands for. She is a feminist in every sense of the word and she doesn’t take kindly to men claiming rights over a woman’s body. And yet, despite Natasha’s feminist beliefs and outspoken personality, she is still, and will mostly likely continue to be, drawn with her suit unzipped and her unrealistic chest practically popping out.
The funniest thing about women being oversexualized in comic books is that a lot of the time, they aren’t even properly drawn. As an artist that draws people, you should probably be aware of how to draw a person anatomically correct. That means you should know how to draw breasts. It seems that every sexualized character I come across doesn’t even have their chest drawn correctly. All the women look as if they have fake boobs, and it’s very obvious. Just for the record, women’s breasts aren’t perfectly round, nor are they defying the laws of gravity. It’s honestly amazing how professional artists hired by big name corporations, like Marvel and DC Comics, can’t even draw a girl’s chest correctly.
One of the most common cases of sexualizing characters comes from cleavage windows. They are the most pointless concept in comic books. Power Girl is a perfect example. First of all, her costume is already sexualized enough, considering she’s in a leotard while fighting crime. But the cleavage window is the icing on the sexist cake. There’s literally no other point to a cleavage window other than to showcase breasts. Power Girl is such an amazing character, and yet she’s so frequently demeaned with this poor excuse for a superhero costume. This comic portrays how pointless the cleavage window is.
Rogue is an X-Men with a very special gift. Whenever she touches someone, she absorbs their powers and memories, which can be a painful process. This is obviously a large issue considering she can’t control it very well. She basically can’t touch anyone, human and mutants alike, without hurting them. She is forced to wear conservative clothing and even gloves on a daily basis to protect both herself and the people around her. The mere thought of sexualizing a character that literally cannot touch anyone is ridiculous, and yet I can’t seem to find a comic series that she’s featured in without seeing her with protruding cleavage. Rogue is proof that sexualizing female characters is unnecessary and completely absurd.
About a year and a half ago, Noelle Stevenson made a post on Tumblr saying, “how to fix every Strong Female Character pose in superhero comics: replace the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing.” And thus, The Hawkeye Initiative was born. Artists all over Tumblr submitted art of Clint Barton in ridiculous poses, mimicking comic covers and panels of women in the same poses. The site mocked the sexualization of comic book women that we’re all so familiar with. The site proves that the only way to make people realize that women are oversexualized is to put the men in their place. You can see the site here.
I’m tired of getting happy when I see an artist draw a woman correctly because it’s such a rare sight. I’m tired of seeing my favorite characters demeaned and dehumanized. I’m tired of seeing characters turned into sexual objects that can fight crime. I pray that one day, I’ll be able to go out and buy a comic book and see a character drawn realistically without being surprised. Is that too much to ask for?
Featured image courtesy of dccomics.com