What if male superheroes posed like Wonder Woman?

“Why is Wonder Woman only wearing her underwear?” asked my five year old daughter when I introduced her to the superhero in the form of the DVD of the 70s series starring Lynda Carter. I was so bummed, yet another foiled attempt to expose my kids to strong females in the media and ending up with only exposed female bodies.

This amazing art from Jezebel and Bleeding Cool:


Here’s the latest Justice League comic cover– Wonder Woman the lone female character surrounded five males. She is the only one “in her underwear” looking not so much like an invulnerable superhero and more like some male comic book artist’s dominatrix sex fantasy– torpedo breasts, long legs tapering into shiny boots, and even a whip– sorry, golden lasso. Makes me think about the time I went to see Lara Croft ten years ago and couldn’t get past the D breasts and short shorts. Clearly, we need more women comic book artists, animators, video game creators, studio heads, and media moguls.

33 thoughts on “What if male superheroes posed like Wonder Woman?

  1. What would your daughter say to the old and current depictions of Super girl, or Power Girl? Or Poison Ivy?, Zatana, have you shown her the Supergirl movie from the 80ies? It wasn’t just Wonder Woman, and in our day costumes like that were reffered to as bathing suit like,..how did that become underwear? And for that matter when did the #Pound sign become the hashtag sign?

  2. MM,

    Any time! I love stats. Sometimes they get manipulated, but a good, clear statistic can be eye opening… if one hasn’t superglued one’s eyes shut. Anyway, that Women and Hollywood link has a lot of interesting information, if that’s your kind of thing.


  3. Just noticed something. Your blog is very close to mine on a comments-per-post metric…two, two, zero, three, two, like that…and then every once in a great while I’ll have something that goes into the twenties, thirties or more. It’s an extraordinarily narrow range of subjects that will do that, when I have a post that gets thirty comments it’s always about Sarah Palin or legalizing grass. Nothing else will do the trick.

    Now this post about Wonder Woman’s skimpy outfit has 27 comments. Like I said before, the opportunity to post pictures of WW in a skimpy outfit is appealing enough…but my real curiosity has to do with this passion. Someone who says “I want WW in pants” is just kind of a nutball as far as I’m concerned — nothing too interesting about that. It’s the off-the-charts passion that I find fascinating. I could study it all day. If it were mounted on a glass slide and put under a microscope, I’d peek at it until I fell asleep and wake up a cyclops.

    I still don’t get how people can place such importance on putting an iconic superhero in cargo pants. And I’m not sure what that sense of priorities is doing to the crusade for greater liberty for women; it can’t be anything good. I realize what you’re saying with “it’s the pose not the clothes” (it’s a false argument, by the way, just look at the original cartoon and then look at the three male parodies, it isn’t really the same pose). But isn’t there an alarm going off in the ol’ noggin? Along the lines of, if famous bare-legged women are symbols of oppression and must be done-away-with…doesn’t that smack as something of a job that is never going to be finished? Olympic swimming, ice skating, gymnastics, pretty much every single role-modeling female who’s ever appeared on a box of Wheaties.

    But the 27 comments. Really amazing. All this passion to make the most recognizable female superhero ever, more boring and narrow down her appeal. Looks like laboring in the direction exact opposite from the stated goal, to me.

  4. Hey I’m curious, takingitoutside. How many long-legged flops does WW have to have before you’ll admit there’s a pattern?

    It’s funny you’re on here opining about flippant comments. I had noticed, but didn’t say it out loud, that there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of knowledge about WW among people clamoring for her to be in long pants…little knowledge of her heritage & history, and little enthusiasm involved in learning much about it.

    This WW fan has done her homework, and she’s worried about other things on the costume. Not demanding long pants. Gonna say she’s flippant and thoughtless, too?

    Lessee…we got Superman and Batman, Green Lantern, and with Marvel there is Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America — fun, big-screen, summer action movies. Wonder Woman tries to get a made-for-TV project off the ground and it dissolves into a toxic puddle of bickering about star-spangled panties. Something tells me, you don’t think that’s a pattern because you don’t like the conclusion that is logically formed from it. Yeah, it’s not really about exposing the legs, it’s about saving the big arguments for the big issues & not wasting energy on small issues; putting something on the screen to entertain the audience, not to make a statement about women in skimpy outfits & leave the audience bored.

    So WW sits. And gathers more dust. Nice.

    • Okay, one by one.

      As far as knowledge about heritage and history, yes, I’ve got some. The fact that I know quite a lot about her history, however, doesn’t in and of itself make me a better commentator than someone without that knowledge. Whether a character was presented a certain way in the fifties doesn’t mean that it’s an appropriate way to present them in the 2000’s.

      Next, did you actually read that link? Ms. Strickland disses what she considers an overly-skimpy look multiple times (ex. “We have the Granny Panties, which are a relief after all the Wonder Thongs we’ve had to endure”) and also calls out other costume issues that I and, I think, the other people who dislike the cover above would find problematic (four-inch high heels was one, if I remember correctly). The point of the original post isn’t that Wonder Woman must wear long pants; it’s that constant over-sexualization of Wonder Woman and other female superheroes is a bad thing and should stop. The Justice League cover above is ludicrous.

      Finally, on audiences. In 2009, women bought 55% of movie tickets, and there were nine million more female movie-goers than male (per Women and Hollywood). Other studies have found that films can survive without male audiences (think “women’s film”), but not without female audiences – even the testosterone-filled summer bonanzas draw significant enough female audiences that they wouldn’t be successful if women weren’t interested in them. Similarly, this 2010 report from TV by the Numbers shows how most primetime TV shows draw a majority female audience. Gee, I wonder why a Wonder Woman who is regularly presented in an extremely sexualised manner in comics doesn’t give rise to successful films or TV shows? A comic may sell well compared to other comics if it only aims at guys, but TV shows and movies cannot afford to ignore the majority of their audience.

      • Since you’re the kind of person who reads until a sentence pops out that might upset the applecart, and then replies with “did you read your own link,” it’s probably difficult to tell you anything. But the point should be made that there’s a big difference between 55% women in the audience and 55% feminists in the audience. This last incarnation of Wonder Woman, which would do well to appear in the next edition of a dictionary or encyclopedia next to the word “FAIL,” likely would have been a feminist’s dream. We can’t know that for sure without seeing the content, which now, isn’t gonna happen. But it seems the producers acquiesced to every advocacy demand that was placed upon them and the result was a flop.

        Women, I think, are actually a lot like men this way; most of them want to be entertained, they don’t want the intersex power struggle to follow them into the theater. Who, lately, has done a better job entertaining anyone, anywhere, than James Bond? Who, I would offer, is distinguished not because of that franchise’s presentation of women as over- or under-sexualized, or over/under-empowered — I would say that franchise is distinguished because it’s done the best job keeping the squabbles out of the product and just having fun.

        I agree with you it isn’t about the long pants. I don’t detest these “fixed” versions of Wonder Woman because they’re wearing long pants, I detest them because they’re built to please people who don’t care about who WW/Diana is supposed to be, and therefore, they aren’t fun. The Richard Donner Superman was pure fun; the Tim Burton Batman was fun. This new Green Lantern? Eh, not quite as good, probably won’t be buying that disc, but shows promise. Lara Croft? Mmmm…fun here & there…I don’t think anyone’s rushing out to buy it, you have to wait too long for the fun. It’s entertainment value, not the appeal to agendized aggrieved victim-groups, that get movies sold, and not appeal to women versus men. Those last two are not mutually exclusive.

        • Morgan,

          “Women, I think, are actually a lot like men this way; most of them want to be entertained, they don’t want the intersex power struggle to follow them into the theater.”

          There is no separation here. Its not like we can just forget the “power struggle” and “be entertained” by the same old scenario of the hero guy who wins the girl.


  5. Pingback: Remorseless husband-stealing no-good linkspams (15th August, 2011) | Geek Feminism Blog

  6. Ironically comic artists do have a habit of putting female characters in male poses and in male situations and fighting like men and weilding outrageously big weapons like men and basically doing everything men do–except for the one small fact they have the women characters wearing incredibly sexy scant outfits. But other than that, comic artists and writers haven’t had a lot of experience interacting with the opposite sex so they don’t really know how to present them as anything but guys with boobs.

    And tell your daughter that most male super-heroes wear outfits that are typically as tight and revealing as most female characters. Heck, Sub-Mariner and The Hulk are just in a swim suit and ripped pants. 🙂

  7. You know, there is one other observation to make here that I haven’t seen anybody else make…

    With all due respect to your artist, her reproductions are not quite fair. The Wonder Woman you have up there, if she catches me in her lasso I’m telling her what I know and I’m hoping I get away in one piece. With some doubts…

    The guys who are supposed to look exactly like her? They look like complete dorks, sorry. I dunno why. Maybe women have what it takes to be intimidating while their legs are showing, and men don’t. Or maybe the artist knew a little bit too much about what she wanted to prove, and ended up not proving it.

  8. For those who are curious, you can find the original here: http://coelasquid.tumblr.com/post/8420220692/dreamsofawesome-wonder-womans-new-costume-looks . It’s done by coelasquid, who does the webcomic Manly Guys Doing Manly Things ( http://thepunchlineismachismo.com/ ). I’m a little disappointed at how many blog posts and articles are linking to the big name sites that had this passed on to them, but not the original artist, because it’s been a LOT of them (including Jezebel that links to the 4-Chan edited piece on bleeding cool, but doesn’t mention the original artist at all).

    She’s a great artist with a really funny comic. Check it out.

  9. Okay, your observation is a fair one but it’s only going to become more valid if it benefits from the opposing perspective…

    I think it would be fair to give an effort like this three-shots-and-you’re-done. Otherwise it takes on a stench of “We don’t care what people accept, we’re here to change that”…which is where the feminist movement really loses credibility. Now the Wonder Woman in long pants thing? Sorry, it’s been given a fair shake. It just happened with that NBC boondoggle. After what, 67 years or something now? The pattern remains consistent. WW shows off her legs or else she’s a flop.

    I see what you’re saying about the sex fetish thing. Some of that is in her roots, going back to the very beginning. At the same time, she’s a symbol of female potential and power, and that goes back to the very beginning as well. She was put in a skimpy outfit at the beginning because she was supposed to be an Olympic athlete, plus a beauty contest winner. Power…beauty. Then they put her in that silly Judo outfit and made her into a secret agent or something to try to cash in on the spy genre. Then she was put in a skimpy outfit again because — once again — Olympics were hot, and she’s an Olympic champion. It is what her character is all about, and when you put her in motorcycle or martial arts outfits, it just looks stupid.

    Really if you want to compare a man to WW you should be comparing Hercules. Who is drawn, very often, wearing something skimpy and it looks just fine — very much like Wonder Woman in that picture you have there.

    I would add this is why Wonder Woman can’t quite make a movie. They start production, everyone gets into a heated argument about the shorts, and then the movie is cancelled. If the “put her in pants” people win the argument, then the whole thing dissolves into an absurd puddle of gooey silliness. Batman, meanwhile, just proceeds to make his movie.

    • Oh, thank god a man is here to give us all “the opposing perspective.” Because women have never, ever, ever heard a dude’s perspective, or a sexist perspective, before. Nope.

      • @Heelbiter, I’m sure you’ve heard sexist men before, but his reply was how shortsighted the article was with 3 pics and no history. It was good point whether its plentiful or not.

      • Yup.
        Because it’s always so wonderful when there’s a discussion about gender equality, and an opinion is thrown out unheard because it comes from “a man.”

        That’s what equality is all about. Right?

        I don’t think its sexist to point out that non-leg-showing Wonder Woman doesn’t sell as well as leg-showing Wonder Woman, just as I don’t think it’s sexist to point out that non-chest-showing Fabio doesn’t sell as well as chest-showing Fabio.

        The discussion should be around why the one sells better, what the target audiences are, whether the target audience can be expanded or changed (and whether it should be.)

        Nobody denies that there is sexism in comics.

        I do, however, think the topic is more complex than whether Wonder Woman shows leg, or what stance she is standing in on the book cover.

        If I had to take a stab at things, I’d start by examining the writing, characters, and plot structure. I’d leave the art until last.

        But, hey, I’ve got a Y-chromosome. So I guess my opinion is invalid?

        (I did have a good laugh at the pictures. Cyborg was my favourite.)

    • Morgan,

      Disagree that “unless Wonder Woman shows off her legs, she’s a flop.” This kind of thinking is so limited. There are infinite images of how Wonder Woman could appear that the world has not sen.

      Also, its not fair to claim the covered up WW is a flop when its backed by a culture that supports and rewards women as sex objects. WW in her underwear is a symptom of what our culture currently values in women. Change has to be creative and subversive, I think, with the help of women artists and writers, and– the hardest part– funding to back their ideas.


      • Disagree that “unless Wonder Woman shows off her legs, she’s a flop.” This kind of thinking is so limited.

        It’s not appropriate to criticize the thinking for being “limited” when it’s simply an observation of the pattern we’ve seen take place, especially since 1942. Maybe it’s my fault for failing to make that clear.

        …and– the hardest part– funding to back their ideas.

        I think this bull’s-eyes the real issue. How do we test what you’re saying?

        Personally, I find this to be one of my favorite issues. Not just because it gives me an excuse to put up pictures of bare-legged Wonder Woman when it is discussed…although there is that…but it’s like the Number One “Weeble Wobble” of all progressive ideas. They put out a pantsuit-Wonder Woman, nobody buys it, they pull her back in, they put her out again, pull her back in…it continues to be a non-starter. It’s a question that deserves serious consideration, I think: If the marketplace is not a sufficient testbed for what you’ve proposed, and it seems to be that way just because you don’t like the results, then what other way is there to validate it?

        By the way, the Justice League actually has quite a few bare-legged and bare-torso male members, and it has a lot of heroines who are covered up from head to toe. You just don’t hear as much about them as you do about Batman, WW and Superman. Women can make certain fashion statements work that most men can’t. Of course, there’s Tarzan…

      • Unless I missed quite a few pants-wearing Wonder Women, the current record stands at three pants costumes to, oh, I don’t know, a dozen? twenty? pants-less costumes. Some of those pants-less costumes were featured in series that didn’t do as well as the others, but apparently some of y’all think that if a series doesn’t do well and happens to also feature Wonder Woman in pants the series’ problems are solely and completely due to Wonder Woman wearing pants. Three out of dozens does not make a pattern, and baseball has a three strikes rule because the maximum for your other options (balls/hits) are equally low. Arguing that we should never again consider a Wonder Woman costume with pants because a small number of series with well-known other, more important issues didn’t do as well as had been hoped is just silly.

        Given that, I would think, Tony, that you would be against the original comments if you truly believe that “the topic is more complex than whether Wonder Woman shows leg”. Freeberg got dismissed because he didn’t seem to bother putting a lot of thought into his comment yet argued that the article was completely wrong, not because he happened to write while male. Heelbiter was pointing out Freeberg’s lack of thoughtfulness and highlighting that guys, in particular, have been known to enter discussions of sexist behavior and try to explain why it’s not such a big deal without actually seriously considering whatever was under discussion. In other words, a flippant comment got a flippant dismissal.

  10. I was recently looking for superhero shirts for my daughters, and had a brutal time attempting to find any. The largest bulk are in the “boys” section and feature only male figures.

    Don’t get me wrong, my daughters love their fairies and princesses too, but also love their Hot Wheels, super heroes, and making mud pies. So it was that on a recent business trip over several thousand miles, that I thought I would surprised my daughters with a treat from the United States. There was no dice on the super hero front, unfortunately.

    My niece is very much into video games and recently changed schools because kids picked on her for not being “girly enough.” I, myself, am covered in tattoos but don’t give a damn for what is “manly” and feel gender roles are a boat anchor best left on the bottom of the sea.

    This is a good blog entry, and one that really illustrates the lunacy of Wonder Woman’s presentation in juxtaposition to her male counterparts who greatly outnumber her.

    • It’s crazy how you can look at a kindergarden, and almost all the girls are wearing either pink or purple. At least the boys get a range of blues, red, yellow…

      The lack of superhero shirts for girls shows that the companies don’t see them as a significant audience (mostly through their own doing by catering to boys) – and when they do make “superheros” for girls, often it’s a knock-off from a male series (She-Ra, the female He-Man!) or a female character that’s actually added to the series for the boys.

      I am, however, noticing more superhero shirts available for women. Most likely due to superhero movies being attended by both genders.

      If that trend continues, maybe over time it’ll trickle down to the kids clothing & games.

      • Hi Tony,

        Yes– the narratives/ characters start with movies (or books) and then metamorphose into games (including video) and toys. Sometimes, the order changes (Lara Croft was a video game before it was a movie.) I am convinced that the best way to change the cultural imaginary is to get more women artists putting out their work.


    • Ken,

      Totally agree about the ridiculous gender polarization. If you get a happy meal at McDonalds, they ask if the kid is a girl or boy to determine the toy. I just took my kids (3 girls) for their annual check up and the nurse asked if they want princess stickers. They don’t give kids real choices and then people say girls ‘naturally’ go for princesses and boys like trucks. Argh.

      Thanks for visiting ReelGirl.


    • My niece would love this t-shirt. Depends on taste (zombi body part warning) but I think Velma is a superhero.


      I get very upset when Hercules is shown wearing clothes. The Greek legends (of Herakles, obviously) are very specific that he only wears a short cloak made of a lionskin from the lion he killed himself. He released two thieves he captured when they made him laugh by commenting on his black-tanned bottom.

    • Jasmine,

      Its hard to imagine because we are so programmed to look at women one way. That’s why it cracks me up when people (men) complain about PC censors who want to limit art. Its exactly the opposite. The same old narrative and its characters are continually recycled.

      I think Wonder Woman would not be in her underwear, though, for sure.


Leave a Reply