Whenever I blog about the exaggerated breasts or ass of a female cartoon character, commenters respond that I have nothing to complain about: all cartoons are caricatures.
There’s a difference between exaggerating muscles and exaggerating someone’s butt. Here’s artist Kevin Bolk’s take on “The Avengers.”
Of course, “The Avengers” model, with its pathetic 5: 1 male/ female ratio and then sexualizing that lone female, is not unique to that group of superheroes.
Check out the Justice League’s latest cover. Notice any similarity?
Here’s the artist Coelasquid’s “If Superheroes Posed Like Wonder Woman.”
I love Coelasquid’s art because it shows so clearly that it’s not only the clothes put on female characters but the poses they are in.
Though of course, the clothes don’t help much. Here’s Theamat’s “If I Don’t Get Pants, Nobody Gets Pants:”
Wonder Woman with no pants was created by (and for?) grown-ups but it leads to Wonder Woman with no pants showing up as a LEGO minifig.
Or most recently, in the ensemble movie “Pirates!” for kids, in theaters right now, there’s one female and she shows up looking like this:
Females are half of the population, yet because they are presented as a sexualized minority in so many movies for adults, they are also presented as a sexualized minority in movies for kids. Those roles are then replicated in kids’ toys and most tragically, in kids’ imaginary play.
Female characters account for only 16% of all characters in movies for kids.
Here’s an interesting coincidence: across the board in all professions, women at the top don’t make it past 16%.
Do you think limiting females in the imaginary world limits them in real life? Unfortunately, your kids do.
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It’s interesting that noone seems to have been at all disturbed by Thor being molested and sexually objectified while unconscious during the latest Avengers movie. The oversexualisation of both male and female superheroes is indeed disturbing.
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Scratch a bit deeper OP shall we. You try so hard to slam this label on comics of not representing reality, but did it ever occur to you that this is just a fantasy world with fictional characters? Now if back in the medieval-age day and I was a king who sent out female soldiers with this kind of armor, of course that’s bad, I’d lose some soldiers! REALISTICALLY they’d be more likely to take damage. Realism should never be an argument of such degree when it comes to fantasy. Though you don’t seem to recognize that this is a FANTASY, doesn’t matter what kind of armor you’re wearing; you could be fully clothed, or half naked. In a fantasy you can have anything you want, it’s your creation.
Let me cut to the chase, if you want female characters in different poses; make it yourself. Clearly you see an aspect of a franchise that in your opinion could use improvement, that’s nice and all but it is more productive to make the content yourself instead of betching at Marvel to change. I personally believe that women are just salty they don’t have comics where guys are in sexual poses that WOMEN PERCEIVE to be attractive. The way a man poses that is sexual to women is a TON different than how a woman would poses that registers as sexual for men. I’ll let that set in for a few moments.
Looking at your evidence, you talk about wonderwoman yet exclude harley quinn who’se fully clothed. Your movie example is not even in the united states, yet you talk as though it is an example for the US population. It’s easy to paint Marvel as the sexist bad guy when you point out the 5:1 ratio then argue that the 1 is the token female who has to be sexualized in order to stand out.
I can’t wait to shred more articles like this.
Also here’s a question – which gender, in real life, is more likely to risk their lives to protect others? Which is more likely to have a profession or job, where they take risks with their lives, or protect others physically with their lives?
How many female soldiers are there proportionally? (I’d guess it’s much lower than 1 in 6) And those that do exist, pass under lower test criteria than men.
What about, IDK, lifting a heavy object off someone? Which gender is more likely to do that?
Men are biologically wired to protect (look it up, testosterone does this, as well as makes men physically stronger). They also, due to testosterone have lowered risk aversion, and higher aggressiveness in response to threat.
That’s why men are more often comic book heros. Because comic heros are based on real life heros, and it’s much less common for a woman to carry someone out of a burning building.
Simple as that.
Protect from whom? Men! Men, who are the perpetrators of almost all violence on earth.
And what about childbirth–like that’s not risking one’s life?? Women in 1st world countries are lucky to have decent medical care. But the majority of the women on earth go it alone.
I wonder if the reason artists choose to pose women in sexual ways isn’t just because they are trying to portray them as sex objects which is definitely happening, but because for some stupid reason the majority of the human race seems to think that one of the strongest power a woman can have is her sexual power over men. I’m not saying that it’s right or okay to sexualize women or anything, just throwing out my two cents.
hay it looks like robin the male costomes that look like females any one else see it
I feel like I have to say something… I mean, I agree with most of what says here, but not with the part of the clothes…well,that’s no true; not with WONDER WOMAN clothes… she showing some skin is not the problem and never was, after all there are male superheroes that shows as much as her, if not even more. The problem is the sexualization of her figure; Hulk goes arround with almost no clothes, but is not an object, not just a sex selling thing. To ilustrate my point, here is wonder woman with no pants http://latimesherocomplex.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/lynda_carter_as_wonder_woman.jpg and here is she with pants https://xmer.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/wondy-in-pants-jacket.jpg …is not matter of her clothes, but how she is portrayed. I know clothing is actually part of the issue, and you can tell by looking at Powergirl, I just saying that if you attack a problem where there is non, you lose energy in solve something that wasn’t broken, and trying to “fix it” with the wrong resourses (that’s why the “pants” wonder woman is a failure) and also you don’t pay attention where a rea problem is.
For the record, IMO that’s the best summary so far.
Wonder Woman was put in hot pants in the first place (post “secret agent Diana Prince” era) to make her look like an olympic athlete. Which is exactly what she is. And it was Gloria Steinem’s idea.
What goes for all superheroes & superheroine’s costumes is, they should be selected out of an effort to embrace something, not to avoid something. If you dress them up to avoid something, it shows, it looks cowardly, and you end up making them all look more-or-less exactly alike. Between Catwoman, Black Widow, Modesty Blaise, Black Canary, we have enough kick-ass martial-arts-expert women running around in their assembly-line-made head-to-toe black catsuits. The look lacks the sense of distinction WW deserves.
I don’t think it’s sexist, human nature is beautiful.(especially females)
Why not show it?
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Its an interesting point made. Women are highly sexualized in comics and real life.Fit women in yoga pants, leggings, skirts and shorts attract my attention. I think if you can look at a woman sexually and appreciate her mind personality courage etc its a good thing. Wonder Woman is a sexy and strong character but yeah the way she is drawn does show the pig in us. This is where it gets rough, fellas dont be too nice if you like women with big breasts and bare toned legs own it. Im not saying you should mistreat women but I refuse to pretend like sex is not on the brain of men and women and ignore it. I have a young daughter and she will probably to grow to want the sexual attention of men. She also will have to deal with the reality that there are real and fictional women that are more attractive than her without going crazy or having an eating disorder.
Hi Luke Charles,
The way we are conditioned to perceive women as sexy is extremely limited. Men are sexy because they are smart, funny, athletic, powerful. Women are sexy IN SPITE of that, even told they better not be too smart, too powerful because then they won’t be sexy. This has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with fear of female power. Women are forced to fragment themselves and choose, because men, as a group, fear female power.
I think you have it all wrong.
Men, are biologically disposed to protect and aid women in any way they wish (testosterone creates this effect in studies). We are hardwired to protect women and children, and provide them whatever they want. Hence why suffrage was barely a protest, and you get all the female empowered characters you ask for, and any time a woman feels bad in some way, odds are some white knight will come in to help.
It also decreases risk aversion (testosterone), and increases muscle mass, as well as acts as an anti-depressant, and self-esteem booster.
If anyone is fearing any genders power, when complaining about how the sex who goes to war, does heavy labour, does all the high risk jobs, and has 20% greater muscle strength gets portrayed more often as the active physical protector role – the ‘hero’ – I don’t think I can say it is men.
We aren’t stopping women getting into the military, we aren’t stopping them from being career women. Career women get paid 17% more than career men, and the military standards for a woman getting into the military, are lower.
Who ends up in comic books is hardly material, it’s just a reflection of who are the protectors in real life.
I mean, a man speaking up to a woman these days, or raising his voice in anger is a no-no. Manspreading is a no-no. Men are sexual predators, dangerous deviants who spread toxic masculinity.
Who is afraid of who?
I’m not afraid of female power. I am skeptical of women that think that power is something you claim like a flag planted in the ground, rather than earn, through hard arse work and effort, and serious accountability for ones own shit.
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What does any of this discussion have to do with the fact that WONDER WOMAN NEVER GETS TO WEAR PANTS?
Quick fact: women’s legs get just as cold as men’s.
Great comment Sharon
the skin argument is invalid as well (in addition to the faulty pose one), as the Hulk is the most nude character in the images above.
You pick ONE picture where ONE male superhero out of FIVE is half naked and say the skin argument isn’t valid? Do some research beyond this post if you think males are shown more clothed than females.
Think about this for a second. Wonder Woman is the most prominent female hero in the Justice League,and Hulk is a prominent male hero, so I guess your argument is invalid.
The Guy Who Roasts All
the female pelvis, in addition to being wider and shorter, is also tilted forward slightly. in addition women tend to have a pronounced fat pad above the pelvis that accentuates this roundness. these things and more create rhythms that artists use to enhance figures, both male and female. In addition, perhaps you havent noticed Scarlett’s fantastic breasts? yet she isnt shown from the front. from any angle, she is raw sex. sorry. she is. The fact that she is shown from the back is purely a compositional choice, not a sexist one.
Your comment speaks for itself.
Women and men do move differently, generally. Fair comment.
you’re not saying the challenging theory is better asserted or more desirable, you’re just saying the more orthodox theory is accepted because of tradition & nothing more.Thank you so much !!
Men are men. Women are women. Even in simple math, trying to describe two things which are inherently not equal as equal is against natural law.
So in a sick twist of words, you are suggesting that women are supposed to be less than men then? Natural law my ass.
“Inherently not equal” is different from “less than.”
Hope we’re all in agreement on that. It’s a concept basic to logic and math.
Huh? Equal means equal value. Less than contradicts equal and implies not equal.
I do not presume to speak for the other fellow. I’m just pointing out, “less than” goes well beyond what he said. You take issue with this?
O are you trying to claim men and women are the same?
Equivalance is not the same as value.
“Many potential fathers= many protectors/ providers”
Wait, WHAT?? That’s a goal, or something? Hope I misunderstood that!
I didn’t write “goal.” I wrote that is one theory, out of many, and yet, only another theory gets all the attention as if it were fact: “It’s just biology that men sleep around and women dream of their wedding day…”
The trouble is, as you write about what’s done & thought “in 2012” I notice you consistently use passive-voice so it’s difficult to determine what it is you’re trying to say, or who exactly it is you’re trying to criticize. Why not use active-voice with this stuff?
Okay so I guess you’re trying to challenge one theory with another…you’re saying, the more orthodox theory that a child is best provided-for if it’s a settled matter who the father is, that’s a relic of stodgy patriarchy or something? And you’re not saying the challenging theory is better asserted or more desirable, you’re just saying the more orthodox theory is accepted because of tradition & nothing more, or something. As opposed to out-&-out calling for western civilization to switch to a polyandrous system…is that it?
I’m trying to understand, Recidivist’s statement was clear, to me anyway, but I’m not sure what your rebuttal is.
I do not believe in the theory that men are naturally promiscuous and that women are naturally monogamous. I also do not believe that humans are all naturally polyandrous. I think its about potential and choices. I, personally, am a fan of monogamy.
Im havent ever dreamed of my wedding day sooo… oh and I am a girl.
I do agree that women are purposely sexualized in media; comics (and movies based on them) suffer this even more than movies since the comic artists limit themselves to all sexy poses (most unrealistic ones) in almost all panels.
On a lighter note, as a woman I don’t mind having more men in the Avengers movie than women at all, I mean that’s more eye candy… for me! XD (six hot guys in skin tight clothes -without counting Samuel Jackson’s badassery- in one movie. Yummy!)
Thought you’d like this http://www.flickr.com/photos/franmoff/5756099383/
I’m all about gender equality, having a daughter myself. It interested me previously, but never more than when I imagine her upbringing and adult-hood.
But, in all fairness, one really cannot expect to get the “sexy vote” without using a body type that males typically find physically attractive. Visual media cannot expect to hold their audience’s attention for very long without appealing to their “primitive brain”, which reacts much more quickly than the frontal cortex.
That is the assumption, I believe, anyway.
To say that a woman is just as valid without meeting ideally “sexy” proportions is incorrect, until you enter into a scenario whereupon “sexy” is the primary focus. In this case, you are just as unlikely to find a man that doesn’t meet society’s beauty standards as you are to find a woman that doesn’t. The hero is never flabby around the middle and neither is the heroine.
I agree that we have a long way to go. I know that we do because I don’t know any other way to be and must struggle with gender bias every day.
However, the enthusiastically idealistic “Everyone is beautiful.” sentiment only carries so much water. Strictly speaking, from the standpoint of one’s interest in reproduction (which is where ‘sexiness’ stems from)… all people are NOT created equal.
Much of what is considered “attractive” or “sexy” is cultural, reflecting the values and morals of society. in 2012, especially in America, youth in females is considered “attractive” while older men are considered “attractive.” Social Darwinists argue this is biologcal, we want to reproduce and females select a man who can provide. Also a justification for women’s “natural” monogamy and males “natural” promiscuity. Total bullshit. Read Natalie Angier’s book woman science reporter for the New York Times. This is the same kind of pathetic theorizing that calls gay people unnatural and older people useless. Much goes into creating and raising healthy children and healthy societies. One theory is that females woudl have sex with as many males as possible so no one knows who the father is. Theories abound and the ones that justify a culture dominated by older, white men are the most popular. There is no “sexy ideal.” Have you ever been away for a while and come back and looked at Vogue? The women look like aliens, like there is no separation between money and beauty. Concepts of beauty are homogenized by a culture and the media is so ubiquitous, its hard to even tell what sexuality would be like or could be like.
The sad irony of margotmagowan’s reply is that gays dominate the fashion industry. If the women in Vogue look like aliens then one should question why homosexuals are distorting the female image, how does it benefit them and what do they hope to achieve? Also, the idea that women would want to have sex with as many men as possible to conceal the real fathers identity is nonsensical from an evolutionary point of view, as man is not only a seeder but a protector and provider for his family. This view has, of course, become unfashionable in a civilization that want to sever the link between nature and nurture, to insist that we are all born tabula rasa and promote the idea that women are identical men.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of gay people who a re not in the fashion industry.
Many potential fathers= many protectors/ providers; the point is there are MANY theories, no one knows the truth, and one is promoted over all others b/c it justifies male dominance in 2012.
I saw this article recently and thought you might be interested in it, judging by the way the conversation is going:
The general argument is that evo-psych is bollocks and used to justify male privilege and sexism.
thanks for this.
MM: “Believe it or not, there are plenty of gay people who a re not in the fashion industry.”
Yes, but that has nothing to do with what I said. The fashion industry is dominated by gays. One doesn’t even need to do a census, men’s magazines are filled with homoerotic content. The malnourished and stick thin women that adorn the covers of high-end women’s glossies are a homosexual fantasy. The female form stripped of its child bearing capacities, removed from nature and all that ghastly reproductive equipment that reminds us all of what we are really here for.
The wholr point of being gay is that you’re attracted to men. The woman you described is a “sexy” woman. Also gay men do not dominate fashion, that’s a stereotype
Do you have any sources for that? I’m finding it rather hard to believe. For one thing, as a heterosexual woman, I don’t necessarily find women with androgynous figures the most attractive; I’m as likely to call, say, Christina Hendricks beautiful as I am Summer Glau. Why should I therefore expect that MEN who are attracted to men only find women with “masculine” appearances attractive?
Additionally, there’s a practical reason for the thin figure that dominates fashion. It rose to prominence with Twiggy in the ’60s, but part of the reason it remains popular is that it’s easier to make clothes that fit well when the person in question isn’t terribly curvy. Besides that, the woman isn’t the focus when it comes to fashion – the clothes are. The woman is, effectively, a walking coat hanger, so the less distinctive her figure the better for the clothes. That kind of an attitude isn’t without its problems, of course, but it has nothing to do with what the designers necessarily find attractive.
I forgot to mention that I don’t think it really matters whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual people who are controlling the majority of women that we see in the media on a regular basis; the end result is that they represent a small fraction of the vast array of body types that women possess, and that contributes to body image issues in women who *don’t* fit the stereotype.
no, absolutely no male body image and sexualization issues in comic books at all,
One more time: male strength is exaggerated, which actually makes sense since, after all, these are superheroes. Female sex characteristics are exaggerated. Get the difference?
male strength is a sexual characteristic
Exactly, male strength is sexualized and female weakness is sexualized.
How is that female weakness? Wonder Woman isn’t weak, she just has characteristics that a majority of men are attracted too, just like muscles on a man is considered attractive.
Strength is a quality that ALL superheroes are supposed to have. Yet only in female superheroes is it suborned to sexiness. That’s the problem.
More specifically than strength, huge, over-inflated muscles are exaggerated sex characteristics in males. Comic books are the main source of body image problems in males in the culture.
Didn’t you ever take sex-ed? Muscles are NOT a secondary sex characteristic.
I didn’t say “muscles” were a secondary sex characteristic. Big muscles are what is considered sexually attractive on a man, just like tits and asses are considered that. Little boys look at super heroes and think they should look like that too, just like little girls look at magazine covers and develop poor body image from that.
Giant muscles on male comic book heroes are for the benefit of a male audience–their supposed primary readership–not a female one. The muscles are huge and exaggerated. They are proof of power and have nothing to do with pandering sexually to women, who, by the way, would design male comic book heroes very, very differently if we assumed that their main function in the story was to exist as eye candy.
that’s a good point, however boys do develop body image problems from this and other aspects of popular culture. I mean to point out that overt patriarchal images effect men as well as women. patriarchy is good for neither gender.
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I agree that superheroes can send messed up body images to males as well. Still, i think the image and narrative of a superhero, the strength, the action, saving the day, the action based toys and games superheroes morph into, are far preferable to models whose sole value is in their appearance and lead to passive characters who smile and pose in “pretty” dresses.
Young boys need to be taught to be real men & women need to be taught to be real, stand up for yourselves women. Period. Men do not need to be even jokingly seen as standing like women. Yes, the picture of all the Avenger guys standing as girls is funny but at what cost? There is a crisis going on with the youth of the American males being taught to demasculate themselves. Woman are women, we are beautiful creatures at all sizes. If a man draws his female characters with overly womanly features, I take it as a compliment as a woman. I do not find it as an insult. Do we really want a man celebrating a woman wearing tee-shirts & jeans w/ a pony tail or looking like a goddess? If you know a man who sees you in yoga pants & a bun yet thinks you are a black widow Avenger, stick your ass out & pose. If you know a little boy who chews his nails with anxiety, tell him he can take on the world no matter how small he is now. Even Captain America was small at first. Men must be men, when no one is looking is the most important time. No man should be forced to be less of a man.
We tread on an area here that was & is a predominately “male” area of the comic realm. The female character is the Token Babe. We just gotta deal w/ it. I’m happy to be the Token Babe. I don’t mind the was it 6:1 ratio, I can hold my own. Like any strong woman.
The problem with the Token Babe and focussing on the woman’s figure is that it emphasises the mindset that women must be attractive to be worthwhile. It’s not celebrating the fact that “we are beautiful creatures at all sizes”, because you don’t see overweight or even average-sized women in sexy clothes starring in a film or TV series. I’m not saying women on TV shouldn’t be conventionally attractive, but that shouldn’t be a defining feature of *all* of them.
Guess what? Women don’t stand like this. Men who draw them make women stand like that. Posing that way is not “feminine” and not “natural.” Nor is sticking out your ass.
Do I want a man (and women) celebrating a woman in a T shirt and ponytail? YES. Why isn’t that “goddess” to you?
The big problem with the 6:1 ratio is that it is much more difficult to stereotype females when you need to come up with multiple narratives and looks for them.
Just lightly skimming over this one…I’m not really up to speed with my “collections of gratuitous ass shots” web pages, so I’m just grabbing one at random.
I’m not seeing a discerinable female dominance here, Margot. I agree comic book characters are put in poses that are not consistent with real life, I don’t see how anybody can dispute that.
As to why the females are not better represented, I have a theory: Two is the absolute limit, unless the group all-female and exists for the purpose of showing how tough the broads can be — then you can go to three, like in Charlie’s Angels. If you form a co-ed group of, let’s say, four women and four men, there’s going to be a limited amount of time to explore the motivations of these four female characters; two among them would have to recede to the background, so the other two can share the limelight with the gentlemen.
And then, bloggers, just like you, are going to get all honked off. You’d be the first to say something and call for a boycott. You know it’s true.
women do in fact pose that way, and not doing it is physically impossible for many women, or at least very uncomfortable.
Not all women are you, not all women or men think woman = lesser man (the way to rationalize it’s fine for a woman to stand a way but humiliating for a man to do the same).
I see the point you are making, but it only holds up in a narrow context. It has also be argued that the shirtless, perfect muscular physique seen in nearly all male comic book characters is a weird sexualization of men as well. Male stereotypes secondary physical attributes of fertility and virility are exaggerated for effect.
Exaggerating muscles sends a very different message than exaggerating asses.
I really don’t think they are that different. Of course they wouldn’t pose men like women…that would de-sexualize the men…but they are posing them/drawing them in the sexual equivalent for males.
In nature, females of a species often present their backsides in that arched way..so that’s what makes it attractive to men (and why many women wear heels and why many men like that effect). For men, what is the general sexually attractive thing? Muscles, power, the look that he can take care of her brood. So, yes, it is actually sexualizing the male characters to have them all muscled with a “power stance” and could be harmful to a male’s outlook on his own body as well if he is a thin, “weaker” male.
Don’t try to act like large muscles AREN’T the sexual equivalent to large breasts and butts sticking out for females! As a female, I know I look, stop, and appreciate some nice arm muscles or a muscular back..there is no denying that. If you peruse pinterest, you will see a plethora of men with ripped abs.
I always wonder at poor Taylor Lautner (Jacob in Twilight) who is a muscular guy and was under 18 for at least a couple of the movies yet had females from age-appropriate to women in their 50’s swooning over his physique, throwing panties basically. If he was chubby or thin, it wouldn’t have happened. Men and young men are often just as sexualized as women and young women and I think it’s wrong! Of course, many may scoff at “poor Taylor Lautner” because he’s a man and “what man doesn’t like sexual attention?” but…he was still just a teen..ya know? So there’s a double standard of sorts..similar to what we see when a female teacher sexes up some male students instead of the other way around. *shrug*
So that’s my 2 cents.
Hi Just a lay with a thought,
Females and males do all kinds of things in nature; social Darwinists cherry pick behaviors to justify sexism in the human world. It’s bullshit. Read Woman by Natalie Angier, the prize winning science reporter for the NY Times. She takes on all of these hypothesis and uses example from nature like the bonobos who are female dominated. The whole theory that men like to spread their seed and women are naturally monogamous; women want rich men to take care of them; men want young women to reproduce is simplified, biased, and by much eveidence of human behavior, not true. Why wouldn’t females want to have sex with many men so no one knows who the father is and all have to provide for the child. There are many other theories.
Pretty sure it’s not evolutionary psychologists that are doing the cherry picking of facts there….
As a follow up though..I will say that I do think there needs to be more female characters and I think their powers need to not come from being “sex kittens” but from real strength, brains, etc. And then they should be drawn less sexually. For the guys, their power is often in physical strength..hence the muscles.
Just a lady with a thought,
The fact is that woman is a superhero, therefore she will also be by definition superfeminine, and this is not stereotyping, it is simple logic.
Then, in order to define a character as an individual, especially in regard of his/her gender, you have to put at least another character/person of the same gender in the equation. We all know the differences between Iron Man, Thor or Hulk (besides all being egomaniacs); their proximity allows for an acute look and accentuates their personalities.
The solution would be that more than one woman be cast in those movies so that there is more texture to each character. An excellent point of comparison would be the X-Men where you have several female characters, all with their own thing going.
I don’t know what “super-feminine” means with out considering the sexist culture we live in. I think its impossible to say what “feminine” really is. Love your name, by the way.
The Hulk in the second picture made me lol 🙂
If female characters have to pose like this all the time, then I think they should make male characters pose like this all the time!
I’d like to see NO characters posed “like this” EVER.
Wonderful expos’e on sexism in our media!
I think Kasi said it best in mentioning the audience is presumed to be heterosexual males; it’s a mirror of our entire society in general, one that values masculinity and scapegoats femininity. If the male Avengers were presented in the same sexualized, feminine way; rather than it being seen as trying to appeal to women, it would be presumed by many to be homosexual in nature.
I can somewhat understand Morgan Freeburgs statements about it being difficult to avoid offending someone no matter how a woman is portrayed, but what stood out as anomaly to me in the comment, was “saving the world”. How often do we ever get such a portrayal of women, particularly a single woman doing it herself rather than needing men to help her do it? The rest of the qualities in that comment all had to do with how women are made to look, which is just the problem. Most presentations of women primarily focus on what she looks like, rather than what she can do.
In your avatar picture you’re posing in a stereotypical hyperfeminine way. Gender performance is performance. Interesting.
While I agree with you about everything you’ve said, I do have to protest slightly at one comment: ‘Of course, “The Avengers” model, with its pathetic 6: 1 male/ female ratio and then sexualizing that lone female, is not unique to that group of superheroes.’
It’s ratio isn’t that unique, no, generally speaking. However, superhero comics and superhero movies aren’t necessarily the same in their male/female ratios. X-Men comics, for example, despite their masculine name, often boast more female characters than male. The Avengers line-up seen in the movie is not the only configuration ever seen in the comics, which has included more superheroines than just the Black Widow, even multiple superheroines at the same time. Of course, the way women are drawn in comics is enormously problematic, and superheroines, even in comics, are often given the backseat to superheroes. And superheroines leading their own series aren’t as common as they should be. But in series with ensemble casts, I wouldn’t say it’s completely normal to only have one superheroine.
Again, I agree with your points, and I love the redraws, but I wanted to nitpick, since women in nerd culture is sorta my niche.
I wish these other representations of females got mainstream coverage in more Hollywood movies, toys for kids, and in clothing.
Trust me, me too. The fact that a little girl (or a grown woman like me) can’t go into a store and buy a superheroine T-shirt frustrates me to no end. Even in comic stores, merchandise with superheroines, no matter how cool or important they are, is rare.
Too bad none of the female superheroes ever get a good movie made about them, one where they are not objectified. Male characters dominate, female characters are the outliers and they are ALWAYS sexualized.
Those comparisons are great! You can really see how specific the poses look when you transfer them to a male character – we see the women depicted that way so often that we may not even notice.
I saw a film once where a male character was presented in a sexualized way as female characters frequently are, and it really stood out to me because it was so unusual. The movie was “Saawariya.” http://www.saawariyafilm.com/ If you click videos, and then choose “Jab Se Tere Naina” you can see part of the sequence I’m talking about.
This happens to be a Bollywood movie, and I just want to be sure that it doesn’t sound like I’m trying to draw conclusions about Bollywood or Indian culture from this one example. I wouldn’t feel it was appropriate for me to make generalizations about a culture that isn’t my own, I’ve only seen about a dozen Bollywood movies anyway, and I didn’t notice a male character presented in this way in any of the other Bollywood movies I have seen, so… I would say though that it says something about American movies and movies in general that this one example stood out to me so much. The character was caught by the camera in a towel or sheet in front of a window, the cloth slipping off to reveal his parts of his body, and his posture and facial expression showed that he knew he had been “caught” by the camera, the way you have seen a million actresses coyly posed and never think about it. It really struck me because it was so unlike the other movies I’ve seen where it is taken for granted that the audience is made up of heterosexual males. You don’t really see the moment where he was “caught” in this video, but you can probably get the idea.
On a bit of a side note, there’s a really good tumblr called Less Tits n’ Ass, More Kickin’ Ass (http://lesstitsnass.tumblr.com) that takes covers and images with grossly inaccurate posing and attempts to make them more anatomically correct. It really shines a light on how bent out of shape a lot of women are in comics.
thanks charles, great link
Escher Girls on Tumblr.
Yep, they like to put males in things. When is the last time you heard of anyone getting in trouble for the way they portrayed a male? Smart, dumb, lots of clothes, no clothes, fixing things, breaking things. Nobody will ever boycott you for it.
If I was a cartoonist or a marketing guy and I had been in the habit of somehow including females, I’d probably quit doing it in short order; and if I didn’t, I’ll bet I’d be given strong incentive to quit. Long pants, short pants, short skirts, low neckline, high neckline, saving the world, messing it all up, smart, dumb, happy, angry, glad, mad, sad, straight, gay, long hair, short hair, high voice, low voice, bone-aching-tired of her dumb husband making messes in the living room…no matter how you portray a female, someone’s always complaining.
I’m a little surprised they’re still including women in anything. I’m afraid, in another five years or so the way things are going, we’ll be just about at that point. Of course, a big part of the problem is that advertisers are just plain intellectually feeble and lazy.
The solution is to write interesting, varied characters of both sexes. I don’t mind Jane mooning after the jerk Harvey in ‘Waiting for God’, because she’s the only woman in that programme like that and she’s regularly called out on it by other characters. I do mind four of the five main characters in the Twilight series being either mothers or desperately wanting to be mothers, because when 80% of your women do something stereotypical you’re verging on stereotyping yourself. I’m not saying people should avoid writing mothers, but motherhood isn’t the default state for women and that should be reflected in the portrayal of women.
Sometimes giving multiple female characters screentime isn’t really practical. The Hunger Games is one example, because it’s told from the POV of a character who’s isolated most of the time. However, the author makes Katniss interesting and three-dimensional, and so her flaws aren’t “women’s flaws”, they’re “Katniss’ flaws”. Big difference.
I think part of the problem as well is people have shot themselves in the foot by putting women in marginalised, stereotyped roles for so long. No one sees the actions of a white, heterosexual, cisgendered man’s behaviour in fiction as representative of all white, heterosexual, cisgendered men, even if he’s the only such character in that work. That said, people are less likely to view the actions of a single woman in a work with half a dozen women as representative of that author’s views on women than they are if she’s the *only* woman.
This is why I think it’s important to include more female characters (and more characters from other marginalised groups, too). It’s not just because the imbalance enters our consciousness and reinforces the idea that the white male is the “default” human, but also because it limits the writing of women to “safe” options.
I agree, it’s a big problem. What’s the “correct” way to showcase a female? Seems the answer they’ve settled on is to not include her at all.
Isn’t there a saying somewhere about never attributing to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence? Seems to apply here: Don’t attribute to hostility toward women, or sexism, that which can be explained by thoughtlessness and just-plain-laziness.
I think part of the problem as well is people have shot themselves in the foot by putting women in marginalised, stereotyped roles for so long. No one sees the actions of a white, heterosexual, cisgendered man’s behaviour in fiction as representative of all white, heterosexual, cisgendered men, even if he’s the only such character in that work.
This is absolutely true. Chuck Norris is all-wise and knows how to beat people up…this says absolutely nothing about other men. Us dudes get to have identities. But any attribute you fasten to a female character, somehow, is supposed to be a statement about all women — flattering or not. So, if they’re cornered into including a woman and building a character around her, they figure the safest option is the wife on “Everybody Love’s Raymond”: Above-average-intellect, witty, prickly demeanor, wouldn’t really want to be around her very long, has a perpetual migraine from her dumb husband almost burning down the house every day.
“What’s the “correct” way to showcase a female? Seems the answer they’ve settled on is to not include her at all.”
Whereas I would argue the correct way is to write more than one and write them the same way as the male characters.
“Don’t attribute to hostility toward women, or sexism, that which can be explained by thoughtlessness and just-plain-laziness.”
I would argue it *is* sexism. Maybe it isn’t misogyny on a personal level for the writers, but it’s a result of ingrained sexism in Western society that the “default male” audience is assumed to be unable to empathise with a female protagonist (which is why female protags are “for girls”) and that writing women is somehow different from writing men.
“Us dudes get to have identities. But any attribute you fasten to a female character, somehow, is supposed to be a statement about all women — flattering or not.”
Yup. It’s the Smurfette Principle (which is discussed elsewhere in this blog). The female character’s personality *is* her gender.
“So, if they’re cornered into including a woman and building a character around her, they figure the safest option is the wife on “Everybody Love’s Raymond”: Above-average-intellect, witty, prickly demeanor, wouldn’t really want to be around her very long, has a perpetual migraine from her dumb husband almost burning down the house every day.”
I think you’ve phrased this well by saying “if they’re cornered into including a woman”. Many of the male writers in Hollywood (and most of them are male) by default make their major characters male, which is why it’s so much harder to find good female characters.
By making them like your example, though, the writers are only making things worse for themselves, because rather than treating female characters like individuals they stereotype them. Thus they face criticism for their portrayal and, rather than taking the harder, but more rewarding, route of writing better characters, they take the coward’s way out and don’t write women.
Way to miss the point, not learn anything and still bloviate about it. You sound like an MRA. How is it being a member of a hate group? Who writes all those “dumb male” characters you’re all in a tizzy about? The ones where women who are far more attractive than they are pick up all their shit and smile? Oh, right: MEN DO.