I’ve spent a good portion of my life advocating for women’s rights and examining the way females are depicted in popular culture. Recently, I’ve written a few posts on the dangers of unrealistic depictions of women. However, there are quite a few instances where people are looking for misogyny where it doesn’t exist – or ta the very least, not examining the entire context of the extreme depictions of women in certain arenas.
A frequent critique both within geek culture and culture in general is that comic books foster unattainable ideas of the female form.
But isn’t everything in the comic book oeuvre, with the exception of the overarching themes & morals, unattainable?
(Except for Jean Grey and the stuff she does. That’s totally possible, because I am she. Clearly.)
This is something I’ve touched upon previously in my Sucker Punch review – Everything about comic-type characters is extreme. They can move things with their mind, build sun destroying lasers, control the weather, defy gravity, maneuver the Batmobile around narrow NYC streets, etc…
I have never looked at an illustration of Wonder Woman’s hip to waist ratio and felt inadequate. She, like Barbie, would topple over if she were a real woman. Feeling inadequate in relation to her body shape is as ridiculous as feeling inadequate because she owns an invisible airplane.
Comic books are built on heightened realities. They are the world of superheros and the world is such fantasy that even non-super characters are overdrawn. And despite what nearly all other gender & culture writers say, these super-standards are not driven by misogyny.
Because most men do not have bulging biceps, thigh muscles that won’t quit and uh, bulging other things that even the most well-cut trousers can’t contain.
Even as an old man, Super-villain Magneto’s body is cut six-ways to Sunday. Artists treat male characters no differently than the female ones. Almost no one wears a costume that is conducive to fighting evil (or good, as the case may be). Both male and female superhero costumes show a lot of skin and even when covered little is left to the imagination.
Comic book illustrators are equal opportunity sexualizers and ignoring that fact takes away from the true message of superhero stories – which is that loyalty and bravery in the face of adversity matters more than taking the easy way out.
Or, you know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Hardly anyone in these universes looks human or wears what a normal person would wear to fight the good fight because they aren’t supposed to look normal. They are all overly sexed, overly physical, and overly brained. We can never attain those things and we aren’t meant to.
We are meant to identify with the underlying themes that exist in the challenges they face and the choices they make, not the way they look.