How "idealization" of women in comics differs from idealization of male characters

Debates over the "idealization" and objectification in the portrayal of women in comics are often met with a reflexive response: "Men are idealized in comics, too!" It's true, they are. But there's different sorts of idealization, as this series of gender-flipped illustrations from Megan Rosalarian shows.

Dudes, I want you to imagine a world where most of the portrayals of your gender in comics look like the above. Are you going to think “Well, I really like the stories so I’ll just suck it up and read this anyway”? Or are you going to be alienated from reading most comics? Be honest. Are you willing to stare at that much thrusting crotch just to find out if Spiderman is gonna win?

Lots of people in the comics business look at their demographic breakdown and think women don’t like superheroes. The creator of DC Women Kicking Ass made a very apt point when she said, “Let me put it this way, if you keep keeping putting food on a kid’s plate and they don’t eat you do you assume they don’t like to eat or they don’t like the food? Right.”

Women like comics. And not just flowery manga and autobio stuff. We like superheroes.

Dressed to Kill


  1. I would feel the “parody” would be more relevant if she hadn’t drawn all of her “outrageous” male characters in drag.

    Edit: I’d like to point out that I just took the time to look at the artists’ other work… I’ve linked her Christmas Comic from “I was kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates From OuterSpace”.

    Not only is this comic incredibly poorly drawn, it is an attempt at a pin-up style drawing with a woman in skimpy clothing and an idiotically impossible pose. The argument becomes invalid, IMO.

    1. In a world where every ‘hero’ is dressed in skin-tight form-fitting little-to-the-imagination spandex, how do you define “cross-dressing” – ?

      Is it because the male characters wear necklaces (Dr. Strange), capes (Dr. Strange), rings (Green Lantern), bangles, high heels? Earrings? Well-dressed long hair?

      1. Get real. They’re posing as women in both frames. The picture looks ridiculous not because of drawn bulges — there are plenty of bulges in comic books. They just aren’t on a group of people that look overweight women who got genital reassignment surgery without taking male hormones. The illustration she shows at the links of Man Canary — yeah, he’s wearing fishnets, which is indeed the problem. It’s not his idealized body, or the look in his eyes, it’s that he’s in drag. And not normal run-o’-the-mill comic book drag, but in fishnets.

        What a dumb article. Wow. Not since college have I heard such a dumb “feminist” beef.

        If you don’t appreciate the way comic book characters have been traditionally drawn, then that is something *you* don’t like about comic books.

        Do we need to alter comic books now to make the minority of their readership that happens to be female feel like their bodies are valid? Or that — what? — their sex drives are sufficient? “Hmmm…. I don’t feel as horny as my favorite superheroine. Woe is me.”

        What a crock… The male heroes are almost always absurdly well-muscled, etc. And they’re probably as horny, too. Not to mention that they have superpowers…. Probably supersex. Wouldn’t want to offend the subset of readership (or potential readership…) that doesn’t have good sex, right?

        1. That’s the point!  The poses are ridiculous, whoever is standing in them!  The only reason it looks “normal” to you when the character is female is because you’re so so so used to hypersexualized female figures in comics and elsewhere.  No one stands like that.

          Absurdly well-muscled women with superpowers would be awesome. Instead, we get absurdly sexualized women, some of whom have superpowers, many of whom end up dead in woman-in-a-fridge syndrome.

          Someone (hint: you) missed the point. But maybe you like hanging out in a corner of the world that excludes actual women? Did you have a “no girls allowed” clubhouse as a kid, too?

        2. It’s true that the bodies of male superheroes, taken on their own, are probably not that different from what you might find in, say, gay porn. But the outfits of female superheroes often look a lot more like porn fetish outfits in the amount of skin they reveal and the way they highlight breasts/ass, and the poses also often accentuate these parts in a way not really seen with male superheroes. If some artist drew male superheroes in fetishy outfits like what you might find in gay porn (something like Borat’s swimsuit here, say, but on a muscled hairless man with a huge dick), and in poses that accentuated their crotch/ass, that would be a lot closer to the way female superheroes are often presented (the top image in this article isn’t actually so bad in terms of skin-revealingness of the outfits–though the poses still seem more intended to convey sexuality than strength–but look at some of the other outfits in the linked blog post, like this one which really is fairly comparable to Borat’s thong in terms of fetishy-ness). No “drag” there, but assuming you’re a straight male, you wouldn’t feel at all alienated by this?

          1. I think this argument’s a bit silly. yes, female comic book characters are sexy. They’re portrayed in a way that is attractive to heterosexual males. I like to look at them. it’s awesome. Doesn’t mean they can’t be strong. I also like looking at more muscular forms too. She-Hulk looks amazing. It’s all eye candy. Just some escapist fun.

            I don’t think dressing up male comic book characters in gay fetish wear would lead to women finding them attractive. Quite the opposite. I’m pretty sure the way they’re portrayed just now is how women find them attractive. That’s why men want to be them. They’re the best (exaggerated) example of physical attractiveness, as defined by being attractive to the opposite sex.

          2. (responding to my own comment because disqus won’t let me reply to yours)

            The thought-experiment didn’t really depend on whether this was being done to appeal to women or gay men, you’re free to imagine the latter if the former is implausible. Imagine a parallel universe where gay men were the primary buyers of superhero comics, and as a consequence the male superheroes tended to be drawn in the types of outfits and poses I suggested–assuming you yourself are a heterosexual male, you wouldn’t find it the least bit alienating if you liked superheroes but had this sort of constant reminder that they were meant to appeal to the sexuality of someone other than yourself?

    2. Unitards are considered to be “drag” now? When did the style council pass that law?

      kidding aside, you make it obvious that you didn’t even look at her text, where she clearly states: “It’s not the characters’ bodies themselves that are the biggest problem, but how they are dressed and posed”.

      1. The problem I have with her argument is not that women in comics are not highly sexualised. It is that she does not seem to know how to draw a sexualised image of a man.

        It took me almost a minute to realise that the image on the left was of four men and not two well endowed men and two overweight women.

        The first time I was exposed to the Dieux du Stade series I was shocked at how sexualised the athletes allowed themselved to be filmed. What struck me next was that if they were female I may not even have found it strange. On the other hand, were the athletes posing in some kind of bizarre parody of female objectification then that is not a thought that would have occurred to me.

    3. Equal is confused for identical once again. Perhaps they would prefer 1960s communist China where gender identity was repressed and everyone had the same clothes and haircuts.  
      This is like reading a playboy for the articles and complaining about the nude women inside. It’s not intended to be a gender neutral product, but instead to cater to its (insert whatever judgement here you desire. i.e: immature, sexist, etc) target audience. We could do the same sort of analysis on harlequin romance books.

      1. There’s a difference between allowing gender identity, and hypersexualization.  

        I think the point the artist is trying to make is not that comics should be populated by sexless flesh cylinders, but  that by catering to the horniness of one target audience, the comics industry is ignoring and alienating a  huge potential market.

        1. Isn’t that their choice?  Perhaps they’d make proportionally less money from the sex-crazed teen market by appealing more to the female market, thereby making it an day decision to not bother.

          Also, maybe the artists like drawing sexy ladies.  Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between appreciation and objectification, at least from my POV.

          1. I don’t think anybody’s trying to say that sexy lady drawings should be banned from comics.  The point is that there should be more options for people who want to read superhero comics without all the sexy lady drawings.

        2. Yeah, right, because girls HATE to look at idealized (to the point of being fantastical) feminine forms.

          Just look at the disgust on a young girl’s face when presented with a Barbie doll!

          1. When being presented with what you’ve been told your’e supposed to be from the day you were born, it’s difficult to go against that powerful conditioning and react negatively to it.  The six year old smiles because she thinks that’s what she’ll be someday when she grows up. The 14 year old will make herself sick and hate herself because she can’t.

          2. There are plenty of young girls out there that don’t lust after Barbie.  Many of them because Barbie doesn’t represent anything they see as real.  My daughter was always more fond of the Groovy Girls dolls because they seemed more like real kids to her.

          3. Just look at the disgust on a young girl’s face when presented with a Barbie doll!

            Quite a few girls look at the Barbie doll and say, “WTF is this shit? I wanted a chemistry set.”

          4. A++ ShawShaw’s comment.

            If you haven’t seen it already, maybe you should check out “Killing Us Softly”, a documentary on how girls (and all kids, but primarily girls) are conditioned to want an unhealthy and unattainable ideal and how it can be incredibly damaging both psychologically and physically.

          5. @shawshaw and how many guys end up taking questionable steroids in an attempt at getting the physique of  atlas?

          6. Barbie’s looks are ideal for making such tiny clothes fit in somewhat of a feminine shape. Neither men nor women think that type of body would be ideal, I should hope. At least, I’ve never thought she was a) anything realistic, and b) anything I should look like when I grew up.

            But then, I’m a girl who doesn’t like superhero comics because she finds them more often than not boring as hell, art- and storywise. :P

        3. They may be missing a market segment, but this whole cross-dressing theatre is not required to make that point. The author is taking issue with women being idealized differently from men based on their clothes. How would you dress and pose a heterosexual male  to hypersexualize him? Skin tight clothes? Flexing poses?

          1. Tom of Finland, or… Terry Pratchett did a good job of it, even without illustrations. “…strolled in with the gentle swagger that makes women thoughtful and men’s knuckles go white.” Louche.

          2. She doesn’t seem to understand that the poses of the women are preening poses that are meant to imply sexual intercourse in primitive terms – thus a lot of butts being jutted out and women looking backwards over their shoulders. The men are hypersexualized also, but not in the same poses because the biology is different. Instead, you have the men blowing up their chests (to look like the alpha of the pack) and jutting their pelvises outward (because that’s what they boink with). It’s pretty basic cavemen stuff in comic book art. How could she miss it?

      2. But the whole point is that comics are not like Playboy: they have intrinsic appeal for both genders, except for stuff that writers do to alienate women. Which is their choice, but also their loss.

        1. No, not the writers, but the illustrators.  Which might be a part of the problem:  good writers make compelling stories that appeal to men and women, and “good” illustrators make sexy pop art drawings that alienate (some? many?) women (and men?).

          1. There is no shortage of mainstream COMICS which appeal to women. We are talking about the products of two comic companies (DC and Marvel), perhaps a few from additional two (Dark horse and Image, and they publish stuff like Buffy and Chew as well). 

            But even put together, DC, Marvel, Dark horse and Image publish only a portion of comics on the Anglo-American market.

            Or are you forgetting Archie, BD-translations like Asterix, Lucky Luke, Smurfs etc, “real” graphic novels like those Guy Delisle puts out and books like Jimmy Corrigan? 

            (Speaking of the cover at the post itself, three/fifths of the characters in the “parody” are standing in pretty stereotypical masculine positions – namely the firelady on the background, the former Captain Marvel and that cat-lady on the foreground – thats how they always portray athletic characters like Spider-Man or Nightcrawler)

      3. NO.  No!  Comics are innately gender-neutral, they’ve just been branded as male-centric.  Playboy is about sex, harlequin romance novels and bodice rippers are about sex.

        Comics are not about sex (mainstream ones, anyway), they’re just bundled up in a confusing, sexy wrapper that has nigh nothing to do with the content on the inside.  If they want to draw sexy ladies?  Awesome!  Just draw them in the appropriate context, and not as the default for most every female character in DC/Marvel.


        1. Claire Hummel –
          You have the right to say that when you own DC/Marvel.  Otherwise, your choices are many… You can boycott their products, you can form a company that presents what you expect out of the medium (probably the best solution, imo), you can write them and tell them your opinion as a customer … 
          I’m not a fan of comics, to be honest, and haven’t bought or read one in probably 15 years.  I’m also not anti-Fem, but it seems like the argument you (and the author of the originally linked “parody”) are trying to present is just a bit silly.  “I don’t like your art so change it” or “See, if I draw men in women’s clothes and make them pose like women it’s silly”. 
          In any world where SUPERbeings exist, I bet they’re SUPERsexy as a rule.

          1. It’s fascinating to see this consistent refrain.  Basically it amounts to “Well, maybe you do have a point, but you can’t complain because it’s not your comic book/movie/radio show/restaurant chain.  Who are you to tell an owning-class man what to do with his private property?”  The implication is that if you operated your own industry, you could produce the kinds of images that you prefer.  But if you aren’t fortunate enough to be the owner of a large and profitable business, you shouldn’t have a say about the images which saturate your environment.

            It’s a very elegant demonstration of the connections between capitalism and misogyny.  When one ideology falters, the other is there to support it.

    4. I in fact did read the entirety of her text.  I did not say I disagree, I just think that the point the author is trying to make is irrelevant for several reasons.  I’ll expand on them.

      – If you review the vast amount of research in what attracts women to men, you’ll find that (unlike most “research”) they almost all agree on the top things that attract women to men physically: visible muscles (including bicep, quads, gluts and abdominal muscles), clear eyes, and a well groomed appearance (including clean fingernails, white teeth, a well coifed *full head* of hair and clean shaven or neat facial hair).
      Listed high are also olfactory characteristics and what can be summed up as an “in charge” or “commanding” personality.

      Compare this to the physique and personality of the vast majority of male Superheroes and Supervillians.

      – We’ll all agree that what attracts men to women physically: large breasts, trim waist, protruding buttocks, clear eyes and well groomed appearance (including long “pretty” hair, white teeth and little to no visible body hair).  Also listed high are olfactory characteristics and what can be summed up as an “available” or possibly even “slutty” personality.

      Compare this to the physique and personality of the vast majority of female Superheroes and Supervillains.

      The above clearly describes the basic “Attractiveness” of the genders to their opposite.  Agreed?  Men like T&A. Women like strength and cleanliness/care.

      A large part of the reason why men in comics don’t have giant protruding genitals visible in the drawings is that women (according to science and surveys) don’t look at these regions when assessing the attractiveness of a male.  It is what it is.  The women in comics are drawn with giant breasts and curvy, displayed backsides because men (according to science and surveys) do indeed look at these when assessing attractiveness.

      As to what do I define as “cross-dressing” (which I did not say, I said “in drag”, which means in women’s clothes, which this literally was), I would say – a man in fishnet stockings, or a man wearing a shirt that is designed to point towards “breasts” while simultaneously exposing as much chest without exposing the nipples, or (like the yellow-suited bat girl in the picture above) belts designed for a woman’s hips and not a man’s hips.

      I personally think that gender equality is a great thing.  I think the best solution to the quandry faced by Megan Rosalarian is to form her own comic publishing house, draw to her own tastes, and sell to the market she proposes other businesses should sell to.

      1. Funny thing about body hair, i think there is actual research out there that traces the feedback between porn and public opinion. That is, at first there was no issue with body hair. But to make porn more risque, the ladies trimmed it down (and later shaved it all off). This then fed back into the public and so on. Hell, i ran into a article some time back where plastic surgeons used old nudie mags as reference for the gender neutral desirable breast. This because it was ladies that picked the images to be printed.

  2. And yet those who push this absolute gender equality myth will still push dolls onto boys and construction trucks onto girls, even when they they don’t want them. Men have always been more visual – the medium of a interposition of text with graphics will always appeal more to men than women. Let’s ignore the basic obvious facts in favor of obtuse idiotic ones for the sake of a political agenda.

    1. As a woman, I can confirm that we are not visual, relying instead on high pitched clicks and squeaks to make our way through the world.

      1. So THAT’s why the girl sitting by me in math class kept making clicking noises with her tounge. Thanks for clearing that up for me lady.

        In all seriousness though I define ‘crossdressing’ here, as far as superheroes are concerned, as what an above poster said. Stuffing them in clothes designed for a woman’s body. Plunging necklines designed to emphasize breasts, belts made for a woman’s wasteline rather than a man’s, the ‘bob’ hairdo (uhg. Do women even like that kind of hair? Seriously, it’s crap either way. The female bowel cut.)

        Argument is sorta valid in that we need more heroins that arn’t all TnA (haven’t there been a few heroes over the years that’ve managed to get away with being not-spandexerrific? Granted i rarely bother with comics because i loathe where Status Quo tends to be God and characters that seem to have existed so long that there’s no real way of writing a story without rebooting and have them rediscover their powers every few decades, ramp up the threat to Universe Destroyer levels, or have them cling ot the idot ball for dear life.

        Yes there are more options now than the DC/Marvel legacy crowd, for which I’m grateful, but. Yea. The lady here seems to baww the loudest at how compicbooky the big franchises are.It is what it is. Don’t like it? Vote with your dollars and find another print you find more to your liking.

      2. Thank you, I now have Red Stripe dripping out my nose and my sketchbook & desk smell like lager.  XD

    2. That’s completely right. If by “basic obvious facts” you mean “mind-bogglingly unlikely assumption”.

      Wow.  Visual medium = mainly men.  Guess that’s why most internet users are men. And most artists. And most comic artists.

      Oh, wait, they’re not.

      Of course, DC’s long-standing and well-documented misogynistic editorial bias, combined with a Marvel/DC target market of entirely teenage boys, has nothing to do with it.

    3. “Men are more visual”? Wow. Three whole comments before somebody trotted out a tired, evo-psych trope. Isn’t it interesting how evo-psych is so consistently used to support gender stereotypes, and seldom, if ever, to contradict them?

    4. The basic facts are that, statistically speaking, males have an average higher response to visual media than females. Not that females don’t respond to visual media or that their responses can’t be just as strong. Just that if you show an image to a couple thousand men and a couple thousand women the men’s response will have a statistically significant deviation.

      The assertion that women can’t appreciate or desire comics as much as men is sexist bullshit supported by poorly understood (or deliberately misinterpreted) pseudoscience. It dismisses complaints, not by arguing they are wrong, but by saying they don’t matter. That, sure it’s sexist, but women are physically and mentally incapable of appreciating it anyways, so no harm done.

      And it’s provably wrong. In fact, almost everywhere else in the world women make up a large demographic in the comic market. In Asia they are typically more than half.

      And the worst part is that it’s completely unnecessary and adds nothing. There are all sorts of great comics, of every form, being made without resorting to sexist imagery. Look at anything drawn by Stuart Immonen. From his goofy Nextwave to the more mainstream Ultimate and Avengers work.

      Can you name a single comic produced ever that is stronger for having defaulted to unthinkingly sexist imagery? I can think of several that delibratly used such imagry to make a point, but not a single one that was better off for the artist being too lazy to bother drawing his women as real people.

      1. The basic facts are that, statistically speaking, males have an average higher response to visual media than females.

        Does anybody have a citation for this claim? My experience is that many evo-psych claims fail to stand up to scrutiny, and I’d like to apply some to this claim before we all go accepting it as given.

        As you point out: not that it matters. Even if the claim is true, the argument is still bullshit.

        1. Nope!  No queer women in fandom at all, obviously…

          …although honestly, speaking as one, I greatly prefer my women to look like strong, capable human beings.  That’s sexy.  The caricatures are off-putting.

          1. speaking as one, I greatly prefer my women to look like strong, capable human beings.  That’s sexy.  The caricatures are off-putting.

            Speaking as an apparently atypical straight man, my tastes are just like yours in this regard.  Strong and capable, yes please!  Vampy and pouty and pneumatic and cartoonishly “sexy”?  Um, no thanks.

          2.  (speaking as another atypical straight male),  A strong, realistic(ish)ly drawn female is more appealing.  The super heroines that look more akin to runway models on the way to a costume party never did much for me.  Which I suppose is why I find female dwarves more interesting than twiggy elves, in video games……random though..

            Have you seen the Medieval Wonder Woman concept? She looks athletic enough to be an Amazon.  Though she’ll likely look like another errant runway model in print.   le sigh…

          3. To: Anon_Mahna

            That is THE BEST picture. In fact, it’s so good, I’m going to snabble it as reference for a different warrior woman I do fanart for (from an Actual Play DnD game I listen to).

            Seriously, that the coolest looking version of Wonder Woman I’ve ever seen. And it’s high up there up on the list of warrior woman art I’ve seen.

            *Shares the sigh over the likelihood of design changing in an unfortunate direction*

  3. I can’t even grasp this comparison. If they weren’t in drag, I would absolutely mistake them for any existing unrealistic male portrayal in a comic book. These women are no more ridiculous than say The Punisher and his 80″ chest:

      1. how is the 80 inch chest not sexual, when hyper masculinity is considered a sexually attractive quality?

          1. @thatbob Of course not! I’d assumed zombiebob was a straight male dictating what straight ladies find a sexually attractive quality, and I wanted to poke him for it–especially since hyper masculinity as found in mainstream superhero comics is generally a power fantasy rather than a sexual one.

          2. (This is in reply to our exchange, below, but appears above it in the Disqus thread because I can’t click Reply to your reply.)

            I wonder if you’re onto something, Jab.  Maybe Rosalarian denies that the men in comics are equally sexualized, precisely because she doesn’t respond sexually to that imagery.  Whereas, speaking as a bi guy, it seems screamingly obvious (to me) that the men are equally distorted and sexualized.

            Also: pro-wrestling.  I still can’t believe that’s for, by, and about straight guys.

          3. @boingboing-7a4a467e968ac32c4f328e6fb2d211f6:disqus  and even if not sexualized, at least distorted. I wonder how many young guys end up getting steroids because their body appear incapable of building superhero level muscles. Even Schwarzenegger admitted to doing roids to get a body he was “happy” with.

          4. @boingboing-7a4a467e968ac32c4f328e6fb2d211f6:disqus , turn_self_off:Agree with what you guys are saying! Especially about pro wrestling, LOL. Sexuality is not binary; everybody’s sexy is different, etc.

            I *do* think women are sexualized to a stronger degree and more often than guys are in comics, but that also reflects how often and to what degree women are sexualized in mainstream media/ads/etc.  There’s a good share of distorted body image for everyone out there (hooray), but for ladies it’s arguably way more pervasive, limiting, and harmful. I recced this further up-thread, but “Killing Us Softly” is a pretty great documentary/essay on just how severe it can be for girls and women. (The latest is on Youtube!)

            That’s what a lot of this “idealization” backlash is tied to, in my opinion: superhero comics by name alone suggests heroes transcending limitations, whether physical or mental or magical or squidmonster. People have found superhero stories entertaining for centuries! It can just be hard for a person to enjoy it when every character that represents them reflects the same unrealistic and impossible ideal they’re bombarded with every single day of their life, with (more often than not) very little substance to distract from that fact, you know?

            I think girls and women would eat up stories that subvert all that junk, if it was done well. DC and Marvel are really missing out.

          5. @thatbob: Another straight female here who doesn’t get turned on by the looks of superheroes in comics. They’re so over the top that they fail to be sexual, to me. (there are comic book characters who do look attractive to me, but they don’t appear in these comics; this one, for example:

    1. The difference is that The Punisher’s stylized chest exaggerates the characteristics that help with what the Punisher does, i.e. beat people up a lot. It doesn’t say “here’s sexy and who cares if he’s supposed to be a violent athlete”.

      If Punisher ever gets drawn with a slightly-muscled chest, an 18″ codpiece, and a massive arse, that would be a direct comparison.

      1. Yeah, because 18″ codpieces and massive rear ends are clearly what people use when classifying a “sexy” male.

        Wouldn’t a more direct comparison be male characters drawn in a way that women in general would desire? 

        1. Hmm… point taken. The problem is that the cultural norm of ‘desirable male’ isn’t even a fraction as distorted as the ‘desirable female’ images that we’re constantly force-fed. That being the case, I’m hard-pressed to come up with a meaningfully comparable example. The context is just too different.

          The problem isn’t that female characters are drawn in a way men would desire. I’d love that. The problem is that they’re drawn in a ridiculously hypersexual way, and then we’re taught that this makes them ‘desirable’.

          For a really direct comparison, we’d need the Punisher drawn in the silly way I described, AND a culture that thought this was normal. (And so this thread was full of posts saying they didn’t see the problem and if we don’t want to see massive penis all the time that we should just vote with our dollars, because it’s just the artist’s choice.)

          1. One probable reason why your 18″ codpiece isn’t a common way to sexualize a man (aside from the “I’m not letting that thing near me” reaction many women would have) would be that something like that just screams “target”.  Although women aren’t insensitive in the regions that get emphasized, it’s not quite the same thing.

            Although, codpieces once were in fashion (just as it was once the fashion to view “plump” women as most attractive).  So, maybe you’ll get your wish in another few decades.

            The thing is, most of the women I know actually like quite a few highly sexualized female comic characters.. they’d love to look like those characters and be able to kick ass as well.  Granted, they’re usually ones who are drawn a little more plausibly than the example image above… but even there, the two middle ones wouldn’t be so bad if their waists were appreciably wider than their heads (the outer ones are just warped).  I’d expect most of the male characters drawn in the company of those women to also have improbably apple-shaped bodies, unless they were one of the rare characters who gets by more on wit than muscle.

  4. Maybe it would be popular comic for women ? I know a lot of women who watch cycling and football exclusively to gawk at well built men in tight outfits.

  5. I guess my question is… OK, It’s obvious that male and female characters aren’t treated the same in these comics. It’s entirely understandable that some people (some women, and no doubt some men) don’t like this situation. So what is the solution?

    Is the statement:

    1. This exists and I do not like it therefore it should not exist for anyone to enjoy.


    2. This exists and I do not like it and therefore you should not like it either (or you should at least feel guilty about liking it) so people should stop making it.


    3. What exists exists and people who like it can continue to do so, but there needs to exist alternatives that treat both genders in an even-handed fashion that does not sexualize anybody whatsoever unless it’s appropriate to the story.

    I mean, it’s one thing to point out a discrepancy, but if you don’t also propose a remedy, what’s the point?

    Otherwise it’s like pointing out that male characters in romance novels are unfairly sexualized: “Yes, and what of it?”

    1. The remedy is implicit in the article: it’s for authors to realize they’re excluding half the people who should like superhero stories, and adjust them. The difficulty is that every time someone suggests that, too many people confuse it with saying they’re bad people for liking them.

      1. I would say the remedy is explicit in the article. Summary form: “We like superheroes. Please draw some that we can buy without choking on their breasts.”

          1. Chicken and egg. It doesn’t exist so there’s no market. There’s no market so it doesn’t exist. If there was a market, it would exist. It doesn’t exist so there’s no market.

            Whew. Getting dizzy with that circular logic. How about this: There’s an untapped market there. What? Really? You mean there could be a market that no one previously knew about because no one cared to actually find out about them and pitch products to their particular tastes?

            Perhaps you weren’t around when companies finally discovered the gay market: Double Income No Kids == a fuckton of money just waiting to be spent on products that actually acknowledge their existence. And now? Yeah. Oodles of money in that market that was there all the time but was not actually exploited.

      2. A female fantasy and not the same as a male one. Let me have my superhero comics and they can have their equally insane Twilight crap and everybody will be happy. Otherwise we’ll end up with grey consensus swill that’ll please no one.

        1. Everyone will be not be happy if the women just go read Twilight. If you check the article, you might notice many women do like superheroes, as reported by an actual woman.

          What’s being pointed out here as that comics do not have an all male audience, and might do better if they consider that. How you get from this to “grey consensus” is beyond me.

        2. So you’re saying that men and women are so different they have no fantasies in common, and it’s impossible to write good fantasy stories that both will love. Wow.

          I have to be off now; I need to go notify Neil Gaiman, Lois Bujold and Jim Butcher that their books are critical disasters made of grey consensus swill. Pity about the total commercial failure of Star Wars though; clearly if it had had no female fans it might have got somewhere. Thank god Buffy got cancelled in the first season; it could never have gone anywhere.

          Seriously: Pause and think about your claims, here. In particular: did you actually ask any women about their SF / power / superhero tastes?  Or did you just assume they can’t be the same as yours?

          1. Practicing what I preach: a quick poll taken earlier today in our (heavily geek-biased) group:

            Males who buy comics: 8 out of 9.
            Males who like superheros: 8 out of 9.
            Males who wanted to borrow my superhero comics at some point: 9 out of 9.
            Males who bought superhero comics: 8 out of 9.
            Females who buy comics: 9 out of 10.
            Females who like superheros: 10 out of 10.
            Females who wanted to borrow my superhero comics at some point: 10 out of 10.
            Females who bought superhero comics: 1 out of 10.

            Attn Marvel/DC marketing people: this is the
            definition of “untapped market”. Your comic sales are dying by degrees. Stop alienating half your customers.
            This week, the women are reading: Lucifer, Midnight Nation, Unwritten, DMZ, Ruse. Stuff that doesn’t treat them like morons in bikinis.
            Number of world-class writers who can’t write well for both genders: just about none.
            Number of editorial staff DC employs who can cope with female readers: also, apparently, just about none.

      3. So, how do we know that women would read comic books if they didn’t portray female characters this way?

        1. Because some read them anyways, and say they like them except for this stuff. You don’t need to guess women’s attitudes towards comics right below an article where a woman talks about her attitude to comics.

          1. Right. All women are alike. Got it.

            Look: We know that women will read comics as they are now. How do we know they’ll read them if they’re different? You’ve not answered my question.

  6. This author seems to me to be ignoring the 9arguably) most important part of a male superhero’s Outfit.  The codpiece. I see no mention of this simultaneously protective and enhancing piece of hardware anywhere in her article. It’s quite quintessential to the male superhero really.

    1. ;)
      She’s ignoring it because it’s never drawn centre-of-the-cover-shoved-in-your-face. Which is pretty much her point.

      1. Err? I wonder how many kick poses i have seen various heroes and villains drawn in, that basically put said body part front and center.

  7. There’s a part of me that sees her point, and a part of me that thinks “Ha, this is like complaining that there aren’t enough big explosions in romance novels, to better hold male interest.”  I mean, it is what it is; it’s by who it’s by, and it’s for who it’s for.

    That said, I really do see her point.

    Contributing to the problem *might* be the big publishers’ tendencies to re-assign writers and illustrators to different characters over the years, so a tightly-paced, plot driven story-arc featuring reasonably non-offensive illustrations of characters you’ve known all your life, can shift gears and suddenly be replaced with All Girl Action Pillow Fight Follies drawn in the cheesecake style above.  In any other medium, there is room for your Pillow Fight Follies, but it just doesn’t pop up in the middle of, say, a Prime Suspect season finale with such teeth-gnashing regularity as it does in comics.

    (Also, if she’s asking if I want more beefcake to go along with my cheesecake in comics, my answer is gonna be HELL YEAH, PLEASE, AND LESS CLOTHING!)

  8. The point of the article is that these comics are being illustrated with an eye towards catering to the male human’s reproductive ganglia, and the ridiculousness of the “but men are idealised too!” argument. Men are idealised in these comics, but not with an eye towards luring the male (or female) demographic’s reproductive ganglia to become excited upon viewing.

    There is something seriously wrong with telling young males that heroic women ought/will resemble these idealisations with a statistical likelihood far above the actual prevalence of women weightlifters. There is something seriously wrong with telling young women that they ought/will physically resemble these idealisations as a threshold of being seen as exceptional.

    The point is this: While these comics may be “comics”, their visual illustration style is ripped wholesale from Hugh Hefner’s / Larry Flynt’s marketing strategies. Bits of cloth drawn on and a lack of explicit graphic nude genitalia are not sufficient to argue otherwise.

  9. That David statue makes me feel really inferior. I wish Michelangelo hadn’t created that sculpture.

          1. but you were still looking for a huge sausage on Captain America. Kind of disingenuous, don’t you think?

        1. I was arguing to a point, and not to my sexual orientation. You are arguing to my sexual orientation, which is not the point.

          1. No you’re just talking bollocks and making sexist assumptions about how women are only interested in huge packages.

  10. Weird.  I got through all of the first paragraph without even  seeing the crotch bulges.  When I read “thrusting crotch” I had to go back and look at the updated picture.  Only then did I notice the big packages.  I don’t read comics, but I question the idea that most straight male comic book readers would be put off by heros with super-sized junk.  It’s a mystery to me why we don’t already have a comic where Batman “casts a shadow” over Gotham City.  Certainly we’re closer to comics which look like the pic on the left than we are to comics with sensibly dressed females.

    1. Batman and Robin sure as heck did their part, what with bat nipples and constantly growing codpieces.

  11. The problem isn’t the presence of teen boy-oriented fanservice but the sheer glut of it in mainstream comics. You can’t open up a bestselling title without being confronted with a woman contorting herself into an anatomically impossible pose. And I mean impossible. This guy couldn’t do them and he’s a contortionist:
    What I’m trying to say is, maybe you straight dudes don’t see a problem with it because it’s what you’re attracted to, but most ladies do. These female characters are posed in ways that anyone with a vertebrae shouldn’t in the name of pandering, while male ones never have to show their rock hard pecs and firm, shapely buttocks at the same time. We see enough ladies posing in bikinis in advertising and movies, and when we open a comic book we like to escape from this pandering. There’s this idea that the executives have gotten into their heads that the only people who watch movies and ads are straight guys while women only like chick flicks and Twilight. Personally I’d like to read a comic without some straight dude’s idea of what’s sexy  constantly being shoved in my face.

    1. Oh i notice it, and may be why i have mostly stopped reading superhero comics, even tho i loved them back in the day (and for some f-ing reason, find myself interested in more flat chested girls).

    2. Reed Richards laughs at your definition of anatomically impossible.  Perhaps these characters can do these things because they’re fictional super heroes in a comic book?  Characters get super powers from radioactive spiders but this is beyond the pale?

      1. I’d be a bit more accepting if “extremely flexible spine” was actually listed as part of their power set, but since it isn’t I blame this on lazy artists who sacrifice proper anatomy on the altar of Sexy.

  12. Is it weird that when I saw this in my RSS reader I was more focused on the quality of the parody in the leading image than the actual content? It seems, in some way, to distract from the validity of the point being made. Or at least the point that is attempting to be made.

    I think the argument is absurd. Nothing is black and white, and this rant portends that it should be. Our genes, social disposition and sexual preferences help to form an idea of what is considered attractive. For most males, it’s women like what are portrayed in these comics. Like most art, it’s subjective and idealized. This is no different.

    1. You skip right through the point: the women are presented on the ideal considered attractive to most males. The men aren’t presented for females in this way. Women tell us they’re an interested audience, but men are the part that count.

      For those who simply don’t like the style of the example, I’d like to
      re-mention the Shortpacked kissable Batman as another.

      1. Sorry, my point wasn’t well articulated. I agree that men writing and drawing for men lead to women (and men) being drawn in male-focused ideals. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

        If artists (male or female) want to attract , then they have the freedom and choice to do so. But as an art, and a profession, they also have the choice to continue to draw using this particular style. 

        1. If artists want to do this, then yes, they’re welcome to enjoy the freedom to do so.

          But the relentless male-focus in superhero comics isn’t coming solely from the artists. It’s an editorial choice by Marvel/DC.  It’s not that most comic artists draw like this. It’s that artists who don’t draw SuperSlut In The Case of The BackBreaking Contortion are never hired by DC/Marvel.

          Everyone gets free speech. But if you’re not a raving Republican nutjob, you don’t get a space on Fox news. And it’s correct to criticise Fox – not the commentators – for that.

          Everyone gets free expression. But if you don’t draw ridiculous women, you don’t get to do superhero comics. And it’s correct to criticise DC and Marvel – not the artists – for that.

    2. I wonder if a better visual argument could have been made, if there had been drawings of men from the same series as sexualized for female eyes. Redrawing females as males ends up adding noise rather than clarity to the argument.

  13. Let me preface this by saying I was bred and grown up on the Belgian school of comic books. And that I hate super-hero stories. For various reasons (dumb, unimaginative, repetitive, etc), but above all because in America they suck the talent out of all the good authors. Case in point, take Frank Cho who can draw sexy women like no one (sexy in the most positive sense: realistic, cunning, etc) and also produce funny and original stories. He gets hired by some comic book magazine and now produces the same big tits in tights as everybody else. What a waste.

    1. I think one can argue that Cho always drew tits and ass. Hell, Liberty Meadows can possibly be read as lament of the nerd.

  14. I saw a parody sports calendar a while ago (almost certainly on Boing Boing) where male athletes took up poses typical to female pin-up calendars. Very funny. There’s also a video I’m sure most of you have seen where guys act like women typically act in music videos to great comic effect.

    The incongruity that’s the source of the humor unfortunately comes from men showing a kind of vulnerability. In the video there’s also some incongruity from having Ron Jeremy or other “sub-optimal” body types in revealing clothing. Of the two, I have more of a problem with the former being incongruous.

  15. People, it’s not just the clothing. The best way I’ve ever seen to express this point was this:

    Take a typical superhero comic, ANY of them, and switch all the male characters by females and vice-versa without changing anything of the characterization, dialogue or plot. They do exactly what the original characters get to do, in the same way, but they’re switched-up. Now don’t cheat. You need to do this for an entire issue or story arc to get the full effect, not a couple of pages.

    Once that’s done, answer honestly: Were the now-male characters interesting and fun? Did you enjoy identifying with them? Would you still read those comics, if they were to be permanently switched like that (or if at least half of them would)?

    1. >Would you still read those comics, if they were to be permanently switched like that

      I’m really intrigued by this because it surprises me that anyone would answer with a ‘no’ (which you obviously believe, as the point of the question).
      I may be misunderstanding you: it sounds like you’re talking about characterisation/dialogue, rather than the artistic style, so in your thought experiment the now-male characters are drawn as male characters currently are, and the now-female characters likewise. Is that what you mean?

      If that’s correct, I don’t see how/why it would make any difference?

      Possibly relevant: You talk about identifying with characters, but that’s not an experience with which I’m intimately familiar; I do sometimes identify in some way with characters in books (not comics), but I’d say less than a percent; it’s certainly not common and I rarely read a book with any expectation that I’ll share any modes of thought with the characters described.

      1. I’m really intrigued by this because it surprises me that anyone would answer with a ‘no’ (which you obviously believe, as the point of the question).

        Not at all. I do expect some people would answer ‘no’ because they would notice how the male characters would be a lot more passive, a lot less numerous and a lot more secondary and much more inclined to have been victims of rape… a very common back story. I know for a fact that many male readers would find that unappealing. Not all, but certainly a good number.

        But I also expect some would answer ‘yes’, especially people who wouldn’t have a problem with comics featuring more unabashedly empowered female main-characters and more starry-eyed boyfriends admiring their prowess from the sidelines… ;)

        NB: I probably wouldn’t buy either version: I don’t enjoy superhero comics that much myself (I do write comics news and reviews for a comic festival, so I am heavily exposed to and have read all genres).

        Women readers’ who complain that female characters fall into patterns (both visually and in their characterization) that is often unappealing to them aren’t lying: It’s true.  Now as far as whether Marvel and DC care to cater to them and if they should, I’m not actually sure. They ARE dinosaurs. They are very successful dinosaurs, but as far as comics are concerned, their cornerstone is not exactly progressiveness. Should they remain gleefully dedicated to a male readership? Frankly, I tend to say ‘why not’. Playboy is. It serves a purpose. Other people might disagree and they might be right. That’s another conversation.

        However, in that case, I’d be nice for them (and their fans) to be honest about it instead of saying “Shut up!! Superhero comics are total equal opportunity!!” which is just plain false, or pretending that they desperately want to appeal to female reader but have no bloody idea how to cater to such bizarre aliens.

        1. Okay, I thought you were making it as a purely rhetorical point.

          >I know for a fact that many male readers would find that unappealing. Not all, but certainly a good number.

          I do find that a little difficult to believe, but as I said, I have problems identifying with others, so I wouldn’t put money on it :).

          >NB: I probably wouldn’t buy either version: I don’t enjoy superhero comics that much myself   

          Well, I have to admit that I haven’t read any in several years. I’m assuming that things haven’t change drastically for the better or worse in the interim.

          >Women readers’ who complain that female characters fall into patterns (both visually and in their characterization) that is often unappealing to them aren’t lying

          I apologise if I implied otherwise! And on reflection I think I understand your point better. I didn’t mean to say “I wouldn’t feel like that if the situations were reversed, so you must be making it up”, so much as “it’s a disappointment that so many characters are cut from the same simplistic mould, but reversing their sexes would be a no-op for my level of enjoyment”.

          1. I apologise if I implied otherwise!

            First off, no apology needed :) I didn’t perceive anything like that in your reply, just a need for clarification on my part.

            I do find that a little difficult to believe, but as I said, I have problems identifying with others, so I wouldn’t put money on it :)

            I admit that I’m mainly taking the word of my male comic reading friends on that one, which is anecdotal. When asked, they tend to express that they enjoy an empowered, gritty, incorruptible hero who may be conflicted or wounded at times but certainly not defiled. The thought of their favourite superhero being slammed in a corner and unceremoniously fucked in the arse isn’t palatable. Considering how many comics, video games and films involve male characters being sexually violated and/or humiliated, I take for granted that it’s not a very popular plot device…

            All in all, I genuinely thought that the  ‘switching exercise’ was good because it encouraged people to put a bit more time and effort into trying to see things from the other’s perspective instead of going by an instant knee-jerk reaction. I though it was a good exercise in empathy and, really, I think this is what’s most at hand in this issue.

          2. @sekino but the switch would have to be a bit more than the image presented above, where the costume is the same but the body shape inside have been altered. One would have to take a existing male hero and put him in said situation to make the whole issue visible. Or for that matter, put hyper-sexualized males (as females would “want” them) next to female heroes as a “this is how a female hero looks to a reader of the same gender). Gender bending existing heroes puts out more noise than clarity.

        2. Yeah, female characters get blander backstories unless you’re a fan of rape and torture, and are more likely than male characters to get further raped and tortured.  Their deaths are more likely to be used for someone male’s character development.  Even in the world of superhero comics, men are people and women are women…  who exist to make more interesting stories for men.

          1. I just don’t buy this. Spider Woman is interesting to me in and of herself, as are Birds of Prey and Batgirl.

    2. I’m not sure that will prove anything. If you took conversations I’ve heard in real life and reassigned the gender of each person, I would have trouble relating to them. Men and women speak and act differently. Ignoring language, I can’t imagine most men even using the body language of women and vice-versa.

      1. The exercise may require a few tiny adjustments, but with a minimum of imagination, it shouldn’t be that hard (see last paragraph of my last reply to Aneurin Price).

        Also, most women’s ‘body language’ don’t involve showing off their tits and ass at the same time all the time and in every possible situation. The exercise helps picture that what feels awkward to you as a man might very well feel awkward to many women as well.

        (I’m going to stop replying now because Disqus is being really sticky…)

        1. Hmm, thanks for that post as now i found myself thinking of perhaps a perfect example for the male equivalent.


          With the noted difference that in the series, his frequent shirt ripping and posing was seen as a comedic break for the series and a annoyance to fellow characters. But Armstrong stripped of the comedy angle may be a mental reference point.

  16. The picture on the left is funny because the men are doing stereotypical “sexy woman” poses, but the one on the right is even funnier because those boobs are not only enormous but anatomically farcical.  I mean, it’s not just a sexist drawing, it’s a bad one.  But then mass market comics aren’t typically a treasure trove of high quality art.

  17. I feel this comic is largely self-defeating, and I’ll go roughly through my thought processes in an attempt to explain why:

    To start with, it appears to come with two assumptions which, on the face of it, seem ‘obviously’ wrong (and even after some reflection, I still think are wrong):  first that sexualisation of males and females in art is done in the same way – by exaggerating the  sexual organs and posing in a particular manner (ignoring the skin-tight unitard since that seems entirely unisex in comics).

    Following on from that is the conclusion that men in comics are not drawn in a sexualised fashion, and look! here’s what they’d be like if they were!

    The illustration then seems absurd – obviously male characters wouldn’t be sexualised by putting them in feminine poses; that doesn’t even make sense. We also know that in the real world when people sexualise images of men they don’t do it by giving them huge codpieces (I think we can probably take that as a given?).

    So the point boils down to ‘imagine this highly contrived scenario in which I’ve drawn a deliberately incorrect analogy to make my point’.

    Rhetorical points that, like this one, don’t stand up to a moment’s rational scrutiny really annoy me, so it’s tempting just to ignore what the author/artist has to say, but there really is an important point here, *I just think she’s missed it*.

    She’s rebutting the point that “male characters in comics are idealised too”, by saying (roughly) “yes, they’re idealised, but they’re not sexualised; this is what it would look like if they were”. I think that rebuttal is false, which leads to the conclusion that there *is* no rebuttal, and she has no real point.

    There *is* a rebuttal though, and a real point: men are often sexualised in comics, but not *always*. There’s a a wider range of male characters; it’s easy to point out examples of male characters which are drawn as stereotyped hunks, but it’s also fairly easy to think of some that are *not*. I’ll start: Peter Parker.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any female comic characters who aren’t sexualised (leaving aside elderly relatives and the like), and *that’s* the point that needs to be made.

    1. Internets. You win them.

      Pity I had to read through the huge OMGWALLOFWORDS thread to get to this one.

  18. Good point but bad illustration. Surely the best analogy (i.e. for a ‘typical’ sexual objectification) of men would be with that of something like Harlequin Romance covers? And apart from longer hair and more bare-chestedness, the men from HR covers are not all that different from the average male superhero…

  19. To start:  I agree whole-heartedly that women are overtly and overly sexualized in comics in a way that men are not.  I won’t take the time to speculate as to the many reasons that this might be.  That said, I don’t read superhero comics for the realism, if you know what I mean.

    But, I agree there is a tragic imbalance, and would be delighted to see both more equity and more realistic portrayals of both sexes in general, especially with respect to BMI and in combat situations.    It’s a real and serious issue.

    But more narrowly, the reason I think some (even supporters of the underlying argument) are taking issue with the male variants of the drawings, here and in other similar examples, some of which are mentioned on this thread, is that the artists or photographers have taken the costumes, poses and expressions of the female characters  and simply made the bodies male, not actually flipped the cultural polarity of the images in every way.
    I will do my best to explain what I mean.

    “How ridiculous  and unappealing the male versions look!”

    But the analogy is imperfect.  The original works are images of women whose appearances have been hyper-sexualized to the point of caricature  *from the point of view of a stereotypical, perhaps to the point of caricature, heterosexual male*.
    [I don’t feel qualified to speculate as to what homosexual women are looking for in terms of sexuality, so can’t say whether a lesbian or bisexual woman would think these women are “sexy”.  ;)    I don’t want to get into a separate argument about the  admittedlyfractal and nuanced nature of human sexuality, so let’s not.  I’m just going to leave it as comic book women are drawn to look sexy to straight males]

    but to create a truly parallel image, you’d have to take the male heroes, or models, or whatever, and have the dressed, posed, etc. in a way that was hyper-sexualized to the point of caricature *from the point of view of a stereotypical heterosexual female*.   Apropos the Harlequin novel references.

    There is a group of people, of whatever size, who find the picture above on the left, and its ilk, to be appealing.   Is there *any* group who really digs the one on the left?  If we are looking to create the male mirror, shouldn’t it appeal to the female ( or perhaps male homosexual/bi-, etc.) version of the group that likes the female drawing?

    The straight women I know don’t find pictures of near-naked guys in pouty female cheesecake poses and costumes to be sexy.  I’ve asked.
    They are looking for other things.  (which vary, and are difficult to pigeonhole).
    One said that a super-sexy photo for her would be a guy with a beard in Carharts, holding a mop.
    Why?  Because
    “Carharts suggest usefulness and dependability….two totally intoxicating male characteristics. Holding the mop = ready for business, and seals the deal.  Phew.”

    If we want to really point out what the “male” version of ridiculous comic book characters would be,  then we need to draw male characters who are dressed and acting “sexy” in a way that appeals to the lowest common denominator of straight female sexuality.
    I don’t know what that is, [I’m very curious!]  but I have yet to see that drawing.

    1. Not that I took a poll, but I think women can be more demanding of women in this regard than men are. There’s a show on MTV where they take a “boyish” girl and stick her in inch-thick pancake makeup and clothes from Vogue in order to win the heart of a boy, and it seems much more like women forcing women to fit their vision of what a woman should be than trying to appeal to a man. I think to the average guy the end product (I use the word advisedly) looks like a circus clown.

      From studies I’ve read about, women are more into pornographic images of women than men are of such images of men. Probably women would enjoy comics showing sexually attractive women more than they would be into comics where women looked like men, on average.

      I think where there is more of  a problem is in power relations. Taking “standard” sexuality as a proxy for power relations doesn’t quite hit the target if you ask me.

      1. When you use a reality show from MTV as an example of what women can be like, I have a hard time taking any point you’re trying to make seriously.
        We’re by and large not the ones illustrating these comics. We’re not really the majority of the people buying them either. How exactly are we doing this to ourselves?

        1. “How exactly are we doing this to ourselves? ” Didn’t say that.

          My point in both my previous posts is that the base issue is power relations, and while normative sexuality has some relation to that, it’s not as important as showing women in vulnerable poses or roles.

          I think that would be a bigger issue to the female readership than body type. If I am wrong, I am wrong, no biggie.

          But I also think women participate in the enforcement of “acceptable” appearance for women. Not in the case of mainstream superhero comics, but in magazines and TV especially. I follow the fashion industry to a certain extent, and as far as I can tell, a lot of the imagery is not aimed at straight men. The MTV example occurred to me because it’s so egregious. I think the series is called “Plain Jane” (here it’s called “Canon en 10 lecons”). The presenter looks weird and she makes the girls look weird.

          As for why this happens, that’s another story.

  20. Fun fact: No matter what the “Comics are for all ages!” and “Comics are for girls too!” preachers want to say the numbers are 100% not there. At least in the U.S.

    Yes, in Europe, South America & Asia there is a better gender balance.  But as far as U.S. comics go and specifically superhero comics go, it’s a man’s world.  I’ve worked in publishing for decades and started my publishing career working for a small comics publisher in NYC and this song and dance in 2012 is no different than the one from 1992 or even 1982.  The superhero comics industry in the U.S. is predominantly male, and that’s it. 

    One could pine on endlessly about gender tracking and such, but I believe it’s just because most adults really don’t read comics in the U.S. And most adults in the U.S. who read comics are men.  Or maybe a larger cultural thing. I don’t know.

    But that said, I do think there is a market.  But not in the mainstream market. Indie & underground comics could cater to women who like superheroes, but then—guess what—indie & underground comics are not really into the whole superhero world either.  As much as superhero comics are a sausage fest, the indie & underground world is a world of whiny introspection & self-loathing.

    Basically, the whole world of telling stories via pictures is dysfunctional nowadays thanks to a dying market.  So when I read screed complaining about the objectification of in comics, all I have to say is this: Find a new medium for your superhero fantasies. Video games, movies & other places actually have had greater strides in gender balances because they are thriving markets.  Comics are dead.

    1. I’m not sure if you’re just failing the chicken-and-the-egg test here. The point of the original post was that sexualization of female characters in comics alienates female readers, to which you responded, “Yes, but comic readers are mostly men!” Oohhhhhkay then. Sounds like you’re actually agreeing with the OP.

  21. This lady just get off the boat? Welcome to life in America. Comic books are the smallest fish in the sea.

    1. “Male superheroes are not sexualized”

      Please at least try to understand the point of view of somebody who thinks that statement is obviously false and can’t understand how such an argument could even be made. If that is the only point, then there is no possible line of dialogue to be made.

      Extremist claims argued by repeated assertion just make you sound like the lunatic fringe, so people ignore you.

      Try something more supportable (or, if you prefer, ‘harder to dismiss out of hand’), like “men in comics are portrayed in a variety of different ways with a broad spectrum of characterisation, whereas women are usually more two-dimensional and their characters are frequently largely defined (to a far greater extent than men) by their overtly sexualised appearance.” It says what you really mean (or maybe it doesn’t and I’m just projecting my opinions on to you?), avoiding the trap of just making one bold statement which one either already agrees with, or doesn’t.

      Also, I think that bit about power fantasy is your perception. You could make that argument, but such bold assertions are really only suited to statements of verifiable fact, or matters of opinion which are expected to be shared with the target audience, of which this is neither.

      (Plus, prefixing your first post with ‘again’ and making such BLUNT STATEMENTS makes you sound arrogant and confrontational; it makes the reader think that clearly your intention is to cause offense rather than to say anything of substance, which has the effect of making them defensive. A defensive reader/listener will naturally become contrarian *even if they agreed with you*.)

      Unless I’ve just been trolled, but I think it’s more likely to have been just a post out of frustration – with which I hold considerable sympathy.

      1. I’m not getting into their characterizations, man. I just mean what they LOOK like.

        “Also, I think that bit about power fantasy is your perception.”

        Verifiable fact? Are we applying the scientific method here? What sort of proof do you require?

        I’m just asking because I can literally point you to a million things, so I have to narrow it down.

        1. >Male superheroes are not sexualized

          >I’m not getting into their characterizations, man. I just mean what they LOOK like

          So your thesis is that, based on looks alone, a caricature of a man who spends most of his life flexing his anatomically impossible musculature is, without argument, not sexualised?

          >Verifiable fact? Are we applying the scientific method here? What sort of proof do you require?

          >I’m just asking because I can literally point you to a million things, so I have to narrow it down.
          I’m not interested in arguing with someone as demonstrably obnoxious and arrogant as you seem to be.

          1. “So your thesis is that, based on looks alone, a caricature of a man who spends most of his life flexing his anatomically impossible musculature is, without argument, not sexualised?”


            “I’m not interested in arguing with someone as demonstrably obnoxious and arrogant as you seem to be.”

            Science will have to wait, then.

          2. The test is pretty easy.

            Look at the picture.

            Does the picture say, to you, as a viewer, “LOOK AT MY BANANA. JUST LOOK AT IT.”

            Because that’s what the artists at Marvel/DC/whoever are doing with women. “LOOK AT MY MELONS. JUST LOOK AT THEM.”

          3. @boingboing-b23975176653284f1f7356ba5539cfcb:disqus

            You’re making the assumption that “look at my banana” on a male is the equivalent of “look at my melons” on a female, in terms of sexualization.

            By that logic, men who are attempting to attract women should be wearing spandex and have cucumbers stuffed down their pants for best results.

            (just don’t try to go through the airport with that foil-wrapped cucumber…)

    2. “Power fantasy” and “sex fantasy” are not mutually exclusive terms – they actually have a great deal in common with each other in human psychology in general.  And there are actually a good number of women who do look at many of the female superheroes as power fantasies.

      1. Henry Kissinger, an awful man who got a lot of dates, reputedly once said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

    3. Wow, the assumptions in your comment are breathtaking.  You don’t respond sexually to muscles and power, therefore no one does?

      1. Of course I do respond sexually to muscles and power. But I don’t matter. It’s the intent of the creators behind it.

        Do you know who else have perfect bodies? Large boobs, tiny waist…?

        Disney princesses.

        The intent behind Disney princesses is at the other end of the galaxy. Because Disney princesses are a little girl’s fantasy.

        I am pretty sure that when comic book artists are drawing male superheroes, the last thing they think is “okay, I want Green Lantern to look super-hot here” even if Green Lantern ends up looking super-hot.

        1. Then you really don’t know much about comic book artists, or the psychology behind the poses. Think of it this way: Imagine all the comic book characters were peacocks. You know that peacocks with the large fan of feathers are males, right? And the female peacocks — peafowls – do not. To draw the male peacock in a hypersexualized way, the artist would draw a massive fan of feathers. And to draw the female peafowl in a hypersexualized way, the artist would draw it slinky. That is exactly what the artists do with human characters – they draw each of the genders in the most extreme version of their sexual characteristics as possible, and typically relying on the age-old concept of female as inviting and male as domineering. Though sometimes they change up the female characters and make them domineering, but not often.

          1. Humans are not peacocks, and muscles are not a sexual characteristic.

            Teehee! Yeah, I happen to know a few comic book artists  XD
            I won’t assume you don’t, but let’s try a nice experiment. Go to a library and get out a book on how to make superhero comics. The classic one is How to Make Comics the Marvel Way, but let’s just say this one was outdated. Pick another one, such as Drawing Cutting Edge Anatomy.

            The directive is always: make females sexy, make males powerful. This is how it is.  

          2. mcamposr, your claim that muscles are not a sexual characteristic is quite forced, and stands in contrast to your own statement: “The directive is always: make females sexy, make males powerful. This is how it is.” You are absolutely correct. What you fail to see is that the “powerful” element IS a male sexual characteristic, indeed, it is the primary male sexual characteristic. Your refusal to compare humans to other species may make educating yourself a bit difficult – normally I’d tell you to look up the word “alpha” re the characteristics of male alpha gorillas, since it easier to see who becomes the sexual king in the animal kingdom than in human culture — but is still exists in humans. Who are sexually attractive men (in general)? Tall, check. Muscle-bound, check. You claim these sexual characteristics are not sexual. Let’s go with that notion –surely you are not suggesting that the only male sexual characteristic is the penis? (And the scrotum too?)

          3. That is exactly what the artists do with human characters – they draw each of the genders in the most extreme version of their sexual characteristics as possible, and typically relying on the age-old concept of female as inviting and male as domineering.

            So according to this theory, if you were to go look at some gay (male) porn sites or magazines, then when looking at the musclebound he-man types (as opposed to “twinks” or other more vulnerable types), does this mean you’d expect their poses (in less explicit shots where they weren’t grabbing their dicks or whatever) to look about like those in superhero comics, conveying an image of strength/domineering as opposed to more stretched-out “inviting” poses like the ones the cartoonist drew above? (or like the poses you typically see in ads that highlight the male form, like the one here) Or do you have some evolutionary psychology rationalization for why gay men would have totally tastes in poses for muscular men than straight women? (if you do, be sure to demonstrate that your theory is falsifiable by explaining how it could be tested)

  22. I think Aneurin pretty much gets it right. The qualities that  “sexualize” or even “idealize” men and women are not identical, this drawing pretends they are, and perhaps suggests they should be (?), which I think is pretty silly.

    Yes it sometimes goes overboard, like a Lady Death or Vampirella comic, but I know a few women who read comics who actually think of sexiness as a positive superheroine attribute. Why are we so afraid of sex in this country? 
    I’d also like to know which superhero comics  Megan Rosalarian  enjoys that DON’T draw women in a sexy way, because I can’t for the life of me think of any.

    1. I like actual sexy women.  A lot!  I have sex with them!  The caricatures of sexy women in superhero comics are not sexy.  They might be one version of an idealized, sexualized female in this society, but they’re one that I think is harmful – awful really – and that has no real connection to actual attractive women.

      1. Well, what you personally find sexy is one thing, and what an artist chooses to portray as sexy may be another, but I don’ t think it’s J. Scott Campbell’s responsibility to find out what you think is sexy and start drawing his characters that way.  

        Do you read superhero comics? If so you must know that very little of what goes on in them has any real connection to the actual world we live in, from Emma Frost’s gravity defying bustier to the Incredible Hulk’s tree trunk biceps. To focus on sexuality and demonize comics creators as rabid sexists seems just a little out of proportion, considering there are giant robots and lizard men walking around.  They’re all fantasies, some of which you might enjoy more than others, but I’ll never understand the urge some people have to become the thought police.

        1. To focus on sexuality and demonize comics creators as rabid sexists seems just a little out of proportion, considering there are giant robots and lizard men walking around.

          Well, if giant robots and lizard men were problem in the real world, your comment might have some validity. But they’re not. So it doesn’t.

          1. Are you claiming that the sexualization of superheroines is a problem in real life? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. 

            No no,  my point was not about the potential danger of robots and lizard men, I think you know that, but that the insistence that the fantasy world of superhero comics should adhere to reality in terms of the portrayal of sexuality when the whole  mythos is based on wish-fulfillment and exaggeration in the first place seems ridiculous.  

            It’s the same kind of argument that led to horror comics in the ’50’s being banned because they alleged corrupted the minds of innocents. We’ve met the enemy and he is us.

  23. Haha! I also think it’s pretty funny that a mass-murderer like Wolverine can be considered a hero and that it’s sex that somehow bothers us more. Violence is okay, sex is bad, is that still where we are in 2012?

  24. Anyone else think the parody image is just a really bad drawing to try and get the point across?  All I see is a bunch of chubby males trying to dress like females…like Man-Faye.  That said, I’ll agree that the proportions on the females (their waist especially) are a bit out of wack, but they’re bloody drawings, for the most part they’re going to be as unrealistic as possible.  Also, there’s actually a good reason for skin-tight clothing on a super hero, but I guess they never thought of the practicality of having less cloth to grab on yourself while in a fight (which is why I don’t understand Superman’s cape, Batman’s is a gadget but his is just to show off).  Really, all I see are these arguments falling flat on their face since they can only see one part of a character’s flawed design, rather than all of that character’s flawed design.

    Also, which would they prefer, a more hourglass shaped figure of a human that has curves, or a washboard that has none, cause it’s pretty much gonna be one or the other since they apparently don’t want to see any curves on a woman at all.

      1. Well, seeing as this is an article about people complaining about women in comic books, one would do well to assume “they” would be in reference to said people complaining.

  25. Women’s fashion magazines and the cosmetic ads therein are far more destructive to women’s health and self esteem than the hyperbolic, fantasy, artwork of comic books. Megan should take a hard look at what Tyra Banks and how every other fashion magazine editor; (mostly female), has treated such topics as race, contour, and the subject of objectifying woman.  

    1. Because there’s a bigger problem with this completely different genre, we should ignore the problems with this one? I think we can work on trying to fix both, thanks.

      1. To your rhetorical question: Yes, exactly! I think bigger, real life problems, which deal with actual humanity should take precedent over ink & paint. Dealing with real world deficits would be far more effective in my opinion than chastising fiction and fantasy artists.

        1. There are people dying of AIDS by the millions! Why are we even wasting our time talking about any of this? Oh, I remember now. It’s because I can care about more than one thing at once. Isn’t that great?

          1. I don’t want to get in a flame war at BoingBoing but consider this: It’s my view and please take it at face value and nothing more, that pixels, paint, and fantasy are a silly morals target. Hence, bigger targets that do demonstrable damage both economically and socially would be well worth someone’s time and expense rather than demanding that the art and design of “Wonder Woman” look more like “Ghost World.” You are obviously quite passionate about it whereas I think it’s a time waster. You may have the last word…

        2. I honestly do see your point here, and in a way, I agree. But that doesn’t mean the issue should be completely ignored in comic books. There are some girls who don’t look at girly magazines or watch reality tv, but do grow up reading comic books. They should be able to have more exposure to ‘famous’ women who are more representative/realistic, whether their role model is Tyra Banks or Wonder Woman.

          1. I appreciate your sincerity and the sincerity of your viewpoint has convinced me that I may have interpreted her blog post incorrectly.

    2. I think Megan might know about those, and is talking about comics not as the fulcral point of social change but because she cares about comics. You’d have to ask her, I guess.

  26. I would like to request that someone would do one of these gender swapped covers than can actually draw attractive men.. for science.

    Seriously though I hate that every time this comes up people speak in absolutes.  All women hate this.  All men love this.   Comics are only for men.  Bloobloo.

     I’m a straight woman and I love artists like Michael Turner, J Scott Campbell, etc.  Are they realistic?  No.  Am I personally offended by them?  No. (can other people be? Of course, obviously.)     For whatever reason my brain thinks they are interesting.  Although I will say with Campbell it depends on the colorist as well. 

    Every time of these stupid “articles” comes up no one ever offers any suggestions.  There are a number of comics today or in recent publication that do not do this.  They are never brought up.  It leaves the reader with the misinformed opinion that all comics are this.   It’s especially harmful for the new person that’s trying to get into comics but is easily swayed by a ranty opinion.  You would judge an entire genre by one artist and then present that opinion as a fact that covers everything else?  Nine times out of ten the artist/angry article writer in question does not even read cape comics and probably never intends to change or not.  They look for proof, find it in one image out of thousands(in this case) , and tell others they should avoid comics because of it.   

    Lastly, I have yet to run across a man that ever gets offended by a sexy depiction of another male.  If one does here, say so.  I’m always  interested in hearing new things.

    1. Ask most members of the “geeky” culture: What do you think of Schwarzenegger’s “Conan”?
      The answer will be something along the lines of “Fkin AWESOME!”.  Meanwhile, he is dressed in near-nothing and is simultaneously a culmination of many womens’ sexual fantasy and many mens’ power fantasy.

      Tell me you (no matter your gender) do not think he looks powerful and cartoonishly masculine, while wearing skimpy clothing in an entirely unlikely combat pose? 
      If you’ve ever held a sword, you know that he’s leaving 40%+ of his body exposed with that grip and essentially can’t move anywhere with that stance. 

      1. Powerful and cartoonishly masculine and icky. Am I the only one who is completely turned off by huge veins popping out of scary-looking muscles? Nor am I digging the fur undies. Then again, I score pretty high on the Kinsey scale, so maybe straighter women are into that sort of thing. 

    2. It’s funny you should imply the writer isn’t familiar with superhero comics. All she said was that many women do like them, and maybe more would if writers were mindful of that. Nobody said anyone should avoid them.

      And, of course, you say “one image out of thousands” in this case, but there are three just in the linked article. So much for judging from a small sample.

      1. Yes, many women do like them.   I am one of them.  However every time I see these kinds of posts they are often from people that admittedly don’t actually read comics themselves.  (Kate Beaton, is another popular one.)  They never point out what they think is a good cover.  (Like this )  They never point out books they like.  They just say “Comics are for men.  It’s bad.  Make more comics for women.” 

        Sooo… Captain American/Iron Man?  What does “for women” mean to them?  I read them as-is am I no longer a woman?

        I guess it’s a hell of a lot easier to parody and complain than offer alternatives.  Wish as many fans as people like the article writer and Kate Beaton have they can easily turn more people away from comics with nothing but negativity to say about them.

    3. “Lastly, I have yet to run across a man that ever gets offended by a sexy depiction of another male.  If one does here, say so.  I’m always interested in hearing new things.”

      You’ve never heard a male respond to to a sexy depiction of another male with homophobia?  Seems like a sign of offense to me.

  27. While it’s valid to criticize the quality of a creative work, you can’t complain that it doesn’t appeal to you. Not everything is made for you to consume. If it were some form of hate-speech you quash it, but I doubt many would condemn cheesecake art as such. It exists. It has an audience. If it doesn’t appeal to you, move along.

    But I DO see her point about the predominant style of the artwork and the lack of alternatives. I’m sure there is a large potential audience hungry for better representation of female role models in the genre. But the answer is for her to MAKE HER OWN.

    Self-publishing is ridiculously fucking easy now. She’s an artist and the fan community is full of writers and artists. She or anyone else can create their own strong, non-sexualized female superheroes and make them available online. If there’s a big, untapped market there, then corner it.

    It’s better than telling other artists what to draw.

  28. We could go back and forth with examples of male/female physical idealization in comics, and everyone would be right while missing the point.  These are mythic figures.  Of course they’re sexually idealized.  

    I guess what I’m missing from Rosalarian’s parody are two things:  first, a resonant parody.  I don’t see a lot of pudgy male superheroes in comics – I see exaggerated specimens of sexualized physical perfection… but drawing them that way on both sides wouldn’t support her argument.  Put the lithe physique of a Daredevil or Nightwing in those outfits, and the distinction fades considerably.

    Second, what exactly is stopping women of Rosalarian’s mindset from capturing a huge chunk of the comics market by giving the downtrodden masses of female fans what she claims they yearn for?  

    I do agree with Rosalarian’s conclusion that there are still too many women portrayed in comics with an obvious intent of showing ass rather than kicking it.  So change it.  If the results are more about kicking ass than proving a point, I will be an engaged and happy customer.   

    1. Only if Daredevil was posed to show off a huge bulge in his crotch and Nightwing was bent over so that you could see his ass and bare chest at the same time.

      Then they would be the same.

      1. I don’t think I’ve seen an image of nightcrawler where he’s not sticking out his ass or waving his crotch in your face.

        Though I will agree that his bulge could get bigger.

  29. Articles like this remind me that I have a huge blind spot when it comes to things like this. Although I am a straight male, this is not a body type or clothing style that appeals to me in the slightest, so I never really see these women as sexualized, just…cartoonish. MOAR TANK GIRL! MOAR WOMEN WITH GLASSES IN BUSINESS ATTIRE! I have always been this way, God help me.

  30. I think there is a valid discussion that is to be had about sexulization but I don’t think this really has a point other than as a couple of funny images.

    Men and women are most often sexualised in very different ways so putting a fat dude in a pose and in clothing that is supposed to highlight female “sexuality” doesn’t really tell us anything since the men aren’t actually sexualized. They just look goofy, even the artist and writer of the blog post agreed to that. A valid comparison would be comparing hypersexualized men with hypersexualized women, both done “as they should be drawn”.

    And in the other camp stop simply saying that “this isn’t for women and if the makers of the comic books want to do it then they can” because no one is arguing with that.  What they are trying to convince the makers of the comics to change their mind. You logic that they are free to do what they want doesn’t only apply when it fits you. And they aren’t saying that you can’t have T&A in your comics, just that it shouldn’t be in the way of reading the big mainstream comics.

  31. I guess what bothers me more than anything, and this is coming from a male reader, isn’t the fact that the women in these comics are portrayed that way. I mean, it is what it is, and if there is an audience for it, people are going to buy it. Sex sells. So they should feel free to draw what they want. There’s no rules against it.
    But what bothers me is that this is the example/mainstream standard that we’re all supposed to buy. It’s a majority, and the example set for the rest of the readers, male or female, is liable to put us in the mindset that women superheroes, or just women, real or characters, draw strength from their boobs and butt and forget about all that other stuff like personality! Who needs it? Heck, if she has it, we’ll be too unsettled or too busy looking at that barely contained bust to notice it.

    That said, ain’t nothing wrong with a character comfortable with her own sexuality, but it gets to be uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially women, when it gets to be the first thing anybody else notices and then labels the character as it. It turns into “Oh yeah, man look at Wonder Woman I would tap that ass,” rather than “Haha, yeah dude. Wonder Woman is cute, but shit. She’d kick your ass so hard!” Or something like that. All I know is that when I was in middleschool, I got so creeped out by the other guys oogling the comic girls on covers. It just doesn’t look good for anyone. Nothing wrong with a healthy sexuality. I don’t blame guys or myself for our vigorous sexual nature, but it’s sure nice to get to know the girls first in my comics before the artist starts drawing them all bendybacked and shit.

    I guess it’s just a better payoff when there’s a well written character, who you know is sexy and strong, who shows some off when there has been an appropriate build up. But if there’s no balance, nothing to suggest to me that this character is nothing BUT cheesecake, it makes me wonder, “why bother?” There’s no gratification in that regards for me. And I know, as the reader, I can probably assume there’s nothing more than just that coming my way. Anything this character is going to do is going to be based around her sexuality. And when it’s not, I’m still going to get a face full of it anyway.

    It’s just a little disheartening that all this sexualization gone to the female character has to be so detracting from the rest of her. It sets an unfair example for women and girls. I don’t think that means women are asking for a female “fat” superhero or an “ugly” superhero, rather, I think most women readers are asking for a -human- superhero. One that can be a woman that is sexy, and not just a sexy woman.

    It ain’t wrong to want the support from the big names, but it’s not completely reasonable to expect things to change. If you’re an artist, no need to state your purpose (though I suppose it doesn’t hurt to), just create. Set the example! Don’t condone the behavior, but show how it should be, and if the cause is that real (and I think it is,) everyone who’s for it will be sure to follow.

    1. Thank you! I’ve been reading this whole wall-of-words, trying to untangle my thoughts about this, but you’ve just done it for me. I really don’t mind the overt female sexuality itself; what I mind is that it tends to be the overriding characteristic of women. What I want is “a woman that is sexy, and not just a sexy woman.” Lovely.

  32. Can I just laugh at the funny pictures without reading the words, or am I still a sexist just for looking at them?

  33. I’m a male reader who agrees that female characters are hyper-sexualized in comics with regard to how they’re drawn.  In fact, I have left comics on the shelf because of it.  I voted with my wallet.

    In my experience, the covers are often far racier than the inside of the comic book.  It probably has something to do with trying to catch the eye of potential readers.  After all, comic book stores put comics on shelves where you can see every cover.  A cover is like a movie trailer.  Let’s use the first Transformers movie as an example.  Which approach has the potential to bring in the most viewers a clip of Shia LaBouff talking to his on-screen parents or a montage of robots, explosions and the leading lady?

    I’d like to see a gallery of comic covers featuring female characters that are considered to be ok by people who think like Megan Rosalarian.  I think it would be far more informative.  Is the goal here to turn comic books in to those failed Dove ads or just to add a much needed dose of reality in to comic book art?  Is it still fantasy if you insist on making it more realistic?  I agree there is a problem, but what’s the answer?  Are comic books the only art form where the art should be offensive to no one?  Maybe people like the author are just being too sensitive.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but at the end of the day, no matter how many papers you write or how many clever drawings you come up with, nothing will have as big an impact as voting with your wallet.

    1. “Is the goal here to turn comic books in to those failed Dove ads or just to add a much needed dose of reality in to comic book art? ”

      No, she said in the opening of the article that her issue wasn’t really with the idealized body types but rather with the poses/outfits they put the female heroes in:
      “It’s not the characters’ bodies themselves that are the biggest problem, but how they are dressed and posed. Tits out, ass out, lips pouty, legs spread, hips cocked, eyelids at half mast. Outfits that make Wonder Woman’s star spangled panties look fit for a Mormon picnic. Short skirts, cutouts, stilettos, fishnets, thigh-highs. I’m not describing Playboy here.

      You don’t see male heroes wearing these costumes or posing like this. Outside of statistical outliers like Namor, their costumes tend to have full coverage, and when they pose, it’s to inspire fear, not boners.”

      Incidentally where are you getting the claim that those Dove ads “failed”? This page says “According to Dove, sales for the products featured in the ads increased 600 percent in the first two months of the campaign.”

  34. Yeah, this rings hollow coming from an artist who will write and draw any kind of vivacious, capable, attractive woman…

    As long as she isn’t trans.

    1. You are presenting argumentum ad hominem, which is Latin for “This person’s argument is invalid because of X attribute of the person.”

      The argument stands on its own merits, whether the person presenting it is an artist who doesn’t draw your preferred subject or The Pope. Granted, if The Pope were to make the OP’s argument, we’d all be checking the water for LSD. But the argument would still be valid or invalid on its own merits.
      *edited to comply with election year rules

        1. And you’re completely correct. But bardfinn is saying that doesn’t make the slightest difference, and is also correct. Not least, because she’s far from the first person to make this argument. If her cisessentialism interferes with your appreciation of the point… ignore her and go look up the same point made by someone else.

        2. I don’t agree with Tynam. I don’t agree that someone’s opposition to sexism can be defined by their failure to participate in creating media that features transgender issues. You may make a point that she isn’t doing anything about cisgender and transgender stereotyping, but failure to take action on one issue while making strides on other issues in the category is not being unsupportive of the category.
          She may, for all I know, feel that she doesn’t know enough about transgender issues to portray with accuracy and justice any trans characters. She may feel that working in the space she is working in, working to her strengths, is doing more good than to step outside of that space and inadvertently cause societal regress on trans issues. Or perhaps she is herself not trans, and does not feel that she should be the person to stand up and speak for trans people, as she may feel that is arrogation of experience and thereby denial of trans people’s agency.

          For those reasons, I can’t agree with you or Tynam. And I will maintain that argumentum ad hominem is a fallacy – it doesn’t matter who speaks the argument, what matters is the argument itself.

          All forms of sexism are, of themselves, essentially argumentum ad hominem – they all state that an argument, work product, agency, life, rights, etcetera are less important/valid than another’s argument, work product, agency, life, rights, etcetera because of the sex or gender or gender orientation or gender identity of the person holding/using/producing them.

          All opposition to sexism, therefore, involves the opposition to argumentum ad hominem, including refraining from crafting arguments that utilise argumentum ad hominem in any form, and helping others to identify it when they, themselves, use it.

  35. This argument comes up a lot… what’s wrong with Bishōjo? Why is Yaoi always dismissed? The medium is bigger than Marvel/DC.

    1. That’s because bishojo and yaoi aren’t part of the Western scene, but are usually created in Asia. Many fans consider manga completely different from comics. Right now we’re talking about Western comics, particularly examples from American companies like Marvel and DC.

      On another note, I wonder if European comics ever run into this problem? I’ve seen some examples like Spirou where the sexuality’s a bit more blatant, but it’s played more for laughs than consumption. Are there any European readers who think that the portrayal of sexuality in their comics is relatively respectful, or is hypersexualization a problem over there, too?

      1. Being French, I grew up with and am surrounded by ‘bande dessinée’. While there is no shortage of hypersexualization and gratuitous T&A, they also enjoy way more variety in general and a broader, healthier market. Before the mid 70s, there was no doubt a trend towards an old boy’s club. Nowadays, there is enough of a variety so that grittier, more well-rounded heroines and even lesbian/gay protagonists are no longer downright marginal. I only wish more of it would readily available in English. Bande dessinée’ hasn’t yet enjoyed the same dissemination in America as manga, I just can’t quite figure out why.

        It’s very much comparable to manga where easily hundreds of titles in many different genres are issued every year. Sure, there are plenty of manga with ridiculously stereotyped women (and baffling porn available), but there is a LOT more choice on the menu beyond that. I’m just deploring the fact that most manga imported in NA tend to be the teenager-oriented shoujo/shonen. There are so many more genres (and styles beyond the ‘big sparkly eyed androgynous dolls’!) we’re missing out on!

        So yeah, I don’t think it’s a problem that American ‘mainstream’ comics feature cookie-cutter, super-sexed heroines, it’s that there isn’t much more variety to mingle with it. So it’s no wonder US women who care about comic books are asking some questions about what’s creating this situation.

        (Yay! Disqus is working again!)

      2. “Many fans consider manga completely different from comics.”
        And they would be completely wrong. Stylization maybe different, but that’s my point. People completely thow out any different comic styles when the bishōjo argument comes up. It’s like complaining the men are hypersexualized in yaoi. *edit* I’d go so far to say the picture on the right in the OP is bishōjo style.

        1. I understand your point, but in many of the discussions I’ve seen “manga” is a term used for comics that originate from Japan, while “comics” are used for Western graphic novels. There’s a lot of debate on whether to include Western artists who draw in an anime-esque style under the “manga” label, but the labels’ strictness depends on the community the discussion’s being held in.

          As for the top-right image, in my opinion it doesn’t count as bishoujo because it’s drawn by a Western artist for a Western company, and the proportions of the women aren’t exactly what I’ve seen in the typical manga. In fact, before you mentioned it, I didn’t even notice the elements that you’d consider “bishoujo” at all. The eyes look more like Barbie eyes than anime eyes.

          1. I do now see where your coming from with the eyes. Dismissing the rest of the medium though because of it’s geological location though is a little off-putting. Not to mention that Both DC and Marvel have started moving away from that classic style. Is top-right Campbell? He’s gotten cleaner lines

  36. No need to make Andrea Dworkin’s mistake and insist the only way to fair up the situation is by removing all sexualization–I for one would be very interested in other experiments like this one that try to hypersexualize males. Egypt Urnash might do a good job with that, by the way. Thanks, Megan and Cory–this was great.

  37. But DC/Marvel IS like buying soft porn. I’d buy Penthouse, X-Men and Druuna for the boobs. And then National Geographic, Maus and Asterix for learned reading. When I want non-porn there are troves of comics / mags / graphic novels to choose from.

    I think a big difference might be the monopoly and attitude towards comics in different countries. Living in Spain and France, the variety of comic styles and types is truly staggering. And it’s considered Artful and of equal story-telling standing as books.
    In Australia it was limited to some superhero comic imports, and considered a nerdy pastime for teenagers. (“comics are not for grown-ups”).

    How is it in the US?

  38. “I’m not bad – I’m just drawn that way.”  -Jessica Rabbit

    I wonder if these women characters are drawn (and posed) this way in American comics precisely because America is so prude and uptight about  depictions of actual sexuality.  I mean, these characters are all “sexualized” but none of them ever have any sex.  Maybe if they were “allowed” to have sex, their physical forms would be less distorted.

  39. She should also declare war on the selection of women’s halloween costumes forced upon greater society…

  40. I’m not too emotionally attached to this issue since buying comic books was never something I got into.

    However, I do know that you can find just about anything you’re looking for, especially these days through the internet where, if nothing else, you can learn about titles you wouldn’t otherwise have known about. A girlfriend of mine had bought every edition of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, for example, which I’m sure didn’t hyper-sexualize anyone too egregiously, and would technically count as a “superhero comic.”

    So, change will come to the industry. I think it will be less about shaming people into changing their attitude and more about providing further selections that appeal to a greater, often neglected, audience.

    I don’t think too many men get into romance novels, for example, where they are often “hyper-sexualized” in a way women find appealing (less skin tight suits and poses, and more millionaire bachelor men who woodwork in their spare time as a catharsis for their in-tune emotions). But even though 55% of paperbacks sold in North America are romance novels, I wouldn’t try to shame the people who read those stories to make it more appealing to men. I think you simply offer stories that are more appealing to a larger audience, if that’s your goal.

  41. Everything is this article is true!  It’s funny seeing the lengths people will go to try and convince themselves it’s not!  Thanks for posting Cory.

    1. It’s true, but it’s also unfortunately not addressing the whole problem. The ‘problem’ isn’t a stereotypical ideal thrust on women, it’s an overall ideal physique that neither girls or boys should think is the model to obtain for EITHER sex. And in that absence it creates an article of ‘boys versus girls’ when the whole while it should just point to big-title comics. Thus it’s simply inflammatory.

      If she believes what she writes she believes there’s a market there and should write comics to fill this void. Otherwise all we’re talking about is superhero comics, a medium I’ve avoided for years for lots of other reasons alongside the one she points out.

      I’ll read Tank Girl, Love and Rockets, Ghost World, etc. I’ll let whoever is buying the mainstream superhero titles read their title. Superhero readers are not ‘well-read’ for having read them…

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