Sexualized Comic Book Heroines

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s super hero sexism →

In an effort to reverse slumping sales figures and attract the attention of a new generation of readers to their brands, DC Comics re-launched all of its comic book series earlier this year – some 52 separate titles in total. The “New 52” features Catwoman having sex with Batman on the roof of a building and a super heroine named Starfire (appearing in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1) “drawn like a centerfold from the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated [who] has become a promiscuous amnesiac.” The research appears in an article by Casey Brienza, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Cambridge and one of the most well-known manga experts in the U.S. (Her ongoing project is a sociological account of the rise of manga in the United States and its implications for the globalization of culture.)

DC Comics produces comics featuring many well-known characters, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Green Lantern. Brienza says most superhero comics talk about women, not to them, and asks why U.S. superhero comics are so masculine. After all, Brienza points out, “other comic book-loving countries such as Japan and France do not manifest the same trends, and the self-same superhero characters, when presented in another medium-such as Hollywood film- have truly mass appeal.”

She finds that “American superhero comics, and the sexual objectification of their heroines, reflect the conditions of their production and consumption: they are made almost exclusively by and for men.” By way of example, Brienza cites research that the number of men versus women credited in the production of the new DC (and competitor Marvel) superhero comics is extremely unbalanced; on average women account for less than 10 percent of the production staff and are concentrated in less prestigious roles.

Comic book heroines are being objectified and sexualized, reflected perhaps best in their costumes. Maybe we’d have less incidents of attractive cosplayers being harassed if their character’s costumes were less revealing? Or should a woman be able to wear whatever she wants without backlash?

I personally believe two things – firstly, that woman *are* written about inappropriately in comics and other media, and secondly, that regardless, women should be able to wear what they like without fear of inappropriate behavior or other negative attention.

"It's a bird, it's a plane, it's super hero sexism." NewsRx Health 8 Jan. 2012: 7. Nursing and Allied Health Collection. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.