Sexism in comic books and video games


Hello, I begged and pleaded with Poison in order for me to do this topic, and with much thought I decided to release this after he did his Comic Con, because I thought it to be fitting.

I will start with comic books, because I know comic books slightly better than I know video games, and specifically when I say comic books, I will mean the original American versions of comic books. Not saying that the other cultures do not have rampant raging sexism in their comic books (or manga, or whatever…), it is more so that I am more familiar with American pop culture and thus I shall be talking about American pop culture.

Like anything that has spanned a significant period of human history, there are “eras” to comic books, and they are named, in order of appearance: platinum, golden, silver, bronze, and copper. Throughout all of these ages, there is rampant sexism. I mean, it would be ridiculously easy (and not as much fun) to point out the flaws of female superheroes on the basis of their physical appearance. I mean, look at them. Some of the proportions of those girls are not physically possible. I’m not even saying that there’s no way that people can have that hip to that sized bra, I am talking about the other proportions. Like the proportions of Felicia Hardy, trust me when I say this, there is no way on earth anybody can have that rack with that sized feet. She would topple over because her feel would be unable to support the massive size of her bust. Another great example of just how ridiculous female superheroes look is Wonder Woman which can be summed up completely with this Dave Chappelle skit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsowYYv8suI

Almost none of the costumes of female superheroes, and super villains for that fact, are functional. Being female, I can understand the need to wear all spandex tight clothing when you’re hurtling through various debris and other such things and don’t want your clothing caught on whatever it is you are hurtling through (and thus, capes are never cool). But if that really is the case, then female superheroes and villains would bind their ridiculously ample breasts so that way those don’t get caught in things when they are, oh I don’t know, squeezing through air ducts for instance, or heck, even fighting. You don’t want your boobs flying all over the place when fighting because for one, it freaking hurts, two, sure it distracts whoever you’re fighting, but it also distracts you because you don’t want a nip-slip, especially not in front of your enemy, and finally, there is the possibility that you would accidentally injure yourself while punching somebody because they are uncontrollably flying all over the place. Video game gear isn’t much better.

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Moving on though, when female superheroes or villains are featured on the cover of comic books they are put into ridiculous poses. This would be fine if they were like Mr. Fantastic, and that is part of their super-power, or some sort of character plot device, but no. They are in these ridiculous poses all for the sake of being sexy. I mean, I get it. I understand that the majority of people who adore comic books and games are male. I understand, and yes I get it that you want your female, to be the epitome of sex and strength to be put into something you enjoy looking at. But again, most of the poses they put females into, even during scenes that aren’t action scenes, it is just not humanly possible to do this. Just as how it is not humanly possible for some men to grow muscles the size of the Hulk’s, it isn’t possible for females to be found in some of the poses that they are portrayed in. The perfect example of this is the Hawkeye Initiative as illustrated here:

http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/

I bet you anything that if you were to see a girl do any of these poses in real life, you would be running away from the contortionist freak. (But they are kinda hot in their own way, so I’ll give you that if you’re into contortionists.) Also, if you’re fighting someone, you never approach them crouch first as shown in some of these photos. Like I said, I get it, guys will always be guys and will think with two heads instead of one. But like I said before, functionality. Also, why the fuck would any superhero wear hooker boots and heels? THOSE THINGS DON’T LET YOU RUN ALL THAT WELL. Also, with the ridiculous poses, it appears that female superheroes/villains are there to be eye candy. Their main purpose is to be there to be distracting.

“Oh guys are sexually objectified too. Look at them big muscles.”

Let me put it this way. Being female, I was never attracted to people with ridiculously big muscles. Being overly muscular is a MALE fantasy. Spoon fed to us since we were the age of tiny. Hence, putting females in that clothing with those ridiculous poses is again a male fantasy. I can guarantee you that most females do not want an ample bust size because that shit gets in the way of doing things, no matter how physically exerting or not. Let me assure you. If females were to make comic books, everyone would look straight out of The Winx Club. Everyone would be toned, males and females, females would have a modest bust – roughly A or B cup, huge gorgeous expressive eyes, and long fabulous hair. I mean, even the males of that show have ridiculously fabulous hair, even the damned nerd boyfriend. (And I am now show-casing way too much knowledge of a children’s cartoon.)

Porn star poses aside (and outfits) aside, comic books and video games are still sexist, even if we were to somehow completely take away the costumes, the anatomically incorrect poses that show off the butt and boobs, the treatment of women in general is still unbelievably sexist.

Once upon there was a website called, “Women in Refrigerators.” If you google that now, you will only get the Wikipedia articles and other fan articles about the website (and now adult porn much to the chagrin of the original creators of the site). Anyhow this website is considered infamous because it basically lists all fictional characters that have been killed, maimed, or depowered (lose their superpowers) all for the sake of advancing the plot. The namesake, “Women in Refrigerators,” comes from issue #54 of Green Lantern where the Kyle Rayner comes home to find his girlfriend had been killed and stuffed in the fridge, and of course after his girlfriend dies Green Lantern gets his shit together and starts kicking ass.

This website is still very controversial. Many people have argued that the supporting characters to the superhero are usually the ones who die. I do not argue this, nor do I doubt this. But whereas I can name almost ten female characters right off the bat that dies to advance the plot, I can only name one instance where a male character stays dead and that would be Peter Parker’s Uncle.  Surely male superheroes have guys that they confide in? Or do they just confide in only their female significant others? Why is it so often that females are only cast as supporting characters and not the main characters?  And even when female characters are cast as main villains or main superheroes, they will at some point lose their superpowers, be maimed, or die as a result. It is almost as if comic book creators got bored with their female characters and are consistently trying to find ways to off them.

Yes male superheroes lose their powers as well. But the difference between male and female superheroes is that when female superheroes lose their superpowers they are permanently depowered whereas males tend to go back to their status quo. Think about it. Whereas Superman basically loses his powers in almost every issue because of Kryptonite, when The Black Cat loses her powers she needs to have a special device made by The Tinkerer in her suit in order to emulate the superpowers she once had.

Video games are also guilty of the Women in Refrigerators effect:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qnyxd7Vq0Q

Only after Sephiroth kills Arieth does Cloud finally decide that what Sephiroth is doing is wrong, and at no matter what the cost he will stop Sephiroth’s plan. Because you know, you want to give a villain some benefit of the doubt even though he has quite explicitly stated beforehand that he wanted to obliterate the entire world populous.

Lastly there is also the modus operandi of female super villains and super heroes. As smart, brilliant, and athletic as all of them may be part of their repertoire of getting information or getting whatever they want is to be sexy. For all of you male folk out there, let’s just take a second to imagine the situation. How comfortable would you feel about a male character using his general sexiness to coax information out of women? Without sleeping with them (because we all know that when guys sleep with girls it is the worst thing in the world)?  Can you imagine a guy talking up a woman like that to get what they want? Usually they just beat the shit out of whomever it is in order to get the info they want. Another way they tend to get whatever they want is to pretend to be a weak human female, but it turns out that they are not.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OJqPJRjHkE

Sadly, youtube only has the part where she kicks ass and not the part before where she’s pretending to be a whimpering  wuss right before this. But anyone who has seen this movie knows that part of her arsenal of shaking down bad guys for info is to pretend to be no threat at all to their adversaries. Whereas if it was a male superhero they are immediately considered a threat, and even though the Black Widow has a reputation for being lethal and all around kick-ass, they automatically assume her to be weak once she is tied to a flimsy chair. (I mean, they know that she has been genetically altered to be a super soldier for cripe’s sake!) Because of this though, you get characters like Poison Ivy;  who relies almost entirely on the fact that she is a weak female in order to get the information she wants, and then seduces them to get even more out of them. Although she the obvious intelligence and arsenal needed in order to be a formidable super villain (being a doctorate of botany and poisonous), she still relies on the typical useless woman persona to get what she wants.

Do not get me started on the way video games and comic books treat guys either. Whereas it is expected that females are not able to do everything, it is expected that males should be able to do everything, because that is a completely reasonable thing to ask somebody (that was sarcasm by the way). Hence, because of this though males tend to be the more disposable gender. Females tend not to be the ones that die en masse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPmbGzQaOCs <- in the first bit where Wolverine and Sabertooth fighting all the wars.

http://youtu.be/-ebXZsuqm6o?t=2m34s <-the girls in this one are cyborgs, technically weapons, and thus aren’t real girls (Cronus, I know I am giving a really dumbed down summary for an exhilarating and absolutely fantastic anime and I apologize).

Why don’t females die en masse? We expect the female to be unable to protect herself, and hence we need a male to do it for her. If the male dies (or falls for whatever plot the villain has concocted) it is because he failed to protect himself while protecting her at the same time. If the villain is targeting females explicitly, they are automatically more evil than a person who is a random mass-murderer. Females usually have audience sympathy automatically on the basis of being female, because everyone knows that females are automatically more innocent, moral, beautiful, or because they have a sexual value, and are thus precious. Men do not have automatic audience sympathy – they have to earn it by doing appropriate manly things such as facing their fear or saving the Damsel in Distress. It is not appropriate for a guy to ditch other helpless people in order to save himself, whereas for females it is perfectly okay for them to save themselves, even if they happen to be a villain. But as such that a female is unable to protect herself, we automatically assume that females are unable to harm men. If they are able to harm a guy then somehow, that guy must have done something to deserve it, and at the same time, if they are able to be harmed by a female character the man is not a real man and therefore the violence caused by female on a guy is somehow funny.

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But at the same time, if men were to defend themselves against females they are afraid of hurting her or they are viewed as an abuser by the authorities even though it was in self-defense. Or in other words, female rape by male villains is expected, whereas male rape by females is considered hilarious! Personally, as much as I love comic books and video games, the way they are treating their characters into these cookie cutter character types is ridiculous. I mean, where is the creativity? Not only that, through popular culture we are enforcing these sexist stereotypes that have no use in the current world.

I am not saying that men and women should be treated the same in all aspects. In many ways that is unfair because of the physical differences between the two sexes. For all of you women screaming bloody murder right now, let me put it this way. The day men and women will be treated the same, will also be the day that a woman can walk down the street bald with a 40-year-old pot belly and can honestly say to herself that she looks good, and like I said before that is probably never going to happen. But in comic books and video games where the physical differences should not, and do not matter the damsel in distress syndrome should not be happening as often as it should, and women superheroes/villains should not be depowered as often when they are featured.

But on the grander scale, what does that mean? I have a few (albeit unsupported ideas), but I would like to hear your input.

And as always, keep us entertained!

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2 thoughts on “Sexism in comic books and video games

  1. This is my first comment on a blog :p but hopefully its a good one
    Anyway first of all i agree with a few of points with how women are portrayed in video games and comics/manga hell some of those costumes are preety damn ridiculous :p However i found it kinda weird you mentioning that winx club is okay when a lot of the female characters are just as over the top and exaggerated , those hour glass torsos are just as out their as any other female character. Also while i do agree to some extent to muscular men being a predominant male fantasy i do think some girls like those kinds of things which also can relate to sexy women in comics and games as well. i have seen quite a few women artists who draw over the top females look up kinuko from mecha fetus for kino nishimura from capcom (they have some over the top designs as well). Also to characters dying to get their shit together i dont fully agree with your views on them.I think it is necessary for sometimes a character to experience something horrible happen to them lost a loved one or someone important ironically it tends to be someone who the main character loves. For example peter parker and gwen stacy. I do agree that there should be more of a balance between the 2 genders

    anyway i hope this wasnt to long

  2. Hello there!
    My apologies that my response took so long. Work and what-not.

    But regarding your inquiries about the Winx Club. Yes, it is a horrible example. They still have ridiculous proportions and in all honesty I was very hesitant to put that up there as an example but I could not think of a better example off the top of my head that involved humans. Even this example I don’t fully agree with because they still have very unfunctional superhero outfits.

    Yes there are women who are drawing for comics, I don’t deny that. But I have a feeling that the poses, proportions, and everything of the women they draw is to appeal to the “standard” audience of comic books and video games, which is traditionally a white heterosexual male. Even though those numbers have changed to where currently in North America it is roughly a fifty-fifty male-female gender ratio the drawings are still looking for approval from the original audience. My guess is that this is a business strategy that they do not wish to alienate the old clients, while simultaneously trying to draw in new ones. I will not fault their business model, but I feel that they are not adequately delivering to the female audience.

    Some females do enjoy the odd look of men being overly macho and looking like upside down pyramids. Statistically speaking though, most women don’t enjoy that look. There’s a Chinese saying that I think can be applied here: mouse shit spoils the broth. Even though the majority of females (broth) do not enjoy overtly muscular men, we have to cater to the minority’s wishes (the mouse shit) by overhauling the entire system (throwing out the soup). I am not saying that it is stupid to like men with huge muscles, nor do I think people are shit because of it, that is literally how that saying translates. Also as a side note Batman’s weight with his height he would require regular silicone injections into his knees in order for his mass not to cave in upon itself.

    Moving on, it always bothered me that somebody needed to die in order for the superhero to get up and do something about it. Especially in the case of Spiderman where he didn’t feel compelled to do anything until situations were forced up onto his head. (“Oh, I’m not going to stop this robber, it doesn’t concern me, even though he’s no match for me and I think theft is wrong. Wait, that guy killed Uncle Ben? I’m a superhero now!”)
    There was this one episode of Kim Possible that I think is a better superhero ethic. While Shego and Kim were fighting one of them asked, “You’re still with this guy?” And the response was simply, “You gotta do what you gotta do.” I thought that was very compelling. Here is Kim Possible, and antics aside, she was your average American teenager. Does she go out and defeat villains because someone close to her died? No! She did it because she was the best in the business and she could do anything. (Though I have to admit it really bothered me that Kim and Ron got together at the end of the series. Like guys and girls can never be just friends…fuck society.) Why does somebody have to die in order for people to take action? Why can’t they do it because they felt compelled to do, whatever it is, that they do?
    Thank you for entertaining us with your questions!

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