Comic books have been progressive for a long time. They’ve used characters and storylines that prove that representation matters. Wonder Woman first appeared in the 1940’s as the first female superhero, and many more female characters have joined the scene since. Black Panther, Cyborg, Storm, Katana, Vibe, and countless others represent strong characters who are people of color. The Midnighter, Deadpool, Batwoman and others represent characters in the LGBT+ community. There are even heroes like Oracle who are handicapped that icons like Batman rely on to fight crime. However, despite all this positive representation, there is still an element in most comic books that’s pretty harmful to the progress they have made.
Even though there are so many strong, well-written female characters, women are still illustrated in very sexist ways. Much of the time, female characters aren’t nearly as covered up as male characters. It seems like, typically, women must show more skin than men in the eyes of comic creators. Batman, Spider-Man, and the Flash get to be covered from head to toe, but Storm, Stargirl, and Scarlet Witch often wear minimal clothing or have much of their bodies exposed. Power Girl literally has a hole in her suit for the sole purpose of showing her cleavage. Comic creators favor the skimpy outfits for women so much that they took Harley Quinn, a character who was originally covered head to toe, and changed her iconic appearance so that she’s barely wearing anything at all. Not only is this all sexist, but it’s also not very practical for crime fighting.
Even when these super heroines and villains are wearing enough clothes to match their male colleagues, their attire is so tight it’s almost as if they’re naked. Their curves, hips, breasts, and butts are prominently shown. Male characters are typically shown in cool action poses, while female characters are forced to show their sex appeal. Some of their poses are done just to show the characters’ breasts and butts at the same time. It’s impossible, or at least very uncomfortable and impractical, for someone to make those poses in real life.
Female superheroes also have a tendency to wear high heels or wedges in situations that don’t call for them. High heels don’t exactly help in combat. They wear them solely because the creators want to show off the women’s legs. It’s unneeded.
It seems as though that the primary reason for for this sexification of comic books is that the comic creators think they will lose their male audience. I guarantee that male readers will still pick up comic books to see their favorite heroes in action even if the illustrations aren’t sexualized. The writing and artwork can still be great enough for people to want to read it. Sexualizing these illustrations to fit some sort of twisted fantasy actually just keeps the female demographic away and help spread toxicity in the comic community. Comic creators would obviously be getting a lot more of an audience if both males and females read their projects.
Comic books have typically been progressive in other areas, and have been more forward thinking than other forms of media in the past, so I’m shocked this issue is still occurring. Women won’t truly be represented positively in comics until they stop being sexualized for the male gaze. Please, comic creators both big-name and indie, stop misrepresenting your female characters. Their action and storytelling can stand on their own just like male comic book characters, without them being half-naked, wearing ridiculously skin-tight attire, wearing heels when it doesn’t make sense to do so, or posing in unrealistic ways.