So, in post 253, I linked to the ShortPacked comic, where the female artist character demonstrates what Batman would look like if he were a female sexual fantasy instead of a male power fantasy. The reason that comic is so important, and so often cited, is that when we start talking about the sexualization of female characters and how limited they are in comics, one of the first cries, right after “You’re just a jealous fat bitch!” is “Male characters are unrealistic, too!”
Well, yes, they are. However, the unrealism of those male characters is not the fault of women. We are, by and large, not the ones who invented them and who keep drawing them like steroid monkeys. Those male characters are male power fantasies, not female sexual fantasies. What does this mean? Well, go look at that Shortpacked comic, and take in what the female character says about what Batman would look like if his main purpose was to appeal, sexually, to women. Now, compare that to how the majority of male comic characters look. How many of them meet the “female sexual fantasy” criteria? Not a whole hell of a lot. The ones who come close, like Nightcrawler or some renderings of Gambit, tend to have rabid female fanbases, in case you hadn’t noticed.
I mean, I dig on the Punisher, as a character, but not like I do Nightcrawler or Gambit. And yeah, some girls are going to go for the ‘Roid monkey look. It does happen, but by and large, we really don’t go for it, and if you ask women, “Huge, unrealistic muscles” is generally going to crop up fairly low on their list of desireable attributes in someone they want to date, or even just bang, if at all.
So, you can’t point to the way that male heroes are depicted and say that is exactly the same as how female characters are depicted. And I’ll run down that list of why for you again. A. Women aren’t the ones (for the most part), inventing or drawing these characters. B. Male characters, even in the realm of being male power fantasies, STILL have a far wider variety in body types and shapes than female characters get. C. Male characters are almost always more clothed and have armor that looks like armor and not just very uncomfortable lingerie.
Until fairly recently, I don’t think anyone could name more than one female comic writer or artist. I know as far as the Big Two, I stall out at Gail Simone. And I actively look for female creators to support. Indie comics do have a far larger female presence. So women are not responsible for how most of our big name superheroes look. That is all on the dudes. Superman, Batman, the X-men (most team incarnations), that was all dudes. Dudes drawing and writing for dudes.
Male characters have a wide variety of body types. I can, off the top of my head, come up with multiple male characters that have different body types. You have the Wolverine, short and stocky. The Nightcrawler, short(-ish) and more slender, but still pretty muscly. Colossus, Sabretooth, or Superman, big and really muscly. Cyclops, average dude height and really well-muscled, if not as hugely muscled as the Colossus mod. Doug Ramsey, skinny nerd (Woo! One non-muscly male character!). But when you look at women, as I’ve said before, you’ve got tall and willowy with big tits, or short, lithe Asian woman or teenaged girl. Or Aunt Mae.
That’s it. For a few issues of the New Mutants during the Asgardian Wars, Karma is “cursed” with being monstrously fat.* But then she gets skinny again, and we’re back to slender, lithe Asian girl.
And finally, for the most part, the dudes get to keep their clothes on. And if you’re going to start shrieking Namor at me, just realize that you look like a big giant tool when you do that, because for every Namor, there are a dozen Starfires, Storms (her early costume), White Queens, Psylockes, Electras, Wonder Women, etc…
So, that, my friends, is false fucking equivalence. Male and female characters look that way based on male fantasies, not female
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*Believe me, this is a whole other rant for another time, especially when she says she’d rather die than stay fat. Holy fucking shit, beauty myth baggage much?
4 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #255 – False Equivalency”
I’m afraid Mickey that comics in the US are not getting any better in these respects. I’m also sorry to tell you that some of the female mainstream comic artists still draw characters the way some of these guys do. Being an artist myself who’s attended 2 art schools, I can tell you that most of these guys copy each other—they do not do any life drawing, which is obvious. They use photo-reference; which, judging from the appearance of the characters, is largely from porn: probably the only place they see women anyway.
It’s a real pity comics in this country are like this: that isn’t the case in other countries, who rarely (if ever) have comics and graphic novels about “super-heroes” anyhow. I think the country with the widest variety is France and the French-speaking world. They have graphic novels about everything, and some of it is certainly crap; but most of what I’ve seen isn’t.
My favourite comic series from France is also my favourite animated film and cartoon. It’s called Chasseurs de Dragon (Dragon Hunters). In the cartoon (which was on Cartoon Network for a short time—with English voices) the main characters are not like US-made comics. The dragon hunters are a huge guy called Lian-Chu; a sort of small dragon-like creature that walks on his hind legs (Hector); and a little guy (Gwizdo) who has a huge space between his teeth (they’re all orphans). Half the time they run away from human opponents (as opposed to dragons), largely because Lian-Chu doesn’t want to hurt them (he spends his off time knitting and meditating). There’s also the lady who runs the place they stay who’s one of the main characters, Jennyline. She’s super tough (but warm) person who’s about 300 pounds of awesome. Her oldest daughter is also a dragon hunter and at first wore men’s clothes to get work—she abandoned doing so quickly though, as she realized she wanted to be accepted for who she is and her abilities. The characters are all sorts of shapes and sizes and degrees of courage. I have a blast watching and reading that stuff (I can read French, fortunately), like I never have with US comics, where the characters look so ridiculous and unrealistic. Too bad.
I love French graphic novels. When I can make it up to Vancouver, BC I hit Sophia Books and stock up. I love that they have hard boiled detective graphic novels, and fantasy, sci-fi, and the art IS far more varied and usually way more beautiful in my opinion.
Yeah, I agree with you, that comics are too locked in stylistically, and also way too invested in rigid gender stereotyping. I had that conversation with a friend who is a mom of boys this weekend.
So,handsome,hyper-competent,physically immaculate,(which is what the bulk of male comic/video-game characters are) does absolutely nothing for straight women? Nothing at all? Though said characters were indented as Ideals for straight men to aspire to. I am not seeing how this negates the fact that they are fan-service/sex objects for straight women. Hell the fact it wasn’t intentional makes it even sexier. The best fan-service is accidental fan-service. Lana Kane from Archer is far more stereotypically desirable than Pam Poovey; yet Pam is far sexier and more importantly fun than Lana. A man that says otherwise is lying. With women making up a larger percentage of the consumers of comics/video-games MAN-SERVICE is becoming increasingly deliberate http://www.popchix.com/images/uploads /dmc-dante.jpg . Male power fantasy on the left, Female sexual Fantasy on the right. http://anticitizenmanual.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/1381074121248.png?w=614&h=387 can you spot the difference?
Well, you hit the nail on the head there in your last line.
Male POWER fantasy. And all the women in comics are male SEXUAL fantasies.
While the male power fantasy does appeal to some straight women, not all. If comics catered to my sexual fantasies they’d feature slender androgynous men and women, and tall, slightly chubby nerds, and round, plump women, and just lots of different folks.
The fact that many straight women have been socialized through media to find the male power fantasy sexy is part of the problem, and is as damaging for men as it is for women. Which is one of the reasons we speak out about it.
Now, find me FEMALE power fantasy. Go on. I bet you don’t even know what that actually looks like. Very few people do. I could give you a hand and point you at some of Kel MacDonald’s work. PS Red Sonja not a female power fantasy, even if Gail Simone is trying to rehabilitate her, totally a male sexual fantasy.
And yes, I can spot the differences, long hair, softer jawline, fuller lips, on the guy, looking at the woman tenderly directly, instead of whatever Superman is doing there. The woman in the picture has a reasonable bust, is completely covered and flashing no thigh and is, again, looking directly AT the man, instead of that vague mannequin-esque stare into the distance Lois is doing.
Is that enough differences, or shall I start talking about cultural cues?