So, last week I linked to an article by Laura Hudson. It actually started with the post with little commentary other than shock. It generated 251 comments in about three hours. While some were supportive, there were were the angry contingency. Men flocked to tell Hudson that she was making a big deal over nothing and she was slut shaming.
First? Guys, we need to learn what that phrase means. It is not about making a critical commentary about the portrayal of women in comics. The parting shot was the staff of Comics Alliance being snarky, sure. But they were addressing a persistant problem in comics.
The moment in question occurred in the first issue of the Red Hood and the Outsiders. The character of Starfire walks out of the ocean in a tiny swimsuit posing for…um…I do not know who. Okay…I do know…it is for you and I…the readers. But this is not the thing that pushed it over the edge. Starfire asks one of her teammates for sex. He expresses some worry about her rather extensive list of former lovers…none of whom she can remember.
This is the party that kicked off the frustration. This led to the more direct article from Hudson explaining the problem here. I did not always get the problem. I have several long boxes to prove it. In the 1990s I was a complete Image Geek. I followed pretty much everything they published religiously. Some of it was good, some of it…not so much.
Back in those days, I really did not understand the complaints about women in comics. Comic books were fantasy, for pete’s sake. The men and women alike were idealized. They were cartoonish and therefore not needing to conform to real body standards and limitations.
And you know, to a certain extent? I get that. I certainly do not expect strict realism from an artist like J. Scott Campbell or Sam Keith or Kyle Baker. And yeah, super-heroes are not “real”. But many artists draw with a sense of “realism”…but when it comes to their women? They through any sense of realism to the wind.
The women in comics-even wandering the sidewalks are models and porn stars. And women in comics seem to be their for male fantasy and amusement. If a woman reader can overlook it? Great, they can join in. But as they say, girls love super-heroes. And yet, girls are told to just turn the other cheek.
When a character is made so vacuous that she cannot remember significant people from her past? It is no small wonder it makes women uncomfortable. The character was always “comfortable with her sexuality.” She also very much believed in love, and saw a connection. But guys want to believe that women will come in, ask them to have sex without a thought and never compare them to prior partners. It is not slut shaming that drove the frustration over this. And if this was the only comic then, I doubt Hudson would have written her article. This is a pervasive problem. Women want to enjoy the fantasy to…and here we had yet another portrayal of a woman where she walks around on display for the viewer’s benefit-not her own.
Thankfully, there were many in the industry who chimed in to agree. My twitter feed lit up with artists and writers re-tweeting the grand article. As a person who just started reading comics again, I am frustrated how little has changed. And DC keeps stumbling into this pit. And the same artists making the same mistakes, giving the same fan service. You see, we got bad cheesecake for Catwoman. Harley Quinn is a Juggalo. Amanda Waller is slender (talk about fundamentally changing a unique character).
There is a reason, say Adam Hughes has a sizable female fan base. Women I have talked to often cite that Hughes avoids dead-eyes, giving a vibrant look to his women-so in spite of their being pin-up women, they smile, and can even be goofy. His pin-ups are fun. Hughes has had moments of stumbling, but overall, women don’t seem tend to feel quite so insulted by the art.
I am not hating on “sexy”. I like Adam Hughes and Kevin Maguire. I like Frank Cho. They are good artists. They draw sexy babes. I am not bothered by characters being sexually active. But give the women some dignity and personality. Make them more than male wish fulfillment. Let female heroes be the heroic inspiration the male heroes get to be. Both can be desirable…yet female heroes only get to be sexy. It is more important it seems that Starfire be a wet dream than a person…or a strong and great hero.
People are speaking out. Men, women and children. Maybe this time? The publishers will listen. Of course, when I stopped reading comics five years ago? They were making the same mistakes. Yesterday’s parting shot at Comics Alliance sums it all up well. I want this girl to have awesome heroes. And she is not getting them. Don’t destroy her hero to give guys a ridiculous fantasy. That’s just sad.