Guest post by Jaden
Patriarchal representations of women in comic books have not been positive from a woman’s point of view. Here are five points that I think needs to be examined and improved in the comic book industry.
1) Women’s Bodies Don’t Work That Way/Defy the Laws of Physics:
It is common knowledge that many female characters portrayed in comics books are physically portrayed as SEXXXY* and what is considered “attractive” to the male gaze. Personally I think it’s laughable and contributes to and is a reflection of misogynist attitudes towards women in the patriarchal culture. There is a huge difference between being sexy (which is great) and being sexualized (which is not so great).
*By “SEXXXY” I mean a laughable representation of what is deemed attractive or desirable for a woman. For example, back breaking poses and watermelon boobs that defy the laws of gravity.
Fridging or Women in Refrigerators syndrome was first defined by writer Gail Simone. It is where a female character is raped, murdered, tortured, or depowered by a villain as a plot device in order to create anguish to the male character lead. It’s always about the male character’s anguish and his suffering while little or nothing is done to address the violence towards the victim. It’s maximum shock value but minimal storyline creativity.
This phenomenon can also apply to people of colour, queer people, and people with disabilities whose “diverse” status is used to make a comic look “diverse” before they are killed off from their extremely short character run.
3) Second class characters/just the girlfriend, not a superhero/character assassination:
This one irritates me a lot because I only read superhero comics.
In September 2011, DC Comics decided to do a revamp of all their monthly superhero comics. Instead of being an awesome superheroine in her own right, Wonder Woman became Superman’s “girlfriend” while Lois Lane became the “giant whore who broke Clark Kent’s heart”. Major character assassination.
4) Minimizing the number of female/diverse creators:
The number of female creators in the comic book industry is already minimal and that number dropped from 12% to 1% at DC Comics after the September 2011 revamp.
This also mirrors the drop in the number of comic book titles offered to female/diverse characters. Diversity matters very much to comic book readers who do not fit into the stereotypical comic book fan (white, male). Why? Because you get to see yourself reflected in a character. I don’t connect to characters like Batman or Superman the way I connect to Wonderwoman. Everybody needs role models that reflect a part of our identities to inspire us. Not much inspiration going around in comic books.
5) Not targeting women as a legitimate fan base.
This is sort of a continuation of point number four. Comic book companies seem to come up with the best excuses as to why women are poorly represented. One excuse was that there is a minimal diverse fan base so increasing diversity in characters would force DC Comics to charge higher prices for each comic book. Due to DC Comic’s persistence on continuing to woo their target market (male, 18-34) comic book sales has been not so hot. Women would love to read more comic books, but only if there were storylines and characters that appealed to them.
Until comic book companies actually try to acknowledge that women and minorities are a large and legitimate fan base that deserves respect and representation, we all should be voting with our wallets.