Lessons on Geek Anthropology: International Women’s Day, cheers for the better representation of Women in comics

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Today Lessons on Geek Anthropology celebrates the International Women’s Day by cheering the better representation of women in comics. Granted that it’s not perfect, but in recent years, we’ve seen many steps for the better. A better representation of women in media also means that certain stereotypes are being abandoned. It’s a time for tinkering and bettering ourselves by representing reality in media. While Superhero comic books are metaphors of what we would like to attain, our hopes and dreams and even our fears; these are great mirrors to take a look at the state of women’s representation in a medium that has been traditionally focused on straight, white men. Not only we’ve seen more solo comic book titles from the big two, Marvel and DC, we’ve also seen a significant improvement in depicting women in the correct way. There’s still a lot to be done. However, the achievements have to be cherished. So, what are we cherishing exactly?

1. More solo titles for female characters!

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We’ve seen a boom for female Superhero solo titles! Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, Silk, Squirrel Girl, Angela, Catwoman, Batgirl, etc. for the big two. And then we’ve also seen the blast of women from other big publishers and independent artists. And it’s no surprise, for starters, women represent a 43% of readers already.

Until recently, a female solo title model would be dismissed as wholly unsustainable. However, we’ve seen titles like Ms. Marvel bloom into unexpected heights. The old-fashioned stereotype that women are not interested at all in reading comics has been but smashed. Women like reading comics as much as men do. But they also want a good representation of themselves within their pages. While comix and independent artists have been giving them what they needed, it hasn’t been till recently that we’ve finally seen an improvement from Marvel and DC.

2. Superhero fashion is starting to look practical!

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(C) Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan

Female Superheroes are beginning to dress according to what a Superhero would dress for fighting evil. In other words, their super fashion is starting to look like the male super fashion, and thus, we’re beginning to see female and male Superhero in equal terms. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel wears pants, and so does Spider-Woman. Spider-Gwen wears a cool hoodie, and Kamala Khan wears a fancy dress and pants that echo her ethnicity. All these suits are functional, very much like their male counterparts. Even more, this new realistic fashion makes it easier for readers to feel closer to their favorite characters. [Think about that Spider-Gwen Hoodie you saw online: it’s not only fashionable, but it also has the power to make you feel as strong as Spider-Gwen.]

Hypersexuality is being slowly demoted for female Superheroes who are physically strong, with strong bodies and who wear practical suits for fighting. They are no longer porn-stars for the male gaze, but role models for their readers.

3. Female Superhero Porn Poses are no longer sexy.

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Poses like the hypersexualized Spider-Woman of Milo Manara are heavily attacked while poses and covers like those seen on DeConnick’s Captain Marvel are being cherished. Female Superheroes have been heavily hypersexualized, not only with their fashion but also with their poses. We might be used to Wonder Woman’s pose of power. However, most of the female poses on the medium have been porn-like ones. However, readers are demanding equality in poses for their Superheroes. And this means less Spider-Woman’s butts and more Captain Marvel’s poses.

Visual objectification has been key in having many female Superheroes in fridges. The use of female characters as objects to explain their male counterparts has been rampant throughout the pages of many comic books during years. Not only fridging women has been one of the problems of objectification of women, but also the unrealistic poses they’ve been drawn into. This has improved a lot during recent years, although there have been times where the objectification has been too obvious and enraging, like Manara’s Spider-Woman’s butt pose problem.

4. Female Superheroes are equally strong and capable.

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(C) Marvel, Ms Marvel, Kamala Khan

We’re used to seeing female Superheroes achieve greatness and then lose something in return. (Think about women in fridges.) However, this year we’ve seen real rescues and empowerment in comic books: female Thor faced male Thor, Kamala saved Wolverine, and Angela met the entire Asgard and won. Not only we’re able to see female Superheroes stronger than before, but they’re also are being allowed to be stronger than male Superheroes as well! They can exceed them, be better than them and rescue them. In short: they’re equal to their male counterparts. And this also means that men are also allowed to be weak and feel okay when rescued by a woman. This might sound stupid to state, but it’s imperative. In a society where stereotypes say that men have to be the rescuers, the strong and the violent; there is no place for those who might be weaker. In a society where female traits have been thought to be negative, those who seem like women are punished by society. In shattering these outdated stereotypes, comic books are offering a more realistic and easy-going mirror for their readers, who in turn will feel more empowered: men and women alike.

5. There is more diversity in the big two.

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(C) Marvel; Fearless Defenders

Marvel and DC have been better in representing women better. Not only we have more LGBTQ+ female Superheroes, but we also get to have more diversity in all aspects of humanity. Kamala Khan is just as cherished as many others who are out and about However, we need more. It’s better, we cherish them, but we need some more!

6. Our female Superheroes stand on their own.

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Female Superheroes have their own stories, in the sense that they don’t orbit a male figure to explain their story and their motifs. Traditionally, we’ve seen female hyper objectivation running rampant in comics: they existed to explain the male figure, to explain their male counterpart stories. Now we can enjoy female characters to their full potential: as independent individuals with a great story, with feelings, hopes and dreams, and not just as objects.

We’re living in great times. Marvel and DC are finally giving female characters their equality. It was about time. Thanks to independent comics, comix, and the web, we’ve been enjoying stories about fantastic female characters. It was time for the big two to do the same. Let’s cherish the changes for the better, and ask for more!

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About pepi

A Geek Girl interested in Geek Anthropology, comic books, books, Superheroes and discovering all about pop culture.

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  • I haven’t read most of these but I picked up a few issues of Spider Gwen and I’ve been loving it. I hope you had a good International Women’s Day! 🙂

    • Aww thank you! I love what I read from Spider-Gwen so far 😉 Keep it up!

  • This was a great article!

  • This is an amazing article and it makes me want to pick up Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel. I think comics are finally taking a huge shift and listening to their readers and making big changes!

    • Yes, the big two are starting to do great things in terms of good representation. So far, Marvel is leading the path. And yes: Kamala Khan is really good!

  • Kay

    Excellent post Pepi! Completely agreed on all points.