This is a brief analysis of how women are represented in varying superhero universes, particularly female superheroes.
The best way to tackle this specific topic is to talk about how female superheroes are BOTH objectified AND idealized. Yes, I said it, they are both. Let’s begin
Some comic book artists believe that drawing women provocatively and ridiculously full figured is a symbol of empowerment. They are very, very wrong. It is clearly evident that comic books are made in the “male gaze”. The “male gaze” is when something is created and shown for the prospective of men. So, men want to see large breasts and tight clothes on women, and that is what these comic book artists are giving them. These women, even with their super powers, are made to satisfy male fantasies in some. Female superheroes are subjected to the same sex object treatment that many other women in different forms of media are also suffering from. However, there was a time where the Comics Code Authority put restrictions on the style that women were portrayed, but this didn’t last very long.
Even in the film industry, women heroes are getting the short end of the stick. As many others have pointed out, we have numerous Batman and Super Man movies, but where is a Wonder Woman film? These female superheroes seem to be the sidekicks of their male-counterparts, and are still in tight, full body suits that show off their figure. These women not getting their screen time because they are not getting respect in the origin medium, the comic book.
On the other side, many women admit that, despite the objectification, seeing female superheroes is empowering. Having women fighting along side men for the greater good is an incredible image to give women. They’re not just damsels in distress or evil villains, although those exist too, but they are strong, powerful women. Seeing these women is inspiring for so many girls, and that is a great thing.
The comic book and superhero film industry are making huge strides toward greater equality. All-female story line such as Marvel’s A-Force and the all-female X-Men series is a huge step out of the male gaze past. Other announcements, like the reboot of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl featuring Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig (pictured above) and the all woman Ghostbusters cast, are sending the film industry out of the cookie cutter superhero movies of the past. Female superheroes are getting the representation they deserve.
Although female superheroes are definitely objectified, they still make an empowering impact, and with recent changes in media, are receiving the representation they deserve.