Superhero Sexism: Is It A Thing?

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.

Image Source: Marvel

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.

Image Source: Marvel Comics

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.

Image Source: Legendary Pictures

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.

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13 thoughts on “Superhero Sexism: Is It A Thing?

  1. Pingback: It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s Superweek! | Geek Chic

  2. I love that changes are being made for female superheros! They could be such wonderful empowering heroes in girls’ lives!

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  3. I LOVED the She-Hulk reboot by Nick & Dent, it was funny, the story lines were fun, and while she was still in basically a one-piece bathing suit, it wasn’t ultra-sexy. Then another writer/artist pair took over the line and I was dismayed by the new dark, uber-objectified depiction. It totally ruined it for me. When friends asked me if I wanted a movie, I said no. They wouldn’t do her justice.

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  4. I’m so glad you posted this! Yes! Of course sexism is a big thing with superheroes and comics. I’m glad this is being talked about and small changes are being made but there’s still a long way to go. I always liked reading comics and watching movies about strong women growing up and they don’t need to be half naked or voluptuous to be awesome!

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  5. I love that female superheroes are finally getting some representation in films, even though it’s usually in a skin tight outfit. They do often seem more like sidekicks to the men, but I know it’s not true and find them badass and empowering!

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    • Same. I’m actually really interested in Suicide Squad because based on the promotional photos, the women are not sexualized at all besides Harley Quinn, which knowing her character makes sense.

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  6. Have you noticed that female superheroes are so often angry, tough-talking, and … well … masculine? There is still a paucity of truly feminine superheroes, especially (as you have so aptly pointed out) feminine in ways other than those associated with sex objects.

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  7. Pingback: It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s Superweek! | A Geek Girl's Guide

  8. “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?”

    Why do you think WW requires a movie to give female characters a chance in superhero movies? we’ve had quite a few superhero movies, they’ve all been singularly terrible.

    As for their being a whole heap of Superman & Batman movies, that has nothing to do with gender & everything to do with the bankability of the character. It’s the same reason that there has never been an Aquaman movie or a Flash movie.

    “These female superheroes seem to be the sidekicks of their male-counterparts,”

    Side kicks like Elektra, Cat-Woman & Super-Girl?

    “and are still in tight, full body suits that show off their figure.”

    Just as the male superheroes have been up until the recent trend in superhero movies moving away from the more traditional spandex costumes: A trend which has also been present in female costumes in those same recent movies.

    “These women not getting their screen time because they are not getting respect in the origin medium, the comic book”

    No these properties aren’t getting screen time because no one really wants them……Even the people who complain about wanting them, don’t really want them because for the most part they are disinterested in the character in it’s original source material.

    They want to want them to have movies & they are interested mostly in theory, that’s why we have hundreds of thousands of people fake outrage when it was revealed that the Captain Marvel movie for the MCU was put back, while the book containing the same character was cancelled for the second time due t o a lack of sales: THIS is why there are less movies about female superheroes.

    Because the mainstream interest just doesn’t support the cost of creating them: This is the power of the free market in action.

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