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Thursday 3 April 2014

Body Image In Comics/RPGs/etc and Female Empowerment

 First of all, I'm not saying today that its necessarily a bad thing to point out that you have something of an excess of skimpily-clad women in nerd media, a genre famous for not having large amounts of skimpily-clad women as actual participants (though we do have our share of cosplayers).  

All I want to point out in this entry is one simple fallacy: the idea that there is some kind of "double-standard" going on because female heroes are all hot and often hotly-dressed, while male superheroes are not usually presented in nerd art in such a way as to show off their bodies.

First and foremost, we don't have an abundance of pudgy male superheroes around.  Second, no man on earth would really feel like there ought to be.   The thing is, when males want a character "like them", body-image is just not one of the areas they feel is a prerequisite to identity.

The point is that almost no man ever will say "I need a hero to be a guy like me.. overweight!"
For men, "identification" involves other (I'm tempted to say "more sophisticated") factors than whether a character looks like you would in a skimpy suit.  Stuff like "Do they think like me?", "Do they have the same values?", "are they heroic in the sense of the ideals I hold up to as heroic"? "what's their philosophy"? "would they deal with situations the way I would like to imagine I would deal with them?"

You know, the little things that led to constructing civilization.

And the thing is, I think almost all women who read comics feel the same way, and ask the very same questions.  I refuse to believe, as apparently some of the pseudo-activists do, that women comic fans, women gamers, women sci-fi fans, etc. are so shallow as human beings that the question of a character's body type of style of dress will over-rule those bigger, more important questions.   Again, this isn't to say that there aren't some examples of female superheroes or fantasy heroes who are just blatant and sophomoric eye-candy for male readers and legitimate targets for criticism (though not censorship, as nothing to me is ever a legitimate target for censorship).  

Stupid writing and stupid art is a problem (many of the "impossible angles" in both female supers body types and female supers poses in comics is the fault of shitty artists (Liefeld!) more than anything else).  Female superheros dressing in something other than a burka is not.  And it's a stupid idea to get focused on that as your sole defining notion of "representation", when its something that, however much it matters to a tiny group of radical feminists (many of whom aren't themselves women), will never be the main thing that matters in a positive sense to women who are disposed to be comic fans in the first place!

But really, how many female superheroes with a significant fan-following are truly going around "Skimpily" dressed these days?  Black Canary, Miss Marvel, She-Hulk, the Huntress, Stargirl, etc. are all pretty much covered from the neck down these days; and how many new female characters are being presented in large-title comics going around in bikini-costumes?  Even Wonder Woman and Supergirl are relatively modest by any modern standard, though showing a bit more skin than the others above, but (aside from both being invulnerable!) neither of these two characters are exactly icons of feminine passivity and submission; and both come from cultures that would have given not one shit.  Are they really "bad examples" for women or girls?

I think that the proposed (and thankfully failed) Wonder Woman pilot by "social justice"/leftist-wunderkind David E. Kelly, where she spent the better part of the episode eating ice cream and crying about a boy, would have done far more harm in terms of female empowerment than portraying her as she usually is in the comics: as a powerful woman who owns her own body and doesn't feel she has to dress any way other than what she chooses. That to me is a much more positive message to send girls than the aforementioned pilot; but also much more positive than one where Wonder Woman suddenly starts wearing long pants and a sweater because other women might be troubled at how much skin she's showing the men.  That's some shockingly prudish bullshit right there ("we're protecting your rights as a woman by telling you how you can't dress!").

Its a common feminist statement that "We just live in a society where women and girls have it pounded into them that if they are not "beautiful" they are worthless. At the same  time, we have it pounded into us that if we are "sexual" we are "bad girls."

I can't deny that, even to this day, this is true to a certain extent.  However, I would think the solution to this is to aggressively promote an ownership of one's own sexuality that includes the freedom to express sexuality without judgment.  Women turning into the taliban against other women doesn't seem like the ideal solution.

And anyways, I'll never be able to take seriously any feminist that wants to argue for women's rights while simultaneously trying to censor and control other women's bodies; or take them seriously as deep thinkers if they're in essence complaining that their feelings are hurt because they think other girls are prettier than they are.  Especially when said girls are imaginary.


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