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10 Sources That Show How Female Superheroes Are (Miss)Represented

Over the past years, the depiction of female comic books characters as three dimensional beings has increased with the creation of TV shows such as Supergirl, Peggy Carter (though it was unfortunately cancelled), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the introduction of new diverse characters like Kamala Khan, a Muslim superhero with the moniker “Ms.Marvel” and Riri Williams, an African-American teenager taking on the helm of Iron Man. That being said, Marvel and DC Comic’s history with female characters hasn’t been all that great and there is definitely still room for improvement. Take a look!

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1. Catwoman (& Basketball Scene)


Two of the main patterns we noticed among various movies were impractical costumes and unnecessary oversexualization of the women characters. In Catwoman, Halle Berry’s character, Patience who eventually become the titular anti-hero, wore a skin-tight costume and high heels. She’s no doubt a kick-ass character, however, fighting in six-inch heels? Not so realistic. In addition, a specific scene in the movie showed Patience and Detective Tom Lone, her love interest, playing basketball with very suggestive camera angles. Yes they’re in love, but an oddly sexual basketball game surrounded by on-looking kids? Really?

Watch the scene here:

Catwoman. Dir. Pitof. Perf. Halle Berry and Benjamin Bratt. Warner Bros., 2004.

2. #WheresNatasha tag on Twitter

Via Twitter: @Tilaurin

This hashtag speaks out on the fact that female superheroes are often excluded from toy aisles in stores. Specifically Black Widow who, despite her popularity, is often missing from toys, clothing, and other merchandise. This comes to show how Marvel’s marketing is still stuck with the belief that only “boys” are fans of comics, therefore female heroes won’t be appealing to them. This is a ridiculous assumption as at least half of the human population is female, so there’s bound to be female fans they could market towards. And why wouldn’t female heroes be appealing to male fans? Characters are loved despite their gender and characters solely defined by it can’t be that great anyways.

Masson, Terry (@Tilaurin). “Hey @Marvel where’s Natasha or Wanda? #wheresnatasha” 27 May 2016. 7:00pm. Tweet.

3. The Empowering (Super) Heroine? The Effects of Sexualized Female Characters in Superhero Films on Women*


In this study, various college-aged women from the Midwest U.S. were surveyed on their exposure to sexualized female characters in superhero films. After watching various films, with various oversexualized women with the same thin, curvy body type, this became associated with decreased body esteem. These characters do more harm than what initially meets the eye, because they are given body types that less than 10% of the world actually has. Even if these female heroes are at the peak of human physicality, why is it so hard for these films to showcase more diverse body types? Personally, we’d love to see a buffed-out Wonder Woman who really shows that she’s the “Queen of the Amazons”.

Pennell, Hillary, and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz. “The Empowering (Super) Heroine? The Effects of Sexualized Female Characters in Superhero Films on Women.” Sex Roles 72.5-6 (2015): 211-20. Springer Link. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.

*Academic Source

4. Why It Matters When Women of Color Play Love Interests


There’s no doubt that in the majority of DC and Marvel movies, the majority of the cast is white. In fact, there are more white men named “Chris” (including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pratt) leading comic book films than women of color. This is clearly unfair, and in this article, Clara Mae from the blog, Nerds of Color discusses this issue. Mae states, “Women of color have emphatically not been flooded with images of being treated as princesses and beloved love interests.” It is crucial that women of color are given more roles in these films, not only to increase diversity and open doors for other WoC, but also to show the opposing side to the stereotypes; that women of color are not only worth characters but also worthy of being loved by comic books’ most beloved heroes.

Mae, Clara. “Why It Matters When Women of Color Play Love Interests.” Thenerdsofcolor. N.p., 05 Sept. 2016. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.

5. Bring on the female superheroes! | Christopher Bell - TED Talk


Christopher Bell talks about his 9 year old daughter, and her absolute love for superhero movies. Briefly, Bell touches on the Guardian of the Galaxy merchandise, and how essentially none of it includes Gamora, despite the fact that she was pretty much a main character. This is unfortunate, because Gamora is not only such a powerful female character, but a character of color. This TED Talk helps emphasize that often when women characters are excluded from merch, younger female fans aren’t given the chance to show and reinforce their love for great female role model whereas younger male fans are given their pick of what male superhero they’d like to play pretend as for the day.

Bell, Christopher. “Bring on the Female Superheroes!” Christopher Bell: Bring on the Female Superheroes! | TED Talk | TEDxColoradoSprings, Oct. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

6. Impractical Costumes Picture


This picture shows a “role reversal” between the typical costumes of male and female superheroes. This gives a visual analysis of how truly ridiculous some female superhero costumes are. Since this mini comic is so attention grabbing (maybe because Batman’s whole butt is sticking out and Superman is given a “boob window”?), it opens the viewer’s eyes to how impractical and unnecessarily sexual female superhero costumes actually are.

Nick-Perks. “Superman/Power Girl, Batman/Batgirl Switcheroo.” DeviantArt. DeviantArt, 2012. Web. 02 Dec. 2016

7. Mystique in X-Men: First Class


In this movie, Jennifer Lawrence plays a shape-shifting character named Mystique. Because she is a “mutant”, a term used to refer to those in the world of “X-Men” who have superpowers, she is a reject. Because of that and her blue skin, no-one seems to be able to understand her and she lives on the fringes of society. Although Mystique is able to switch into from fully-clothed human beings, her “original self” is a naked blue humanoid. The naked blue version of Mystique is hypersexualized. She is literally naked. While the film-makers justify that it was her “embracing her true form”, it really is a way to “appeal to the dominantly male” audience. You don’t see Beast, another blue mutant with issues of who eventually “embraces true form”, being naked. And newsflash: women are watch superhero movies too. Just saying if you were fighting off people trying to capture you, how is it practical to be naked without any protection? How comfortable would you be, if at all?

X-Men: First Class. Dir. Matthew Vaughn. Perf. James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence. 21st Century Fox, 2011. Film.

8. Harley Quinn (& The Joker) in Suicide Squad


From a first glance, Harley Quinn’s character is one of independence. She seems free, doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, and even embraces the crazy in her. But after watching Suicide Squad it is clear that Harley Quinn is just another flatly written female character defined by her relationship with a male character. Throughout the film, every action is motivated by the Joker. She only does something if she thinks it will lead her closer to her “ Puddin’ ” or make him happy. Though she has decades of rich comic book history and has great potential to be depicted as a layered character, this is how Suicide Squad introduces her to the DC Comics cinematic universe. Not to mention the fact that her “fighting gear” consists of underwear for bottoms and 6-inch heels… Very practical!

Suicide Squad. Dir. David Ayer. Perf. Margot Robbie. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2016. Film.

9. The Hawkeye Initiative

Via (Art depicted on the right by .)

The Hawkeye Initiative is a movement originated by webcomic artist Noelle Stevenson to swap and redraw comic book covers featuring female heroes with the Marvel hero "Hawkeye." The multitude of art contributed to this trend hilariously conveys how commonplace it is for female characters to be drawn in these ridiculous poses. It’s a commentary on double standards; how compared to their male counterparts, female characters are denied the privilege of being simply drawn as characters and are instead falsely “empowered” in ridiculous, anatomically impossible pin-ups. How weird would it be to pick up a comic book and see Spiderman with his butt being front and center on the cover?

Hoursago. Tumblr. Tumblr, 01 Dec. 2012. Web. 4 Dec. 2016.

10. “Women in Refrigerators: Killing Females in Comics” by Aaron Hatch of The Artifice.

Via (Panel from Green Lantern #54 (1994).)

More often than not women in comics have been brutally assaulted and/or even killed solely to shock readers and provoke or motivate the male hero into taking revenge against the villain (i.e. [SPOILERS!] the death of Gwen Stacy, Elektra, Bat Girl, and countless others). Although it’s not uncommon for beloved characters to traumatically suffer in comic books, it becomes a problem when violence on women has become such a common trope, the term “fridging” was coined by comic book-writer Gail Simone. According to this article by Aaron Hatch, Simone came up with this term after reading Green Lantern #54 (1994), written by Ron Marz, when the titular hero arrives home to discover that his girlfriend Alexandra DeWitt was killed by his enemy and stuffed into a fridge. It goes to show that while male characters are allowed to grow and heal from violence, women are viewed as helpless, dispensable plot devices.

Hatch, Aaron. “Women in Refrigerators: Killing Females in Comics.” The Artifice. The Artifice, 11 Oct. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

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