I just read an article called "The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and their 'Liberated Sexuality'" (link above), and it was a fascinating take on the new superheroines in the comic book world. It discusses many of the characters of the New 52 series that we're all starting to read for class, and I was surprised by many of the images from the comics that were shown in the article. For example, this picture of Starfire from the new "Red Hood and the Outlaws":
Women have been pretty sexualized in some of what we've read so far, but really? Is this entirely necessary? This frankly looks more like porn than an actual comic with an actual story. The article discusses as well how this particular character is known for sleeping with a lot of guys (whose names she often doesn't even remember), but it is all meaningless and emotionless. It doesn't seem like she is "sexually liberated" by taking on this role; as the article's author, Laura Hudson, writes: "This is not about these women wanting things; it’s about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering – the idea that women can own their sexuality – and transforms it into yet another male fantasy. It takes away the actual power of the women and turns their “sexual liberation” into just another way for dudes to get off."
The new Catwoman in just as bad - the article shows the first page of the new first issue:
As you can see, we see shots of her breasts, her bright read lingerie, and her tight leather-clad behind before we even see her face. I agree with Hudson's statement that this is no way to connect with a character for the first time. It gives readers the idea that the first thing we need to know about a woman, even a superhero, is what her body looks like.
This new take on women in comics is completely different from the old depictions of them. Although women have been somewhat sexualized in comics for years, it has never gotten this bad. And before, women seemed like real people even when they were "sexually liberated" - they could still be strong heroes even though they were sexy. As Hudson said in the article, "I’m on board with the hot ladies; part of what got me into comics back in the day was being a 12-year-old girl who looked at strong, beautiful characters like Rogue and Jean Grey and Storm and wanted to be like them in large part because they were so sexy and confident and had exciting romances. Those books managed to offer characters that I’m certain appealed to men as well, but always felt like people instead of window dressing." But clearly, this new portrayal of comic book women is just too much.
This is not what comics should be. "Superhero comics are nothing if not aspirational. They are full of heroes that inspire us to be better, to think more things are possible, to imagine a world where we can become something amazing. But this is what comics like this tell me about myself, as a lady: They tell me that I can be beautiful and powerful, but only if I wear as few clothes as possible. They tell me that I can have exciting adventures, as long as I have enormous breasts that I constantly contort to display to the people around me. They tell me I can be sexually adventurous and pursue my physical desires, as long as I do it in ways that feel inauthentic and contrived to appeal to men and kind of creep me out." I feel bad for the girls of today who have only these kinds of comic book characters to look up to. This is a sad regression from what superheroines are supposed to be like.
(I know it's a long article, but if you have time to read the whole thing, it's worth it.)