I came across an article today that outlined a central issue we discussed in class about the gendered degradation of super heroines in what they wear. In the article, titled The Five Most Impractical Aspects of Super Hero Costume, professional cosplay (short for costume display) model Ruby Rocket talks about the practicality of the costumes that the men, but mostly women, wear while fighting crime. As a cosplay model, Rocket is all too familiar with the practicality of the costumes because she not only has to wear them, but she also has to make them by hand. She therefore has a first hand account of the accessibility and mobility of these costumes.
Ranked at number 5 is “You Don’t Want Your Costume to be Too Cool”. What she means by this is that super hero outfits are often times complex and highly designed. While using her sewing machine to remake these costumes, Rocket realized how tedious and time consuming making cool costumes are. She therefore conclude that the only real practical crime fighter would be called “Thrift Store Man” because of the time and money needed to make such a cool costume. Whenever the subject of making super hero costumes comes up, I immediately think of Edna Mode from the Disney film The Incredibles, but I’m assuming that not all super heroes have a mod costume designer to run to every time they get a tear in their costume.
Number 4 discusses the practicality of high heels when fighting crime. Truth is, there really is no practicality about it. Girls can barely walk in them, let alone run, jump, and do high spinning kicks in them. The only purpose heels serve is to follow the societal norm of what an attractive female wears.
Number 3 talks about the material of the costume, a subject that Rocket is especially familiar with. The few times when super heroines aren’t actually wearing nothing, they are sporting skin tight leather, latex, or spandex. But in actuality, leather or latex would be poor choices for costumes. They are stiff and hard to breathe in. Again, this only serves to build on the sexy image of super heroines. The male gaze would definitely drift towards a skin tight leather costume than a loose fitting but completely practical track suit.
Next, the article discusses how super heroine costumes are so revealing and skin tight that they literally have nowhere to store weapons in it. Super heroes often times have utility belts, but super heroines can hold only one weapon. Instead, their greatest weapon seems to be their sex appeal and their ability to distract their male opponents.
The last issue they brought up I could not have said better myself – “Keeping Your Identity Secret Is Probably More Important Than Letting The World Know You’re Hot”. Super heroes, such as Batman and Spiderman, are always seen as the masked vigilantes and value their secret identity more than anything. Super heroines, on the other hand, are rarely ever seen wearing a mask. Wonder Woman merely changes her outfit and tousles her hair a bit and expects no one to realize her true identity. It’s just silly. The only goal the artists had in mind was to accentuate the beauty and sex appeal of the super heroines.
So take a look at the article. What do you think is the most impractical aspect of super heroines’ costumes? What does that say about the male gaze and the importance the artists put on making the heroine look good?