I try not to get too political on this blog. I look at politics the same way drag racers look at speed limits. They're best ignored until the law comes back to bite you. But every now and then, I feel the inescapable urge to comment on a major controversy that won't go the fuck away. And since this controversy happens to involve women and how their boobs are portrayed in comics, I just have to say something.
It started when I read a recent article on CBR about the portrayal of female characters in comics. It's one of many articles that have emerged over the past few months where men and women alike complain about how women are being portrayed in modern comics. It was sparked largely by this.
That's Starfire, the bonerific heroine from Red Hood and the Outlaws, one of the new 52 that DC relaunched last year. She went from the happy-go-lucky alien babe to the mindless sexbot and for some very understandable reasons, people had a problem with that. Now it could have been contained to just this one issue and the result of some overly shitty writing on DC's part. But no. Like Ozzy Osborne taking a piss on the Alamo, it had to become something much bigger than it was. Now it's become a feminist boondoggle that has scrotums shriveling, ovaries kicking into overdrive, and drunks like me banging their heads against the wall for reasons that don't involve running out of blow.
I'm already a frustrated drunk to begin with and I was content to just let other people fight this out, but it's gotten to a point where there is no debate anymore. People are starting to miss the fucking point and I feel compelled to bring it up since nobody else will or at least won't without a few shots of tequila in their system. So for all you men and women, get ready because I'm going to go on a rant about gender issues. I'm probably going to offend some women and some men. There's absolutely no way around it in this politically correct world so please bear with me because I'm not just ranting this time. I'm actually going to try and make a valid point in this debate that I hope will set it to rest in some ways.
First off, I get it. I understand why women are upset with how they're portrayed in comics. That's not sarcasm or cynicism either. That's the honest truth. Women do have a reason to be upset with a lead female character like Starfire is turned into a glorified blow-up doll. They have a right to be upset when characters like Rogue, Power Girl, Catwoman, and Huntress are posed in ways that encourage masturbation. They're right when they say there's a double standard when it comes to men and women. Now does that mean I agree with the article on CBR and all others like it? Well it's not that simple. See, the debate for me goes like this.
Outraged Woman and/or Man: "Women in comics are being portrayed in an overly sexualized, objectified way that's insulting and demeaning!"
I know what you may be thinking. I'm implying that I don't care about their argument, but that's not what I'm saying. If I didn't care I would say "So what? Now where's the nearest bar?" But I didn't say that. I said "And?" because that argument isn't a complete thought. It's only half the debate. The other half is supposed to be the solution or at least what you think is a viable solution. At no point do I ever hear anybody propose such a solution. It's just "This is a moral outrage!" and that's it.
Well there's a word for that kind of talk. It's called whining. It's what little kids do when their parents tell them they can't get a candy bar at the check-out line in a grocery store. In the adult world when you point out a problem or criticism, you at least try to advocate a solution. Bringing awareness isn't a solution in and of itself. It can be part of the process, but at some point you need to put something down on paper or you're just wasting time and breath.
The writer of the article was Kelly Thompson on CBR. She's a good writer and she makes plenty of valid points. But I ask both her and every other man and woman who has made the same argument. What's the alternative? What's the solution? Hell, what's the compromise? What is it? What would you do to make things different? Those are not rhetorical questions. Those are real questions that need to be answered if your argument is to have merit. Don't play a game of hypothetical and paint a picture of an ideal world in your head where this issue didn't exist and everything was all peaches, cream, and imported vodka. Give the rest of us, the readers and the male audience that are the targets, a viable solution with the keyword being viable.
Let's start simple. How would you want them posed? You want them all to pose like the men? You want every female character to do absolutely nothing to distinguish themselves from the other gender? That almost implies that they're ashamed to be women and want to be men. Same goes for clothes. You want Rogue, Catwoman, and Huntress to dress like men? Wearing baggy blue jeans and a shirt that says "Ask Me About My Prostate?" More importantly, how would that be just as memorable or viable in the comic market? Would men still buy it? Would more women buy it? How do you know this? Flip these images of Hulk and She-Hulk and tell me they work just as well.
Let's look at it form another angle here. How much objectification is really at work here? Thompson claims that women are built like porn stars while the men are built like athletes. Are they? NFL linemen are considered athletes. Sumo wrestlers are considered athletes. Fuck, golfers are considered athletes. The men in comics are NOT fucking athletes. They're male models. Pretty boys. Jocks. The kind that make up over 99 percent of all the douche-bag antagonist in every 80s teen movie ever made.
Moreover, do comics do this because of or in spite of reader tastes? Comics don't exist in a vacuum. They're part of a market that relies both on sex selling and selling quite well. That market uses evolutionary biology to full effect. Men are visual creatures. That's not an opinion or a criticism. That's a scientific fucking fact. Here's a study that proves it in a way no whining can resist. Like it or not, men are going to respond more strongly to the presence of sexual imagery than women and comics are a visual medium. To be against using sexual connotations in comics is akin to being against birds for using wings. Now is the current situation excessive and egregious? I would argue yes. It is. But again, what the fuck are we supposed to do about it?
Finally, there's a reason why men aren't dressed up in the ridiculous outfits that female comic characters wear. It's the same reason why men don't pose like women in comics. It's because, and I know this is a politically incorrect thing to say, men and women are different. Men have a penis, balls, and hair on their ass. Women have boobs, a vagina, and ovaries. There are a long list of other differences and like every other animal in nature, those differences result in different manifestations of behavior. This isn't even about comics anymore. This is about fucking evolutionary biology. It doesn't justify the current situation, but it does imply a different perspective.
I know we live in a multicultural society that values equality and shit, but men and women are still fundamentally different at the end of the day. Whining about them not being completely equal is like whining about the sky being blue. It's just plain whining and it's no better than that little kid making a scene in the grocery store I mentioned earlier. It's not going to make the imagery of Emma Frost flaunting her sexuality or Namor flaunting his male bravado any less potent.
So I'm all ears. What do we do about the current situation? What do we, the consumers, propose to Marvel and DC and every other publisher out there as a reasonable solution that will ensure they're just as viable if not more so as an industry? I don't know what it is and I've yet to hear anything from anybody that offers something tangible. Maybe someone on this blog can offer something. I know I come off as a raving nut job here, but I'm not being disingenuous when I say I respect women. But I respect men as well. I'll comment on boobs as much as I'll comment on dicks. At the end of the day, it doesn't change anything. So for this debate about women and comics and all debates like it, I implore the morally outraged parties to quit with the fucking whining and start proposing viable solutions. Nuff said.