There’s been a lot of debate in the comics community lately about where admiration for the meta-human form transitions from appreciative to creepy. It’s essentially become a competitive sport: if you can do this, we can do that. If you can name Dick Grayson’s butt cheeks, we can show Captain Marvel’s nipples through her body armor. If you can, “oh, hai,” Aquaman’s abs, we can pose Poison Ivy’s corpse with its ass in the air and her breasts spilling out of what was never a particular modest décolletage to begin with. Commensurate revelation. Tit for tat, as it were.
Here’s the problem: what artists show, how they show it, the way costumes are designed, whether or not an actor takes his shirt off, isn’t as important as the intent behind the aforementioned.
Yes, people who admire the male form certainly do enjoy a well drawn male character (Batman, Nightwing, Cap, etc) but there is one huge difference between the design of male and female characters in comics that’s been there from the beginning: the stereotypical male form in comics isn’t designed for the enjoyment of male form aficionados; it’s intended to be aspirational for teenage boys who wanted to grow up to be those heroes. Does that come with its own set of problems? Absolutely, #1 being it’s highly unlikely, even with an unsustainable and likely dangerous diet and workout regime, that a body like the one sported by Green Arrow or even the teenagers on My Hero Academia is achievable. But that’s a separate issue for another post.
We’re here, today, to talk about the ladies.
Female-presenting characters, back in the day, weren’t created to inspire girls to become heroes. Even now, though there are some exceptions (Jane Foster Thor, Kamala Khan, Faith), the majority of female presenting characters are intended to fulfill the needs of the male gaze.
As I said above: it isn’t the body suits and booty shorts so much as the intention of the designers and artists in pouring Harley, Starfire, Medusa, and Power Girl into them.
The very worst of design flaws usually involve the housing, or lack thereof, of a given character’s breasts. Perhaps the navel visible through leather and armor wouldn’t be so offensive, the persistent camel toe so awkward, the thongs on the outside so maddening if the men with the pens (or styluses, these days) would just look at an actual, human woman when deciding how to draw upper halves.
#1: They Don’t Just Stay in There
#2: They Can’t Be That Big, That Round, and Stand Up By Themselves
Even if one chooses never to have children, however, or has firmer breasts, they’re still made out of the same sorts of tissues and, even if they are of the firmer variety, they’re still going to have a certain flexibility. Which means they’re still going to obey the laws of physics. Once they get to a certain size, therefore, they won’t be able to maintain a round shape without the assistance of a bra. Most likely a padded one, evidence of which would certainly be evident through a halter-thongotard. Carol doesn’t even have air pressure to help her out here. This also goes for when characters are lying on their backs or sides. The adipose tissue and ligaments will loosen and spread. There is nothing you can do to prevent it, no matter how many weighted flies your character purports to do.
Who does this violation of natural law benefit, I wonder…
#3: They Aren’t Bullet Proof
Boobs aren’t bulletproof, guys. Please armor them up, not only for their own sake, but for the sake of the important, functional squishy bits behind them.
#4: They Are Not the Window to Our Souls
Yeah, when guys are trying to remember her name that’s always how they describe her to me.
That is a glory hole, plain and simple, folks. A gratuitous gap wherein the male gaze may bury and motorboat itself.
#5: They’re Not Gas Station Snack Cakes
#6: HE Doesn’t Own them
There’s so much more I could say on this and on so many other aspects of the female form male artists have coopted for their own benefit and the benefit of their fans. I may just have to make a series out of it…