I love, love, love comics. I love the artwork, I love the storylines, I love the action and the humanity. I love the characters, I love the struggles, I love the conquests of good over evil, and sometimes I even love the conquests of evil over good.
What I don’t always love is the women.
I understand that much of the comic book audience consists of males aged 18-35. I understand that the people producing these comics need to cater for their main audience. But as I turn page after page, I often become increasingly perplexed at what has been dubbed ‘boobs and butts syndrome’. Skinny women in tight and skimpy lycra outfits. Women drawn with tight abs, perky breasts and even perkier nipples – provocative, stimulating, stunning.
I can hear people’s eyeballs rolling in exasperation as they read that word. It’s thrown around alot lately, but it’s not thrown around lightly by me. I use it to describe beauty pageants, I use it to describe airbrushed “models” in cheap men’s magazines, and I use it to describe the impossible to live up to images of female comic book characters.
When my 13 year old niece wanted to know why I read comics, I was excited. I thought this was my chance to introduce her to the world of comics I loved so much. I took great care in trying to pick out an age-appropriate comic book that would draw her in straight away. But all I saw were pages of women whose unattainable body image would make a teenage girl feel even worse about the way she looked because she couldn’t look like them.
In the end I settled on “Birds of Prey”, mostly because you rarely see Oracle in anything other than jeans and a t-shirt. But even my favourite all-female, all-ass-kickin’ comic book had Huntress in her midriff-baring, skin-tight costumes. The first time my niece saw her she said: “Wow, I like her,” followed almost immediately by: “Do you think I could ever look like that?”
What could I say except that no real woman ever does.