Sexism in Comics

I was reminded of Emeka’s post on Advertising in Reverse from a couple weeks ago when I saw a short article on sexism in comics. A project known as “The Hawkeye Initiative” illuminates this inequality by depicting male superheroes (usually Hawkeye) in poses and attire of female superheroes. This reaction was in part a response to The Avengers movie poster:

In the poster for The Avengers, inescapable this past spring, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was the only superhero whose assets were displayed as perhaps they would be on the poster for a porno parody version of the movie. Everyone else got to look like ass-kicking saviors ready for battle; she looked like Cirque Du Soleil: After Hours. The poster was sent up in a widely Reddit-circulated image of all the Avengers posed in a likewise fashion, ridiculing this disparity. Now a new project called “The Hawkeye Initiative” is drawing even more attention to it… with drawings.

Marvel Comic Cover featuring Hawkeye and Black Widow

Hawkeye and Black Widow reverse roles


In an effort to highlight and parody the disparity in gender portrayal within the world of comics, artists Blue and Ginger Haze encouraged artists to submit drawings of Hawkeye in the suggestive poses and risque costumes that are normally exclusive to female superheroes. Below in the slideshow are examples of some of the submissions featured on “The Hawkeye Initiative”; each also includes the original image on which the parody drawing is based for an easy side-by-side comparison.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In recent years, figures from comics have become much more mainstream mostly due to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a film franchise built on a shared universe of Marvel Comic superheroes. Since 2008 to date, the franchise already boasts eight box-office breaking films with plans for more, a new hit television series on ABC and a recent deal struck with Netflix to produce four series and a final miniseries that unites the Marvel superheroes from each series. And with Marvel’s expansion into more mainstream media, the sexism apparent in comic books has made its way into the franchise’s films and marketing materials, reaching an even broader audience. The gallery below includes depictions of Marvel’s “Strong Female Characters” in promotional images (used for various Marvel films) and in comic-form (specifically covers). Here you can get a sense how the comic poses have translated. For me, the most striking images are The Avengers (IMAX) banner and The Iron Man 2 poster; both feature Black Widow (played by Scarlet Johansson) posing with the exaggerated back arch and over the shoulder glance. This pose, which is common to female superheroes on the cover of comics, emphasizes the female silhouette, simultaneously highlighting the figure’s butt and breasts. In The Iron Man 2 poster, Black Widow is the only figure whose body is included.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Why is it that we often need to see these roles in reverse in order to recognize the disparity in treatment and portrayal of male and female bodies in popular culture, especially in advertising? Also, why is it that it’s always funny to see men in the positions and outfits we’ve assigned to women; that they consistently look awkward in acrobatic poses and revealing costumes, but women look “normal”?

As an extra thought, I’d like to share another article I found on the same website, featuring average men imitating the models in male underwear advertisements, in the same designer skivvies and bizarre poses. It shows that the ridiculous representation of bodies in advertising is not limited to females, but extends to males, as discussed in “The Codes of Gender.”


One thought on “Sexism in Comics

  1. Pingback: SheZow: The Female Superhero who is really a Boy | Girlpower

Comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment now, don't worry. It's in the pipe!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s