It's a bird, it's a plane, it's super hero sexism

December 21, 2011

As parents do their final holiday shopping, comic books, and their related superhero-themed toys and children's gear, continue to be popular. From Batman rain boots and Legos, to paperback books about Wonder Woman, many stores are filled with superhero-inspired toys. New research shows that a reboot this year of DC Comics super heroes, however, put a little something extra into the characters – a mega dose of sexual objectification.

In an effort to reverse slumping sales figures and attract the attention of a new generation of readers to their brands, DC Comics re-launched all of its comic book series earlier this year – some 52 separate titles in total. The "New 52" features Catwoman having sex with Batman on the roof of a building and a super heroine named Starfire (appearing in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1) "drawn like a centerfold from the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated [who] has become a promiscuous amnesiac." The research appears in an article by Casey Brienza, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Cambridge and one of the most well-known manga experts in the U.S. (Her ongoing project is a sociological account of the rise of manga in the United States and its implications for the globalization of culture.)

DC Comics produces comics featuring many well-known characters, including Superman, , Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Green Lantern. Brienza says most superhero comics talk about women, not to them, and asks why U.S. superhero comics are so masculine. After all, Brienza points out, "other comic book-loving countries such as Japan and France do not manifest the same trends, and the self-same superhero characters, when presented in another medium—such as Hollywood film— have truly mass appeal."

She finds that "American superhero comics, and the sexual objectification of their heroines, reflect the conditions of their production and consumption: they are made almost exclusively by and for men." By way of example, Brienza cites research that the number of men versus women credited in the production of the new DC (and competitor Marvel) superhero comics is extremely unbalanced; on average women account for less than 10 percent of the production staff and are concentrated in less prestigious roles.

The bottom line: out shopping for gifts this year might want to look at the new comics before giving them -- or their spin-off -- to their children.

Explore further: A true challenge for any superhero: Can comic books combat childhood obesity?

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2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
"The bottom line: Parents out shopping for gifts this year might want to look at the new comics before giving them -- or their spin-off toys -- to their children."

Umm...what? Why? Yeah, ok, so women are under-represented in comics, and perhaps some of the writers of said comics may be "sexist". So...what does this have to do with boycotting toys?
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
Comic book creators are marketing to their audience, who are mostly male.

Those poor suffering women, females are the only characters that are ever the target of sexism. Every man runs around in spandex with huge rippling muscles, right?
2 / 5 (4) Dec 21, 2011

I have to wonder what the "Sociologists for Women in Society" used as a control group...
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
the difference between US comic books and Japaneese comics are simple

Its like the difference between a sitcom and a miniseries or soap opera

In US comics there is a singular mostly complete story - rarely does the impact of one meeting reinforce the main characters -- batman is batman a very static character - he doesn't grow as a person, doesn't change -- in fact to change the character a new series is created -- batman vs dark knight, batman can't kill people but the dark knight does whatever solves the problem even if he has to kill a guy or two.

Japanese comics are closer to soap operas - the characters grow and change over time - they learn lessons that effect future decisions, in a manga Batman would grow into the Dark knight and deal with the moral issues at every confrontation until he totatlly aggreed with all his actions.

in this way Us comics are like sitcoms and Japanese comics are like a soap opera -- one is a skit - the other tells a complete story
1 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
When this viewpoint is taken it is easier to see why other countries comics treat women with respect -- also women are readers that they are reaching out to to buy their comic -- in the US we stigmatize that comics are for boys -- we give books to girls ( and we wonder why the girls are graduating college more than boys ) -- but in other countries they realize that a comic is just another medium for a story we in the US say comics are for kids -- manga reading in Japan is very common in adults
3.7 / 5 (6) Dec 21, 2011
Japanese Comics, at least some of them, are notoriously sexist. She must have picked and chose the ones that fit her assumption that Japanese comics are not sexist.

Japan even has comics that would be considered soft-core child porn here, but are sold openly, because they do not have the same cultural prohibitions regarding older men sleeping with girls around 15yrs. old
5 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2011
I agree with Jonseer, how this woman can possibly claim "other comic book-loving countries such as Japan and France do not manifest the same trends, and the self-same superhero characters, when presented in another mediumsuch as Hollywood film have truly mass appeal." is beyond me. Manga expert?? Small name, big ego sounds like. American comics could definitely use some more gender equality and attention to those matters, but Japanese manga, especially shonen manga is far, far worse. And they sell millions and millions more copies than American comics do. Just ridiculously over the top sexist in ways American comics never would think to be. Go on and google manga cliches like harem manga, tsundere, moe moe, lolicon and tell me I'm wrong. Tell me Japanese comics are more egalitarian than America comics after reading the genres devoted specifically to that garbage.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2011
it's true a lot of Japaneses comics are sexist -- i cannot argue that - but the women add true content to the comic - they add depth or insight in situations -- but they happen to be wearing next to nothing
1 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2011
American superhero comics, and the sexual objectification of their heroines, reflect the conditions of their production and consumption: they are made almost exclusively by and for men
It's like to say, the programming is sexist activity, because the women aren't interested in programming. Does it mean, these comics are sexist, or rather the society itself applies sex preference for comics books? What prohibits the women to create and buy their own comic books? The fact, such books have no market rather means, the women don't need such a visual way of entertainment at all. Women rather enjoy socially rich entertainment with lot of words and social interactions, like the sitcoms which boy find boring often. The feminists should accept the fact, the society is sexistic, because women and men really are different.
not rated yet Dec 23, 2011
I'm reading most of the "New 52" from DC. My favorite so far is probably Batgirl. Reason being it has some of the best writing, by Gail Simone.

Other than that I do agree that a lot of the comic industry does pander to juvenile male sexuality. Some times that perception gets to the point of comical (pun intended) over-exaggeration. See Rob Liefeld http://www.progre...eld.html

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