Thursday, November 3

Comics and Women

There are several reasons why I have never really been a comics reader, but as I mature and age the obvious reason becomes less subtle and more overt: sexualization of female characters.  To the point at which creators of comics are pushing soft porn images on children and teens; that women become valid and contributing members of society only if their bust size is four times their waist size; the unrealistic behaviour of these women who are doing less and standing about doing nothing more often; slowly being turned into appendages to male characters who battle it out (or she is the token female in a cohort of four); the reinforcement of a very narrow and unhealthy stereotype of female "beauty" and "acceptance" etc, etc etc....

Now not all women see things the way I do and most heterosexual men would tell me to shut up and check out the size of the characters boobs (got my own thanks!).  Sorry.  Can't. Drives me nuts.  So completely neanderthal and dismissive of who women actually are amazing and who contribute an incredible amount of work daily to improve the groups, communities, and organizations of which we are a part.  In continually sexualizing women or in establishing over-the-top unrealistic images of women, we damage how women see themselves and how others see us (see the APA report below).  Drives me nuts.  Fantasy or no fantasy, what we see, read, hear, speak becomes our thoughts and our actions and I am not interested in the fake fantasy of womanhood that does little of us women any good (see APA report below).  

Don't just listen to my ramblings, listen to the words of a seven year old girl who loves female comic characters....well most of the time....

Out of the 278 comments on the blog post above, here is the best one:

If I was an artist I would draw Michele as a superhero without sexualizing a seven year old girl, any other girl, or any other woman.  What would you do?  Contribute to the website with flair and talent.

Sex between two (or more) consenting adults can be an amazing and phenomenal experience. Being sexual and being sexualized are two very different occurrences.  The former is a choice in which pleasure and enjoyment is extended to all voluntary participants.  The latter is an objectification, a commodification of a person for whom a removal of one's humanness is the goal, in addition to the making of money.  My body is not for sale.  I hope more women, teenage girls and female children find an increasing number of ally's (photographers, writers, PR firms, magazine editors, movie makers, etc.) who are willing to halt the sexualization of women within media, movies, TV, online sources, comics, literature, blogs, and video.  To support the sexualization of women after the research that has been conducted (see APA report below) is to regurgitate immature, condescending and destructive images of women, which becomes horrifying when directed at or which are available to children and teens.  We should be more disgusted by and take action against this sexualization more often (much like Michele Lee).  

American Psychological Association's (APA) study of the Sexualization of Girls finds (all direct quotes):

1) Cognitive and emotional consequences
Cognitively, self-objectification has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, thus leading to impaired performance on mental activities such as mathematical computations or logical reasoning (Frederickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn & Twenge, 1998; Gapinski, Brownell & LaFrance, 2003; Hebl, King & Lin, 2004).

2) Mental and physical health
Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression or depressed mood (Abramson & Valene, 1991; Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Harrison, 2000; Hofschire & Greenberg, 2001; Mills, Polivy, Herman & Tiggemann, 2002; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw & Stein, 1994; Thomsen, Weber & Brown, 2002; Ward, 2004).

3) Sexuality
Sexual well-being is an important part of healthy development and overall well-being, yet evidence suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences in terms of girls’ ability to develop healthy sexuality. Self-objectification has been linked directly with diminished sexual health among adolescent girls (e.g., as measured by decreased condom use and diminished sexual assertiveness; Impett, Schooler & Tolman, 2006).

4) Attitudes and beliefs
Frequent exposure to media images that sexualize girls and women affects how girls conceptualize femininity and sexuality. Girls and young women who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content offer stronger endorsement of sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects (Ward, 2002; Ward & Rivadeneyra, 1999; Zurbriggen & Morgan, 2006). They also place appearance and physical attractiveness at the center of women’s value.

5) Impact on others and on society
The sexualization of girls can also have a negative impact on other groups (i.e., boys, men, and adult women) and on society more broadly. Exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness may make it difficult for some men to find an “acceptable” partner or to fully enjoy intimacy with a female partner (e.g., Schooler & Ward, 2006).

All told, a choice like this from DC Comics is a form of backlash (conscious or unconscious); for every movement, for every change, there is a backlash.  In this case a backlash against what women have gained, what women continue to want, and what we deserve: a society in which women self-define their bodies and find acceptance in this definition, in which women have ultimate and constant control over their own bodies, and a world that consistently values each human being.  

This is me pushing back against the backlash.

Positive Advertising for Women - YouTube

Positive Ads from Love Your Body

Pro-Age Ad Banned in US

Campaign For Real Beauty - Dove
(not a perfect campaign or company, but a great beginning)

Post-Sexist Society? - YouTube

Sexualization of Women in Magazines - YouTube
(These last two are hard to watch for 7 minutes each and not want to vomit in disgust, but they do reinforce the points made above.)

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