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Published May 25, 2013

Superheroes and Feminism: Strength Versus Sexuality

To be sexy or not be sexy: This is the question that slammed me like a brick wall when I began designing my Blue Beacon costume. For inspiration, I looked at outfit designs of other famous female superheroes.

Wonder Woman’s costume seems to be her curvy thighs and tight ba-donka-donk. Elektra appears to be wearing nothing but taut, perfect abs. Black Widow has donned a fantastic pair of cleavage. Combine their costumes, and you may have enough fabric to clothe a poor, homeless kitten. But he’d still get kind of chilly on those cool, Autumn evenings.

Of course everyone knows women in comics basically just wear sensationalized swimsuits. Even Xena, transcendental badass of the ages, could still have easily taken a sword through the gut. However, I’d never taken any special notice of the traditional female superhero wardrobe until I had to develop my own.

I didn’t want to look like a prude wearing a potato sack by comparison, but I’m also very passionate about Feminism and equality in the world of super-heroines.

When a young girl reads a comic, the last thing she needs is this confusing set of mixed messages: Hey, these women have superpowers. They can save the world. They can do anything. They are stronger than any man. Awesome, right? No. Because they also wear skimpy clothes that are clearly designed by male artists for sex appeal in a male-driven culture.

These women, portrayed as super-humanly powerful, are essentially stripped down to their raw sexuality. It sends a truly horrifying message: A girl’s value doesn’t depend on her strength or her deeds, it depends on being sexually appealing to men.

Meanwhile, male comic heroes typically show very little skin and even wear protective gear. Women, however, all have ample bosoms and firm butts and often wear a glorified bikini. Why do these women have to be sexual in order to be powerful? Why are they all drawn with curvy, hypersexualized figures?

In point of fact, why are most of them drawn as extremely beautiful?

As a teacher, I have seen how this portrayal of women and girls by the media impacts our youngest generations. I have literally watched a 3-year old child dancing like Britney Spears. I’ve heard children younger than 10-years old say they want a job at Hooters. I remember getting chills when a preschooler, many years ago, said to me, “Ms. Heather, I’m sexy.” Preschool is far too young to be sexy.

Girls need role models in women who don’t fill their own self worth with compliments from boys and the number of “sexy” outfits stuffed in their closets.

Girls need to see real superhero women, who are strong and beautiful because they believe in themselves and make an impact on the community.

I’d love to see the female superhero community prove, now more than ever, that physical beauty is not a requirement for being a true badass, a world-saving healer, or a real-life superhero. A girl should not be valued by her outward beauty and sexual appeal to the males of our species. Her value as a woman lies deeper: In what she can do with her life. In how many people she can help. In her inner strength.

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It’s up to all of the world’s strong female superheroes to emulate this deeper truth. We can wear potato sacks and still be spectacular. I don’t need to hear another little girl tell me she wants to be sexy. I’d much rather hear her say, “I want to be President. I want to learn Calculus. I want to be a Superhero.”

Funny, related content -> Check out: If male superheroes were drawn like female superheroes.

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  • heather

    Heather

  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. All my articles.

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