Sexism in Comics?

Posted: May 8, 2012 in Comic Books
Tags: , ,

I saw this picture and I was inspired to write something.  Yes, it’s funny, and on the surface it seems true, but it points out a glaring double standard in the way we view male and female roles in media and entertainment.  As a comic collector I have had to listen, for years, to complaints about the objectification of women in them.  Why aren’t these same people pointing out the objectification of men?

Objectification of men?!  What is this?!  Let me explain before you set something on fire.  Men commonly project the image of strength, protection, and power.  Those things described as ‘manly’.  This is evident in the first picture above.  Muscles straining, protective stances, strong figures, agressive attitudes.  When a man takes off his shirt the women oooh and awww and it’s fine.  It is instinctual.  We are wired this way from a time when it was men’s responsibility to provide for and protect his family.  You never see a woman jump up and decry the objectification of men when this happens.

On the other hand women symbolize nurture, caring, motherhood, and yes, sexuality.  Again, it is how we are wired.  It is from a time when survival not only meant protection but also procreation.  Women are instinctually designed to try to attract the most appealing mate to protect their future family, to produce strong children, and pass on their best traits.  Don’t believe me?  As any anthropologist, I watch the discovery channel, I learn things.  To deny this is to deny what we are, on the most basic level, animals.  Regardless of this, we still have to deal with the reverse sexism every time a female is portrayed with any sort of sex appeal.

We also see this when someone wants to exaggerate stereotypical negative traits.  Anyone remember the condom commercial where all the men in a bar are portrayed as pigs?  Funny right?  What if someone made a light beer commercial where all the women in a bar were portrayed as cows?  Suddenly not so funny.  Think about it.

Now, all that said, the picture here is funny.  It’s funny to see those strong men pose like that.  I am not offended by the ‘objectification’ of either gender in the first picture or the glaring double standard in the second, and I don’t think anyone I know would be.  It is funny because I believe the creator is making fun of the whole argument with how contrived it is.  It is also sad because I know there are a lot of people that see it as a problem for women and ignore the simple truth of it.  A woman, getting paid a lot of money to show off what is initially appealing to men is no different than a man getting paid a lot to show women what they want to see.  Think about it next time if you are the type of person that cheers when the sexy guy takes off his shirt, but rolls your eyes and sighs when a woman crosses the screen in tight jeans.

Picture borrowed from Steve Niles

  1. C. Patrick says:

    Yup, I agree. Of course there is objectification of women in comics (and movies and ads and tv and bowling and …), but people seem to overlook the objectification of men — or, worse, the stereo typification of men — truly, I don’t think most guys would mind being objectified (I say that, NOT being an underwear model, so I could be completely wrong and guys hate that). However, whenever I see a commercial where the guy sneers because his S.O. wants him to go see a play or something and then fakes breaking a leg so he can watch a football game and drink beer (<– this is close to an actual commercial I've seen, though I can't remember what it was advertising), I cringe. I also cringe when I see yet another sitcom where a churlish boor of a man has some long-suffering wife that "puts him on the right path" by the end of the episode, only to have to do it again the next time because, well, boys-will-be-boys, right?

    Speaking of sexism in comics (and to give a plug to one of my essays — poems, in this case), I wrote a piece about the semi-recent hubbub about Starfire's re-imagined persona in the DCverse:

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