Last night a friend of mine showed me an article written by a man who took his daughter to a comic book * store and how he had to deal with his feelings about the presentation of women and his daughters questions. (if I can find the post again I will link to it) The friend wanted to know my feelings on the subject and how I dealt with our daughters questions.
I will deal with the later first. Our girl did not and has not had any questions about the inflated versions of women on the covers of comic books. Her words when asked what she wanted was, “I want cats, catwomen (she is convinced there is an army of catwomen), and women who kick ass,” punctuated by thrusting her fist into the air. Our girl is the same age as the girl in the article. I do not know why his girl had questions about the presentation about women and ours does not. She hasn’t yet and she is around comic books and imagery daily.
When I ask comic book staff, male and female, what they would suggest for my girl to read, after they recommend the “girls” titles, such as My Little Pony and the like. They all suggest she would like reading the woman or girl form of an existing superhero-thus Super Girl or Spiderwoman. I tried this as an experiment. I bought Spiderman and Spiderwoman and gave both to her. She flipped through Spiderman. Spiderwoman was ignored. Spiderwoman did not interest her at all. To this day, my girl did not read any woman or girl comic unless the woman/girl is tied to cats. Catwoman went over well. Spiderwoman, I found under her bed with gum on the cover. I thought that interesting.
When she does have questions I have some answers which will depend on her question and age.
I have been reading comic books and related media since I was a child. I have not ever liked how women have been presented in comic books. I also have not like how men have been presented either. However, women are presented worse. Overly inflated in the chest area. Under inflated in the waist area. Costumes designed to titillate. And for the most part, female heroes are copies of male superheroes. The comic book characters I enjoy are original.
I understand the history of comic books, being a male dominated industry. And sex sells. I have seen plenty of interviews with comic book creators old and new. None of them mention why women are presented the way they are or how they will change that image into something more positive. So my answer to my girl will be, “Unfortunately for a long time women were not a motivating factor in the sales of comic books. Thus, men drew what sold to other men. Not saying this is right, but this is how comic books have been for a long time. Thankfully, women are becoming a motivating factor. The situation as far as presentation has improved, but has a way to go.” Hopefully, that will get the conversation rolling with her, should she have questions.
Until that time I will direct her towards representations of women that are positive and break the traditional mold. Or just buy her lots of Catwoman comics. Joss Whedon presents women in a positive light. I love his female characters and so does our girl.
* This also applies to gaming…chainmail bikini (cough cough). In gaming, Barb and I have been pleased with the number of and presentation of female characters in Pathfinder.