(This is long, I’m sorry… except that I’m not sorry)
I’m posting this here (and on my personal site) in response to this post that was submitted to the Hawkeye Initiative asking where, exactly, is the line in all of this? Where do we go from satirizing the ridiculous poses that lots of women get drawn in and just wanting to draw Hawkeye in sexy poses? (Which, I’m going to be honest here, I am ALL FOR.) And, where do we get off doing this when you can go to a comic book convention and see female artists drawing the same sexy stuff as the men do?
As a woman who draws a comic about a strong female character, and as a woman who cares a lot about women’s rights, I knew I was going to have to address this. There’s no way I can’t, especially when I have some male friends who have brought this topic up to me in day-to-day life. Then I have to defend my stance on why some of this comic book stuff is completely ridiculous and why some of it isn’t. Not EVERY comic goes over the line, and it is perfectly possible to have a female character in a comic who is sexy but not sexualized. Sexy, to me, is someone who is good looking. Sexualized is a character who is there ONLY to give the reader eye-candy and be put in compromising poses that show off boobs and butt as much as possible.
I have enlisted my own main character, Sarah Bryant/Andromeda Cross to help me illustrate this point.
If you don’t read my comic, Sarah is a gothy-dressing, giant robot flying, car fixing, motorcycle racing woman. She spends a lot of time in fields where men are usually the rulers and don’t take her seriously because she’s a girl. She is not above, from time to time, using the fact that she has breasts to get her way, but I don’t think I draw her as a piece of meat either.
On the left, how I draw Sarah fixing a car. On the right, how your typical comic book would draw Sarah fixing a car. See the difference? Impractical outfit, impractical pose. I felt very odd drawing this.
Example the second. Sarah sitting normally, wearing a nightgown and high heels on the left. Sarah as a normal comic book would have drawn her in the same thing. First of all, who the hell sits like that unless they’re TRYING to seduce someone? That is not the way that anyone sits normally!
And example the third, which made me feel quite dirty…
Okay, before someone tells me that the pose on the left isn’t possible, here’s the picture I drew the pose from. Alright? Good. Pose on the left, Andromeda Cross (Sarah’s alter ego) doing a bad-ass kick. Pose on the right, that same kick how it probably would have been drawn by some mainstream comic artist, along with the way they probably would have done the Andromeda outfit.
In all my modified poses, the emphasis is on the character’s boobs, butt, and crotch, not on how she is a capable mechanic, a good looking young woman, or a bad-ass fighter. It’s JUST concentrated on her naughty lady bits, and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem IMHO. If your “strong female character” is nothing more than a vehicle for men to get their rocks off on while you pretend to draw them beating the crap out of men, then it is crossing the line. I’m not saying that women in comics can’t be sexy, they can be! They should be! The men should be sexy too (I know I like looking at good-looking characters!), but I can guarantee that if male characters were drawn focusing only on their crotches, male readers would feel uncomfortable. Do the same for the female characters and the female readers get uncomfortable.
Oh, and as for “What about the female artists who are drawing these same sort of poses at comic conventions? Aren’t they perpetrating this problem?” Well, you know what? If I was at a seafood market and wanted to sell chicken, but no one’s buying chicken because it’s a SEAFOOD market, I’m going to start selling seafood just to make some money so I can pay my bills. If this wasn’t the sort of stuff that sells, then female artists wouldn’t have to draw it just to put food on the table. Sex sells, women with their backs broken to show off their boobs and butt sell, and so if you want to keep living to keep doing art, you need to give in sometimes and draw it. It doesn’t excuse it in the slightest though, because if people started buying more titles that didn’t have the ridiculous “sexy” pose problem and started buying titles that actually had real, strong female characters, then less creators would draw the ridiculous crap.