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  1. #1
    Junior Member GarageGlamorous's Avatar
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    Exclamation Women, Adversity, and Comics : How Far is Too Far?

    The portrayal of women in comic books has always been somewhat of a hot button issue. In the past year or so, the subject has come under heightened scrutiny with DC's controversial decisions regarding their most popular female heroines. Whether it was the drastic over-sexualization and simplification of Catwoman and Starfire, the drastic body image change in Amanda Waller, or making Barbara Gordon able-bodied again, DC's treatment of women was definitely one of the more discussed issues concerning their “New 52” line of comics.

    One aspect of the controversy I find interesting is the portrayal of women in adverse situations and how they're resolved and handled. Prolific comic author Gail Simone penned the term “Women In Refrigerators (WIR)”, noting that many positive female role models in comic books have been “killed, raped, depowered, crippled, turned evil, maimed, tortured, contracted a disease or had other life-derailing tragedies befall [them]”. This unfortunate trend is not only applicable to comic books, as the developers of the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot were recently put under scrutiny for their “excessive” abuse of heroine Lara Croft in the game, culminating in a near sexual assault situation, the issue being that the character seemed to have to go through an objectifying sexual situation to have major character development. This trend is almost unheard of for male characters in any genre.

    How much is too much? Do women get treated any more harshly than men in comic books? Where should the line be drawn where a female heroine facing adversity or violence be tipped over to what some might consider “torture porn” or the “Women In Refrigerators” syndrome? Personally, I consider the situation with Barbara Gordon to be a positive example of women and adversity done right in comics, where the character had a long-lasting disability and (as it's commonly believed) came out a stronger character in the end. However, many times female characters seem to be physically, psychologically, and sexually abused for little reason beyond entertainment value, resulting in little positive character progression and unfortunate implications about the industry as a whole.

    I realize this is a sensitive subject for many people, and have tried my best to approach it in a mature and un-biased way. Because of my efforts, please try to do the same in this thread. Please, above anything else, respect everyone's opinion and let everyone have their word in.
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  2. #2
    Say WHAT?!?!?!? FanboyStranger's Avatar
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    Just stopping in before this starts to blow up to mention that superhero comics are not all comics, and depictions of women tend to improve immensely the farther you get away from tights and capes.

  3. #3
    Elder Member Charles RB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GarageGlamorous View Post

    How much is too much? Do women get treated any more harshly than men in comic books?
    It's not the harshness that causes (most of) the complaints, it's if/when the female characters are more likely to take the beating, get killed, raped etc to show the villain is Really Bad or to make the hero Heroically Angry. The original crippling of Barbara Gordon was just an offhand thing for Batman and Jim Gordon's story, it was years before it was used to develop Babs herself.

    Compare that to 2000 AD and Psi-Judge Anderson, who gets put through severe hell - she's been possessed, comatose (twice), infected, drugged, beaten, mentally traumatised, abused as a child, forced to shoot a kid - but she's always got a key role in the story and it's not happening to her just to motivate Dredd. (And in the same stories, Dredd's had his eyes gouged out, his face seared off with acid...)
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  4. #4
    Psychological violence Moose100's Avatar
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    The Fearless Defenders interview.

    http://comics.cosmicbooknews.com/con...nd-need-female

  5. #5
    BUY LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD Kieran_Frost's Avatar
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    As far as Marvel goes, I feel they've come a loooooooooooong way in just a few years in their portrayal of women. After the train-crash "Year of Women" and Marvel Divas (ugh); we now have three solo female comics, one all female team, one mostly female team and several teams 50/50 men/women (or very close to). AND Psylocke's wearing a fully body suit (FINALLY). So progress has definitely been made!

    As for the "women in refrigerators"; while I agree (in part) with the logic; I think it's the natural consequence of having so many male solo series. To give ANY solo star angst (male or female) you rag on their romantic interests; and because for so long nearly all solo stars were male, that meant females got the short straw. But now we are starting to see the other-side of the coin (which is good? Kinda?). Let's be honest, Kyle is pretty much a "gay in a refrigerator" waiting to happen!

    A good example of a Non-sexualized moment, that under a different pen could have been: Marjorie Liu's Black Widow series (sadly short lived after she left). Natasha was naked, chained in a meat locker... under many writers, this would have gone BADLY for women; but Liu removed any sexual element, and made Natasha simply bad-ass, even in that kind of peril. Is it because Liu is a women, or just because she's damn good? I don't know; I like to think it's more than "just" having a woman's name on the writing credit; and it's how Liu depicted the scene's tension that made it work.
    Last edited by Kieran_Frost; 12-06-2012 at 04:34 PM.
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  6. #6
    Quickkill GM DiceRoll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles RB View Post
    It's not the harshness that causes (most of) the complaints, it's if/when the female characters are more likely to take the beating, get killed, raped etc to show the villain is Really Bad or to make the hero Heroically Angry. The original crippling of Barbara Gordon was just an offhand thing for Batman and Jim Gordon's story, it was years before it was used to develop Babs herself.

    Compare that to 2000 AD and Psi-Judge Anderson, who gets put through severe hell - she's been possessed, comatose (twice), infected, drugged, beaten, mentally traumatised, abused as a child, forced to shoot a kid - but she's always got a key role in the story and it's not happening to her just to motivate Dredd. (And in the same stories, Dredd's had his eyes gouged out, his face seared off with acid...)
    To be fair, Alan Moore meant for that to be an out of continuity story. It wasn't until later that DC went ahead and made it fit.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Deep_Sleeper's Avatar
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    One thing I've always wondered about: What do women consider to be sexualized images of men? Are there such things?
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  8. #8
    Were You There? Michael P's Avatar
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    Don't do to a woman what you wouldn't do to a man.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Arvandor's Avatar
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    This all said, does it ever bother anyone when women characters aren't sexually abused, even when it makes sense that they would be, when its clearly just to avoid such allegations of fridging?
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Deep_Sleeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael P View Post
    Don't do to a woman what you wouldn't do to a man.
    I get that, but it's become very acceptable for men to experience everything and not have it seen as sexism. A man can be tortured and it's an example of brutality. The same happens to a woman and it can be construed as brutal as as well as sexist.

    Women and men aren't the same. People can call for equality and I don't think there should be any outright discrimination due to sex, but I don't think anyone should kid themselves into thinking that men and women are the same.

    In essence, you can do something to a man that you can't do to a women.

    I do have to re-iterate: What do women consider to be sexualized images of men? Are there such things?
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  11. #11
    for the lulz 7thangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arvandor View Post
    This all said, does it ever bother anyone when women characters aren't sexually abused, even when it makes sense that they would be, when its clearly just to avoid such allegations of fridging?
    not really, seeing how rape and sexual assault or the threat of rape and sexual assault is something so consistent in many forms of entertainment (books, comics, tv, movies, and video games) it's refreshing not to see or read it. that consistency also makes recommending something chalk full of it a hard sell

  12. #12
    Hell yeah! Kees_L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GarageGlamorous View Post
    somewhat of a hot button issue
    I won't deny that moral sense both as good taste would be important. I won't deny that any person's dignity or sense of worth would be important as not getting violated.

    And as soon as I would run into anything neededly signifying bigotedness or demeaningness I wouldn't likely be admiring or be to like it.

    Which is why I don't like an enormous amount of comics both as movies or books or music. A major part of prolifically popularized and over-merchandised big company superhero comics stuff, is seeming mostly weak and unnervingly flimsy to me for content both as quality.

    Whereas most any creativity- or creator-driven thing seems to be striking me mostly as being enjoyable or well-made of itself, if not for myself than likely at least to others.

    Not that I'd only be liking prissy happy stuff - no way, I love Frank Miller's Sin City or Tarantino movies or Slayer or Robert Crumb's shiny fat lady-butts, because no such stuff would actually be in poor taste, as more rather these examples would be addressing what taste or empowerment would amount to being.

    And also, I won't be for censoring or banning or doing away with anything much, because examples of actual demeaningness or bigotedness would be teaching me what they'd be amounting to, like they'd be indicative of where to 'draw the line' for oneself. And that would seem important to me even more than anyone's particular getting shocked or tickled or shook or be it aggravated to a degree.
    As if such wouldn't be all that weird for stories or imagery to be doing - I'd say a good deal of stories or imagery would seek to shock or shake up feelings rather significantly.
    Last edited by Kees_L; 12-07-2012 at 03:59 PM.
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  13. #13
    Elder Member Charles RB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deep_Sleeper View Post
    I get that, but it's become very acceptable for men to experience everything and not have it seen as sexism.
    That's both because it's comparatively rare for men to be victims of sexism in normal life, and because there's a lot less fiction/porn of men being brutalised for women to get wet over. The two situations aren't the same.

    On top of that, crap artists will draw women "sexy" during the brutalisation. For all the stick Alan Moore gets for being a bit too rapey in his comics, nobody's trying to make the brutalisation scenes in From Hell, V For Vendetta or Neonomicon sexy.)


    I do have to re-iterate: What do women consider to be sexualized images of men? Are there such things?
    Yaoi manga are aimed at teenage girls - check them out and you'll see what teenage girls consider to be sexualised images. Also check fanart by women of characters they really like. There's a lot of sexualised imagery about, though rarely at Marvel and DC.
    "We must fight on!"
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Deep_Sleeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles RB View Post
    That's both because it's comparatively rare for men to be victims of sexism in normal life, and because there's a lot less fiction/porn of men being brutalised for women to get wet over. The two situations aren't the same.

    On top of that, crap artists will draw women "sexy" during the brutalisation. For all the stick Alan Moore gets for being a bit too rapey in his comics, nobody's trying to make the brutalisation scenes in From Hell, V For Vendetta or Neonomicon sexy.)




    Yaoi manga are aimed at teenage girls - check them out and you'll see what teenage girls consider to be sexualised images. Also check fanart by women of characters they really like. There's a lot of sexualised imagery about, though rarely at Marvel and DC.
    Ok, I just did an image search for Yaoi and it didn't really explain to me anything. Is it androgynous men that women find sexual? Is it the homosexual images that women find sexual? Is it the women packing strap-ons and doing unto men, what men usually do unto women?

    It really is unclear at this point. I get that a women's sense of what is considered sexualized cannot be quantified quite as easily as men's, but I am curious to see a women's perspective as to what they consider to be sexual images.
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  15. #15
    Were You There? Michael P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deep_Sleeper View Post
    Ok, I just did an image search for Yaoi and it didn't really explain to me anything. Is it androgynous men that women find sexual? Is it the homosexual images that women find sexual? Is it the women packing strap-ons and doing unto men, what men usually do unto women?

    It really is unclear at this point. I get that a women's sense of what is considered sexualized cannot be quantified quite as easily as men's, but I am curious to see a women's perspective as to what they consider to be sexual images.
    Straight girls' fantasies of gay men, basically.
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