The author with her favorite under-dressed and under-respected comic book hero.
The author with her favorite under-dressed and under-respected comic book hero.

(WOMENSENEWS)–Batman may be the hero Gotham deserves, but a feminist is the one it needs right now.

The comic book industry likes to claim that it’s gender neutral. But with its “strong” female characters donning bikini-like outfits and overflowing cleavage, it’s hard to imagine that it’s writing for both genders. Girls are expected to ignore the objectification and pay attention to the plot.

But that is not mentally beneficial. According to Roots of Action, at a young age children learn from observation. Their role models teach them right and wrong. From comic books, they learn the right and wrong way to look. It’s brainwashing, treating every child like she’s a miniature Bucky Barnes.

Sure, many people make the case that comics have grown since their creation. When comics transitioned from strips and blossomed (or in Captain America’s case, were genetically modified) into longer stories with superheroes, girls just played damsels in distress.

Now, Catwoman doesn’t just chase Batman around. Women actually have personalities. But in a world where Scarlett Johansson, the actress playing trained assassin Natasha Romanoff, simply poses with her backside to the camera in the “Avengers” promo shots, how can we pretend that the industry is empowering women?

Rather, it’s breaking them down with Thor’s mighty hammer.

Wonder Woman was seen as a turning point for female representation in comic books. She joined suffragist movements, fought in textile worker protests and even stood up against abusive husbands. But while she was still on the drawing board, according to “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore, William Gaines of EC Comics said he wanted her to wear as little clothes as they “could get away with.” That goes against everything she stands for.

In a world where 47 percent of all comic book readers are female, according to The Beat, it makes little sense for the industry to cater only to what males would like to see. By continuing with the objectification of female characters, comic book companies are slowly turning away nearly half of their readership.

Heidi MacDonald, a senior editor of Disney Adventure magazine, claims that girls truly like comics but when they “reach the age of 11 or so that there stops being anything for the girls to read.” It’s natural that they stop wanting to read something that is not aimed at them, literature they were never meant to read.

It’s true that men are sexualized, as well. They are drawn with rippling muscles and chiseled jaws. They are drawn to look strong, which is not an unlikely trait for a superhero. Women, on the other hand, are drawn to look like supermodels, a quality that has nothing to do with their occupations. Wearing corsets and high heels is not in their job descriptions.

Marvel Comics claims it wants to “make its characters look even more like the world they’re constantly saving,” but walking down the streets, almost no one has the stereotypical body types that the industry seems to promote. The editor in chief of Marvel Comics has even said it is “impossible” to not sexualize women in comics. No, it is “impossible” to not sexualize women in comics and get the same borderline disturbing reactions. It is completely “possible” for them to pose in ways that actually look like they’re fighting crime and not posing for the next Victoria’s Secret magazine.

It’s great that Marvel is working on empowering women from different nationalities, like the current Ms. Marvel. However, they need to do more. They need to hire more women in such a highly male-dominated industry. Women need to have more starring roles in comic book movies. Most importantly, girls need to see that all body types are beautiful and that they don’t need to be a size zero to be super.

With great writing power comes great responsibility. In the words of Wonder Woman, “I don’t know which one of us has been more blind . . . you, in your refusal to adapt to a changing world . . . or me for following you this far down your well-intentioned path.”

This story is part of Teen Voices at Women’s eNews. In 2013 Women’s eNews retained the 25-year-old magazine Teen Voices to continue and further its mission to improve the world for female teens through media. Teen Voices at Women’s eNews provides online stories and commentary about issues directly affecting female teens around the world, serving as an outlet for young women to share their experiences and views.

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