Monday, November 07, 2011

Women's introduction in the new DCU - the conclusions! part 3

Phew.  Nearly there.

As a reminder, you can read the introductory post setting out what this mini project is about here.
You can read the findings, i.e. the nerdy numbers, here.

My first reaction upon looking at the numbers was one of pleasant surprise.  45% of women were introduced without reference to their sexiness and without establishing them as a love interest.  This is pretty good.  This means that the women  are introduced as just another character, and their gender/sexuality are not relevant to the story (at that point).  It would be nice if the percentage was higher, but actually it's not too shabby.

It's important to remember that these numbers don't tell you anything about the quality of the book, and certainly don't tell you anything about whether the depiction of the characters is sexist.  For example, the Wonder Woman book featured Hera in a cloak, clearly naked underneath, and also 3 party girls who served as Apollo's Oracles.  The Flash introduced Iris leaning over a hole and the image is all boobs.
The depiction of these are not sexist at all, but when you contract them with Catwoman or Starfire in Red Hood, you can see that those books are clearly sexist.  Yet each book gets a yes for drawing the woman sexually.

Having a woman introduced as a love woman is also not necessarily sexist, given that stories about human relationships are pretty important in the grand scheme of stories.  The problem (in my mind) would be if all storied about women put them as love interests.  But clearly that is not the case here.

The data also doesn't tell us about the ratio  of male characters to female characters (something I regret not asking about actually).

The data also doesn't tell us if the women were introduced with other roles as well as love interest.  Also something I regret not asking about.

Right now it feel that my conclusions are mostly about what the data doesn't tell us.  Hmm.

What do you all think?  What conclusions can you drawn from the data?  Is there any other way you'd like to see the data analysed?  Do you think I've missed something?

Let me know!  Let the discussion roll!

9 comments:

braak said...

You definitely need to look at the way the male characters are introduced. I am pretty willing to believe that the ratio of not-sexual:sexual and even not-love-interest:love-interest would be a lot higher, and it would give a much clearer illustration of the problem: it's not that women are portrayed sexually as often as they aren't, it's the overwhelming discrepancy between the way male and female characters are portrayed.

daleinnis said...

"The Flash introduced Iris leaning over a hole and the image is all boobs. The depiction of these are not sexist at all..."

It's hard for me to imagine how introducing a woman by showing just her breasts could be "not sexist at all"?

Spidra Webster said...

Numbers help paint a picture, but a true picture requires more details. As daleinnis said, it's hard to imagine the Iris introduction as not being objectifying. (I haven't seen it so maybe it isn't.) Then there are other issues like revamping WW's origin so that she's now the daughter of Zeus. To me that's reminiscent of how matrifocal myths were made over as the ancient Greeks moved into various regions. Not wild about the modern day repetition of that.

I love comics. I grew up reading superhero books and still love superheroes. But there's a longstanding sexism in mainstream superhero comics. I used to argue with my ex-bf about it. I couldn't get him to see it. Eventually I figured I'd have to take the time to pencil and ink a complete comic with his favorite DC superheroes depicted the way superheroines routinely are in order to get the point across. Though I'm an artist, serial art is a separate talent and it was easy to put off making that demonstration comic. Luckily some folks have done similar things lately: http://jezebel.com/5829204/if-male-superheroes-posed-like-wonder-woman (Shoot, I can't find the link to the other one I had in mind...)

Anyway, the point of that is that there are some comics where the women could be clad head to toe in spandex but the framing and their posture apes porn. And they'd be counted as not being naked, but they're definitely hyper-sexualized.

Good series of posts but I'd love to see folks dig deep on this.

Saranga said...

@Braak: Thank you for your comment. I agree that the overwhelming discrepancy between male and female characters as love interests is an issue. However, I did not have the time to extend this research and analysis to the male characters. If you would like to do so, please go ahead and we can combine findings!

I think the data stands up to scrutiny as is, although it doesn't give as full a picture as it could.

Saranga said...

@daleinnis:
Ok, I should have explained further. The overwhelming image of Iris West is that of breasts, because she's leaning over a hole and the viewer is below her. But the artist has drawn her body accurately, when women lean over their breasts do sit that way. It isn't drawn in an exploitative way.
That isn't a very good explanation and my next job is to post pictures of the first appearence of all the women, to back up the commenatry and findings.

Saranga said...

@spidra:
I agree that there are other issues around how the women are portrayed. However this project never aimed to look at everything about women in the new DCU.
As stated in the first post, we only looked at the first page where the characters appeared. Your comments about Wondr Woman being the daughter of Zeus, are not relevant to this project as this information was not contained in the first page within which we saw Diana.

"Anyway, the point of that is that there are some comics where the women could be clad head to toe in spandex but the framing and their posture apes porn. And they'd be counted as not being naked, but they're definitely hyper-sexualized."
Exactly. Or they can be naked but not the image may not be sexualisex. It may just be a naked body.

Saranga said...

@spidra:
I agree that there are other issues around how the women are portrayed. However this project never aimed to look at everything about women in the new DCU.
As stated in the first post, we only looked at the first page where the characters appeared. Your comments about Wondr Woman being the daughter of Zeus, are not relevant to this project as this information was not contained in the first page within which we saw Diana.

"Anyway, the point of that is that there are some comics where the women could be clad head to toe in spandex but the framing and their posture apes porn. And they'd be counted as not being naked, but they're definitely hyper-sexualized."
Exactly. Or they can be naked but not the image may not be sexualisex. It may just be a naked body.

Saranga said...

Thanks for the comments all, keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

You should definitely show the ratio of sexualized women to non-sexualized women in each book and each category.
A book will easily not have sexualized women in it if it doesn't have any women at all. And you shouldn't begrudge a book for having sexualized women if it has 10 female characters.
I'm sure that would be easy with the data you already have.