Warning for profanity...
Recently, the first issue of the new Teen Titans comic came under scrutiny for, among other crimes against art such as teeny school buses and weird perspectives, portraying a 17 year-old girl as though she had a hefty set of breast implants.
Here's how Wonder Girl is usually portrayed:
Not bad. Feminine, but tough, and fairly age-appropriate for a teenager.
And here's how she appears in the new Teen Titans series:
You can't tell me there's any reason to depict a character with breasts like that other than to appeal, sexually, to guys between the ages of 14 and 40.
And she's 17.
Guys, we're being urged to want to have sex with a 17 year-old. And that's a problem.
A common argument given in defence of the way comics depict women is that men are also depicted with big muscles, in right, revealing costumes. So that makes it okay, right? They're the same? Wrong. And here's why:
There's a difference between "I want to be that" and "I want to fuck that."
Take a look at this:
Batman is one of the most awesome, and masculine, characters in comics. He's every inch the alpha male dream. Rich, handsome, incredibly intelligent, tough as nails, and he gets all the girls and has all the best toys. Here, he's drawn with a determined expression, head and chest thrust out as he makes gravity his plaything, swinging through the night.
This is a powerful, forceful image, intended to make guys want to be Batman.
Now look at this:
Let's be brutally honest for a moment. Catwoman and Starfire were drawn this way for one reason, and only one reason: to make boners. Because showing women that men want to fuck is a great way to get men to buy comics. The thing is, that we don't need any help getting men to buy comics. They've been aimed at men and boys since their inception.
Even if we did need to play on the "I want to fuck that" response, it's a fallacy at best, and an outright lie at worst, to say that the men in comics are depicted in as sexually objectified a manner as the women.
Let's look at Batman again:
Yeah, he looks pretty badass. But I'd put money that not one woman (or man, to be fair) wants to fuck him based on this.
Here is a picture of someone I am assured by several women is "edible":
No skin-tight costumes. No unrealistic posing or exaggerated proportions. What is it that makes him attractive? His smile. His walk. His attitude. And yes, his shoulders, ass and abs help. But the key thing is that major factors in what women find attractive are to do with his personality. What he's like to talk to and hang out with. How he makes a woman feel about herself. How he makes her forget her inhibitions. Make her laugh without feeling self-conscious. Have a conversation about everything and nothing at the same time. And how they can share a deeper intimacy as a result.
The character isn't attractive because of gratuitous displays of his body. He's attractive because of who he is. And, more importantly, he's still a character who men will look at and think "I want to be that." Why? Because he has personality, flaws, vices, doubts, and still stands next to his brother and stares down the gates of hell because that's what heroes do.
My god, wouldn't it be great if the sex symbols men were being pitched could boast that, instead of rotating spines and floating breasts?
This is why it isn't fair to claim that male characters are sexually objectified the same way as women. It's not remotely the same.
To take it further, how many female characters can you think of that you can say are portrayed as character first, sex second? I bet it's less than the male characters you can do the same for. And in comics? Forget about it. Comics are still a boys' club, which is why, despite repeated calls for it, the first time Wonder Woman got to be in a major movie was the Lego Movie, and her first appearance in a live action cinematic release will be as a side character while Superman and Batman throw down and see whose manliness is superior.
Where are today's Ellen Ripleys? Where's the Zoe Washburn of superhero comics? Why does a children's cartoon have over 500,000 fans, more than half of whom are women, and no-one thinks that maybe if they made the comic version appealing to women, it might sell more than 26,000 in a month?
Ask a woman to tell you what characters she finds attractive, and what characters she looks up to as role models, the ones she might fantasize about being some day. The answer might surprise you.
Because women should get to be the hero, too.