Stylized Sexiness

By Vegas Bleeds Neon (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s only a week to go until the official launch of A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I’m continuing my countdown with posts about issues related to women.

Yesterday, this article was in my news feed on Facebook.  In case you don’t want to click over to it, let me sum up.  Mandy Caruso dressed as her favorite superhero for Comic Con.  The costume was racy, and some of the men there took it upon themselves to comment on her attire.  Even when interviewed by the press, the interviewer kept returning to the subject of Ms. Caruso’s breasts.

I’m not going to argue with anyone on whether or not she should have “expected” to be treated like an object because of her outfit.  We can go back and forth like that for ages.  What disturbs me is not that women who attend these conventions are dressed in tight or revealing clothes.  I believe they have every right to dress as they choose and should not be harassed for it.

What bothers me far more is that the comic book role models for girls (and women) are nearly all drawn that way.  There is an unspoken understanding that comics are for boys and men, and any women appearing in them are what I call stylized sexy.  That is, they have unnaturally large hips and breasts, shapelier legs than is typical, and impossibly small waists.  They are typically dressed in something skin-tight or that exposes their bodies in a way designed to appeal to the men reading the comics.  The women who are not dressed in such a manner are usually of the “damsel in distress” variety and will, at some point, require being saved by the “real” hero of the comic.

While I don’t believe that women who attend conventions and want to dress up necessarily have to wear low-cut cat suits, it’s a sad fact that this is what the comics themselves promote.  I do understand the whole “female empowerment” thing, but I wish sometimes that people would understand that it shouldn’t require overt sexuality to accomplish it.  We women should be empowered by more than our looks.  I’m happy for all the women out there who have bodies good enough to dress that way and feel good about themselves.  But the truth is, there aren’t very many women whose bodies match that ideal.  We should not need to dress like the stylized women in comic books in order to be powerful.

I’m not alone in my assessment of the inherent sexism in geek culture.  Anita Sarkeesian addresses a lot of this over on Feminist Frequency.  Go check her out.  She’s very good at explaining things without sounding too academic.  And if you like what you see, you can always support her project by donating.

Don’t forget to submit your essay to the contest, there’s only 11 days left!


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