Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Hawkeye Initiative: a Beautiful and Confident Speedo

If you even slightly brush up against comics & geek culture, you might have seen word of an Initiative...a very sexy initiative...

Bow-chicka-wow-wow! Sexxxy leg-lifting by Xahn. And Greg Land.

It's...the Hawkeye Initiative! And it's pretty genius. Critically thinking comic fans have challenged the objectification of women in comics for a very, very long time. From Friends of Lulu and the countless women profiled in Trina Robbins's great From Girls to Grrlz, to Women in Refrigerators, to more recent entries like Fuck No Greg Land and Escher Girls and Kate Beaton's Strong Female Characters, feminist comic fans have tried to get across to creators, publishers, and other readers why the art form's objectification of women is shitty. But it's been a difficult battle. The usual response is along the lines of "but men in comics are objectified too!!!" And then this gem is whipped out like a rock-hard Gotham City Sirens boobie*:

Rob Liefeld don't need no life sketching.

But, as Noelle Stevenson (creator of my one of my fav webcomics, Nimona) points out, the whole point of "objectification" is right there in the word: object. It doesn't mean "unrealistic" or even "wearing Spandex." It means object. Which is what, as much as some like to deny it, women are often viewed as. Objects. Things. Things to be pretty (no matter what!). Things that are supposed to smile at you. Things to have sex with. Things to provide boobs. And it's pretty clear in comics that female characters, no matter how supposedly powerful, are sex things. Sex things for the consumption of young male comic book readers, as Michael Chabon pointed out in his novel about the beginnings of comics, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. So while male superheroes are typically depicted in poses of power and strength, female superheroes are often shown more as pin-ups** than warriors - and not just any pin-ups, but pin-ups twisted into bizarre, boneless shapes meant to show off their boobs and butts. Their main purpose is to titillate, not show heroics or tell a story.

But for those still in denial, the difference between male characters' powerful ripped bodies and Spandex and the objectification female characters are subjected to is made all the clearer by the simple act of switching the characters' poses. This isn't entirely new (awesome guy Kevin Bolk subjected the bepenised Avengers to the Black Widow's fate in this much-shared work and other awesome guy David Willis explored what the female gaze would mean for male characters), but by throwing having-a-moment archer Hawkeye into the shoes of various female comic book characters, the movement has found its mascot.

By Lauren Armstrong. Ah, remember the frenzied defense of the original?

So, sorry, but people who see women as people read comics, and they're not going away. In fact, some of them make some pretty awesome comics.

*btw, here is a great comic with boobies that look like boobies
**yes, pin-ups can be fun and sexy and even feminist, but that's another discussion

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