By Sofia Rojas, 10th Grade
Sexualization and obscene portrayal of female animated characters appear to rise. Female characters in comics have had a strong protagonism in literary pieces since the 1980s, but as their presence grows, so does their lack of clothing.
Since its inception in 1938, comic books have shaped American pop culture in their natural form. Wonder Woman debuted in 1941, representing a new “strong” but over-sexualized female heroine. She captivated the public right away—with a thin waist, long hair, and dramatic features, she was destined to become the new sensation. These characters, like the heroines of the 1960s, had the ultimate goal of appealing to the young male reader. Sheena, like Wonder Woman, embodied the male sexual fantasy. She was depicted in comic books wearing short leopard dresses, with long blond hair and disproportionatelylarge breasts. Following her inclusion, many female readers demanded that the character be improved. But writers quickly disregarded these claims after the male demographic demanded that Sheena kept her “sexiness”.
Art in comics is over-sexualized and seems to impose this unnecessary sexualization on only female characters. In an image created for the promotional propulsion of “Blackest Night,” there are five fully dressed male characters in comparison with two female characters only covering their private parts. Furthermore, male readers have accustomed themselves to this type of stereotypical imagery. Most male readers were upset that the female characters of Mortal Kombat had lost their “sex appeal” or the fact that the new Tomb Raider adaptation was a disappointment because actor Lara Croft “isn’t curvy enough anymore”. A study of graphic novels conducted by Bowling State University alumni Jessica H. Zeller found that only 6% of all male characters were depicted nude or in compromising positions. This number is nothing compared to the 38% of female characters illustrated as unclothed or in exposed positions. These statistics clearly make sense when male creators outnumbered female comic creators in a 9 to 1 ratio.
Nevertheless, the illustration of over-sexualized women is severely affecting female demographics. Hypersexuality in female models is attributed to the influence of the mental, social, and physical well-being of female consumers. The same is supported by UNICEF which states that “Consequences of hyper-sexualization for girls and women include anxiety about appearance, feelings of shame, eating disorders, lower self-esteem, and depression.” Sexualization and objectification of a female body completely undermine the self-esteem of an individual. The American Psychological Association links hypersexuality in the media with problems like eating disorders, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and body dysmorphia.
To conclude, we can see how sexualization is a harmful phenomenon for young girls and teens. The objectification of a female persona only continues to undermine the efforts of visibility we have conducted as a community. In the 21st century, it is important to try to change these issues that influence every single one of us overall.
Sexualization of Girls is Linked to Common Mental Health Problems in Girls and Women–Eating Disorders, Low Self-Esteem, and Depression; An APA Task Force Reports. (2007b, February 19). https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/02/sexualization
Atl, V. (2019, August 8). Read Hypersexualization and the Paradox of Female Superheroes. VOX ATL. https://voxatl.org/hypersexualization-female-superheroes/
Not Even Past: Social Vulnerability and the Legacy of Redlining. (n.d.). https://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/6812
Brothers, D. (2012, February 16). Art and Superheroines: When Over-Sexualization Kills the Story [Sex]. ComicsAlliance. https://comicsalliance.com/superheroine-sex-art-story/