Wonder Woman, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch are some of the female superheroes we’ve seen on the big screen in recent years. Have they had the same screen time and equal chance to shine as their male counterparts?
What about in comic books? Are women in superhero comic books fully fledged and compelling characters in their own right or are they reduced to trophies?
These are some of the questions that have wound the superhero community up tightly in recent years. Flame wars have raged across forums.
Last year, Geek Native had a couple of copies of the Wonder Woman movie official novel to giveaway, and so we explored the issue in a competition. To enter the competition and have a chance to win a book people had to answer this yes/no question; ‘Does the superhero genre represent women favourably?’.
These results are not sourced from an academically robust survey. We had about 100 people enter, but they were all interested in the Wonder Woman book. Treat this little statistic as a talking point only and not something to cite in an essay.
Just over 70% of respondents thought women were treated well in the superhero genre. To be precise the survey used the answers ‘I think the genre does women proud’ and ‘I think the genre represents women poorly’ and 70% of people picked the first option.
Examples of the genre treating women poorly might be those times when artists arrange heroes on movie posters and comic book covers so that the females are twisted in odd shapes to show off their curves while the male characters stand normally. Then there are tropes like women in refrifgerators which kicked off a frosty debate around Deadpool 2. However, in the TV series Cloak & Dagger it was a male character who ended up fridged. A particular talking point is whether women are too often used as trophies or motivations for male superheroes or vigilantes.
Geeks are less certain about the representation of women
It might be tempting to think that people who self-describe as ‘geek’ would be more defensive of their hobby and the genre. The opposite is true. In Geek Native’s little survey, respondents who identified as geek were harsher on the genre.
39.53% of geeks thought the superhero genre treated women poorly. This is twice as much as the 19.05% of non-geeks who thought the same.
Could it be that geeks are better placed to think up more examples of when a writer has gotten it wrong?
Does the superhero genre represent women favourably?
What do you think? The first survey is closed and the results written up, but the poll below is still open.
Creative Commons credit: Captain America and Stargirl by Carbert Artwork.