Body Fat and Female Characters

When it comes to the subject of body fat in comics, it’s not just a matter of being fat but also having flabby arms and legs in an otherwise normal weight body. I even half-suspected that why some cartoonists don’t give their characters and especially female characters flabby legs and arms is that either they’re so used to drawing muscular/skinny characters they can’t draw actual flab or that they’re afraid of making their female characters fat.

Even though ironically women tend to have more body fat than men do and if some women are predisposed to carry more fat in either their bellies or their legs, then the goal of having a toned stomach or toned legs would be this hard for them to achieve. In the case with big butts, it can go with muscular thighs but for some people it can also go with flabby thighs.

The latter, however, doesn’t show up that often in comics even though it’s one of those cases where if there’s a generous amount of fat in the lower body this should give way to a fattier, bigger bum. A proper pear shape if there’s ever one at all, though it’s something you don’t see that often in comics. Mostly due to a fear of making women look fat, which explains why they keep on giving them broken spines.

Or for another matter, giving them really narrow waists that can only be achieved due to a long time from wearing corsets. Maybe there are already cartoonists who give their female characters flabby arms and thighs, though it’s either not as well-known or possibly nowhere as popular as giving them toned arms and legs but really big butts and breasts. The latter I think you’ll encounter in cheesecake art a lot.

So much for claims about celebrating the female form, yet ignoring or glossing over the bodies of other women in favour of a nearly impossible ideal. It doesn’t help that the bodies of other women are often ignored or sometimes compared to the idealised physique unfavourably (especially in Frank Cho’s drawings). If it’s true, then there might be another reason why you don’t see flabby arms and thighs that often in comics.

But the thing here’s that for other women, losing body fat in other body parts is going to be hard. They can lift as much as they can, walk a lot as they can but still have flabby arms and thighs. They do get muscled, but they still have an amount of body fat. It seems in the world of superhero comics, the ideal woman has very muscled arms and thighs but also a big bum and bust. Not that there aren’t any muscular busty women.

But the only one I could name who isn’t fat is Rasa von Werder (also known as Kellie Everts when she was younger), she’s the only one that I can think of who’s built like a superheroine. It’s not that superhero cartoonists necessarily draw really muscular, almost flat-chested women (when they do, they get flack from misogynistic readers). But there’s a fear of making a woman look both fat and less feminine, as if these traits are mutually exclusive.

Maybe they are to an extent, but both because women tend to have more body fat than men do and that breasts contain a lot of fatty tissue so some women would find it hard to get rid of fat in their highs and some women wound up getting flat-chested if they lift a lot, diet a lot or are genetically predisposed to be thin. So it seems the slim but muscled and busty female character’s an impossible ideal for many others.

Maybe not entirely impossible, however it’s almost always impossible for women who’re predisposed towards certain body types. If you tend towards flabby thighs, then getting really muscular thighs would be really difficult. If you tend to be skinny, you’ll risk being really flat-chested if you lose more body fat. It doesn’t help that there are cartoonists who don’t diversify much in drawing different body shapes, that they’ll tend towards idealised shapes.

It’s like how Frank Cho’s got a habit of giving his female characters toned figures but big breasts and buttocks yet no flabby arms and thighs in sight, or why J Scott Campbell can’t give his otherwise normal weight women actual stomachs. Either it’s a fear of making them look fat, or that they idealise a certain body shape that they go so far to distort the anatomy to go after it. (It’s also telling that a Campbell male still has room for internal organs and a stomach.)

I do think it’s telling whenever cartoonists barely give some female characters actually flabby arms or thighs that they do adhere to an ideal, or if one woman gets unfavourably compared to another (as you see in Frank Cho’s cartoons) that says a lot about how they see women as.

What makes a character a Mary Sue

Mary Sue is in theory and originally meant an idealised fan surrogate character, so by this definition characters like Barry Allen and Tim Drake would fit the descriptor well. Though it’s not that common for them to be called Mary Sues, even though they qualify for it far better than Damian Wayne has done and will ever be. While male characters can get called Mary Sue, it’s not common and if it does happen it gets directed to any male character who steps outside of the male ideal like say being a bratty son or a bratty young man.

Wesley Crusher is the rare male character that gets called a Mary Sue, but lately it’s common to deride any powerful or truly strong female character and call her a Mary Sue character even though she may have flaws. Conversely speaking, an idealised female character may avoid the Mary Sue moniker if she fits the cishet male ideal of what a female character (and by extension, a real woman) ought to be even though she’s portrayed as ironically a character no woman can relate to.

If the Mary Sue moniker has become a misogynistic fan criticism of any strong female character, what does that say about their standards for what a female character should be? Alternately speaking, if a male character gets shamed for being effeminate, black or whatever what does that say about their racism? I will be honest when I say that Barry Allen’s a Mary Sue, well at least in the comics that’s how he is. If a Mary Sue character originally meant an idealised fan surrogate, then he fits.

He fits the shoe very well, far better than Riri would in the sense that to my meagre knowledge she wasn’t created to be a fan surrogate the way he is. The original Mary Sue is pretty much any fan surrogate character, Barry Allen was created to be one himself. But you won’t see that many people admitting this, if because a lot of superhero and geek media panders a lot to male fans. Likewise, Patty Spivot doesn’t get called a Mary Sue because she fits the sexist ideal of women.

Same with Caitlin Snow, whether if they admit or not though this would change if she were to become an evil werewolf. I still think comics Barry Allen is one of the better (or worse) examples of a canonical Mary Sue, in the sense that he’s an idealised fan surrogate (fan of superhero comics and becomes the Flash himself). Damian Wayne wasn’t like this and still isn’t like this, which is saying.

Carol Danvers isn’t a Mary Sue character, this is a character who has struggled with alcoholism, has led a hard life and is recently ever treated nicely. Barry Allen’s only fault is being tardy, there’s not much depth to him beyond being a fan surrogate and that’s how I see him. Patty Spivot’s also a very flat, idealised character (well at least in her recent appearances and on telly). So flat and idealised that she’s a Mary Sue.

Not many will admit this, even if it makes itself obvious in some regards.

So that must be the real reason why

I remember reading a blog by somebody who said that the other real reason why comics fans (and specifically sexist superhero fans) oppose feminists and any criticism of objectification of women is because they enjoy pornography. Especially if that porn’s highly demeaning towards women, while it’s true not all of these people necessarily enjoy porn but if they do enjoy sexualised portrayals of women that also go with demeaning them then they really don’t see women as people.

Even if they oppose rape in theory, if they enjoy rather degrading portrayals of women as laughing stock sex objects (you see this in almost any Frank Cho illustration) and that somebody like J Scott Campbell objects to any constructive criticism of his artwork makes you think whether if they really see women as people. Actual people who know there’s something wrong with what they do, rather than passive sex objects whom they cherish so much. It’s like how someone would think it’s sex positive to always sexualise women a lot, even if that’s not what sex positivity’s actually is.

The fact that, as Jesse Hamm pointed out, some of these cartoonists either do actual porn or skirt the line makes you wonder if they ever see women as sex objects and if they do that colours the way they perceive any criticism of their work. It’s telling that whenever Campbell starts throwing a hissy fit whenever somebody points out the flaws in the ways he depicts women, it makes you wonder if he has any contempt for any woman who dare criticise his work.

So in some regards, he might be more misogynistic than he realises in the sense of lashing out at real world women objecting to his work whilst lavishing his love and attention to fictional ones. It’s also telling that while Frank Cho may not do outright pornography, the fact that he cozies up to Milo Manara (an actual pornographer) makes you wonder if they see women similarly. Women are only good if they’re sex objects and muses, not as actual people with differing opinions and perspectives.

Or in some cases, if they placate the cishet male ego. Which again says a lot about how they see women, women are only good if they ever placate them not if they ever bother opposing them in any way. If you idealise certain women a lot and bash any woman who criticises your work, you are misogynistic. These men get so defensive of their habit of sexualising women that they lash out any woman who dares to criticise them. When coupled with bad anatomy or degrading jokes, that makes you wonder about how they see women as.

That would only prove his point right, perhaps too right.

Kind of misogynistic in hindsight

As I said before, there’s this part of me that thinks it reeks of misogyny (including internalised misogyny) whenever Iris West is considered stupid simply because she doesn’t work in STEM. By this logic, characters like She-Hulk, The Wasp and Carol Danvers are also stupid because they also don’t work in STEM. Actually it becomes even more blatantly misogynistic if it were applied to The Wasp as she works in fashion, not STEM like what Hank Pym does.

While there are certain sciences (such as the social sciences and biology) that attract a substantial number of women, other sciences don’t have a substantial number of women in it. Conversely speaking in fashion, the garment industry has a substantial number of female workers (often as either under contract or self-employed) and many more women spend on fashion than men do. Okay, not all fashion designers are women but the fact that a good number of women’s magazines revolve around fashion should point to the importance of fashion to many, if not most women.

Not saying women who like otherwise masculine things are less of a woman, but it does play into the sort of misogyny that revolves around being not like other girls. Some girls, including myself at some point, believed in this. I suspect if Caitlin Snow were tweaked to be more conventionally girly, as in she’s not into science but rather writing (and there are a lot of women who take up humanities) and expresses more interest in makeup than technology would her reception be any different?

Maybe yes, maybe no given the nature of misogynoir but it does make you wonder whether if certain female characters get bashed for being stupid unconsciously because they don’t do things both boys and tomboys do. Onto Patty Spivot, I have a feeling that if Patty Spivot were portrayed as into romance novels and soap operas despite being a scientist she’d risk being seen as stupid because scientists aren’t supposed to be into those things.

One of my relatives liked both romance novels and National Geographic magazines, so it’s not a stretch for somebody as smart as Patty to indulge in romance novels. I could go on saying that Caitlin Snow’s the sort of person who enjoys male on male erotica so much she even writes and reads more of that stuff, both offline and online. Not to mention this sort of behaviour’s done by many geek girls, if slash fanfiction’s any indication. These are the things some geek women have done before and continue doing so.

In a nutshell, they are like other girls. Rao help if Patty Spivot turns out to be a romance fan and if Caitlin Snow quits Team Flash just so she can continue writing erotica, which was one of her hobbies. There are geek women who write sexually explicit stories, so the hypothetical thing with Caitlin Snow is not out of the blue. Surely it ruins fans’ images and expectations of these women, but the fact that there are nerdy women out there who read and/or write romance and erotica shouldn’t be overlooked.

I don’t know much about Iris West to be honest, but from what I know about her she’s supposed to be a journalist and women make up a substantial number of journalism graduates. There are even countries where women outnumber men as journalists, so if Iris West were say Brazilian or Finnish she’d be part of that statistic. There are more female journalists than there are female editors, so again Iris is part of this statistic. Let’s not forget that there are geek women who do journalism themselves.

Iris West would fit into these easily, if she’s black in the telly programme there are black geeky women who do journalism themselves as well. As for Iris West, it’s quite unfortunate that some people claim she has no chemistry with Barry Allen because she’s not a scientist. Then they say he has chemistry with Caitlin Snow because they’re both scientists, so it seems easy to think this way. However, it’s not always that easy and always the case in real life.

Victoria Beckham is not a footballer like her husband David is but they’re together for a long time despite their occupational differences, so it’s not a stretch for Barry and Iris to be together despite their own occupational differences. If we apply Snowbarry logic to a real life couple, then Victoria should have less chemistry with David Beckham because she’s not an athlete. But the fact that David himself’s into fashion and both were bullied so they do have something in common.

Supposing if both Barry Allen and Iris West don’t like erotica and romance, so in some sense they do have more in common with each other than he does with Caitlin Snow (who’s big into erotica and writes those herself). There are people who don’t like romance novels, one of my relatives finds them too sentimental so Barry doesn’t like romance books for the same reason. So if occupational compatibility’s not always mandatory for good chemistry, maybe recreational compatibility does.

That’s even the case with Victoria and David Beckham where for all their occupational differences they have/had, they still find commonality in their love of fashion. Likewise Barry and Iris are united in their disdain for romance and erotica books, so Barry actually has less chemistry with Caitlin and Patty in this regard. It seems the bashing of Iris West, whether if racism is involved or not, risks having a misogynistic component if because she doesn’t work in a male majority occupation the way Caitlin does.

If race is involved, then it’s a damning one on why the fanbase excuses Caitlin Snow. I also think the Snowbarry fandom has unrealistic expectations of how things work in the real world and even online, especially when it comes to the certain kinds of women a good number of geeky men desire. Bateszi pointed out that while many geek men are into geek women in theory, in reality they get disgusted especially when it comes to things like slash.

Slash is common in almost every kind of geek fandom, whereas a Goth girl (one of those women that get sexualised and desired a lot in /co/ threads) isn’t that easy to come by in those same fandoms. The Caitlin Snow I’m proposing would actually be more common and easily found than the Caitlin Snow they see in canon. The Caitlin Snow who reads and writes male on male erotica is a common fixture in many geek and nongeek circles, the canon Caitlin Snow’s just imaginary.

Let’s not forget that m/m romance is fairly common, written by women for women so a Caitlin Snow who likes m/m romance is somebody they’re bound to encounter. This Caitlin Snow is the Caitlin Snow people would catch by chance in any fandom, in a way the canon Caitlin Snow isn’t and will never be. The frequency of dissociative identity disorder sufferers is around 1.5-2% of the population, the market share for romance and erotica’s around 40% so there are more people who read them than there are those with DID.

This proves my point that the Caitlin Snow I’m proposing is far more common than the canon Caitlin Snow, so common you can easily find her writing for stuff like Archive of Our Own and Adult Fanfiction. That’s something Snowbarry fans will never consider or admit, if Caitlin Snow were to be outed as into erotica both as a reader and writer. Likewise, Snowbarry fans will never admit that there are other things that make spouses and lovers compatible with each other if occupation’s not taken into consideration.

David Beckham relates to Victoria when it comes to their interest in fashion despite their occupational differences, whereas if Caitlin’s into erotica but Barry’s not into it then Barry won’t relate to her. That’s something Snowbarry fans will not admit whether if it’s misogynoir aimed at telly Iris or misogyny in general.

Some things to consider

For some Flash fans, there’s a tendency to consider Iris West as stupid, simply because she doesn’t do science. Then again by this logic, both She-Hulk and Carol Danvers are stupid because they also don’t do science. Janet van Dyne would also be considered stupid because she does fashion and not science, which plays into rather misogynistic, not like other girls stereotypes about women. I like both sports, science and fashion but unfortunately this gets lost on some people.

Onto science and medicine, I’m not saying these are free of problems. In the case with medicine, it’s even rife with a lot of bullying based on the studies and anecdotes I’ve read. Alternately speaking, some ‘smart’ characters might even be dumber than their professions suggest. Or at least more likely to make selfish, impulsive decisions and plans than one would admit. In the case with Caitlin Snow, she wants to bring back Killer Frost despite knowing the problems.

I could be wrong about this, but this is like the equivalent of wanting to play Russian roulette even though it has a bad outcome. Supposing if Caitlin Snow is actually stupider or more foolish than fans would admit, one would arguably attribute it to bad writing (which Iris West is often subjected to this). If we were to come up with a well-written smart character, you’d have to look elsewhere for that. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, as a story, certainly has faults but it does have characters who’re actually clever.

A good number of the fights and situations there involve a lot of problem solving and outwitting the opponent as well as making use of rather limited or even daft abilities, such as turning something sharp into a balloon before hurting the person (Tubular Bells from Steel Ball Run). Dio Brando makes good use of a rather limited ability, which would be even more limited if science is applied to it. He can stop time, which he uses to stop people in their tracks and then attacking them.

He may not have a STEM degree, in fact he studied law at some point but he is cunning in a way Caitlin Snow never is and was. Maybe not to the same extent, which says a lot about the way the Jojo characters are written. Another example of a cunning villain would be Risotto Nero, when he attacked Doppio (a character with a split personality, not unlike Caitlin Snow) he did this by ambushing him. That’s turning himself invisible and using iron to form blades to injure him.

That’s how you write a smart character, they may not always have a STEM degree (Jotaro Kujo’s the only one to possess this as far as I recall) but they use their abilities in clever and inventive ways. Additionally, there are two ways of categorising intelligence. Crystallised intelligence involves knowledge stemming from prior experience and learning, whilst fluid intelligence involves being able to solve problems without prior learning experience. A seamstress could have crystallised intelligence due to years of sewing.

She could also have fluid intelligence if she makes a pattern by using an existing garment as the base and also if she uses multiple needles on the same garment she’s working on (I did these before). She may even have both, which makes her very intelligent. So you really needn’t a STEM degree to be considered smart, if we go by fields that don’t require a STEM degree at all. All you need to be smart is to have either crystallised intelligence or fluid intelligence, though it’s possible to have both.

If Caitlin Snow’s not as intelligent as one would expect, well it’s one thing to know something it’s another to use one’s abilities in very inventive that it seems she falls short of it at times. While Jojo does have faults in its writing, its strong spot lies in not only the creation of more creative abilities but also inventive ways of using them. Not to mention, both fans and writers fail to realise how badly written Caitlin Snow is. So much so that the only way to make her more well-written is to reinvent her into somebody less recognisable.

Consider this, the character with a split personality (Doppio) has two powers: one to predict the actions of somebody else and the other to skip time, both of which are used to good effect. Likewise, the character with the ability to freeze things (Ghiaccio) has a temper and has frozen a lake to stop somebody from attacking him, well he tried to. Both of them are in some regards cleverer than her, which says a lot about the way they’re written and conceived.

Again Jojo’s not perfect, but the way the characters’ powers work are well-thought out. Caitlin, by contrast, is a mess of a character that the only way to actually make her work is to reinvent her significantly. When I mean by that, either by giving her different powers or replacing her with another character (Captain Cold’s the ice character in the Flash comics more frequently and the longest).

Marvel’s Whipping Girls

While this isn’t always the case, it seems like from my experience both Carol Danvers and her protege/fan Kamala Khan have raised the ire of racists and sexists alike. Well, mostly Islamophobes for Kamala and sexists for both of them (mostly Carol). I don’t really read comics that much, not as much as I did before when I was in my late teens (19 at that). As far as I know about these two, Kamala Khan was introduced in 2013 and Carol Danvers came about decades earlier.

Carol Danvers, for a time being in the comics, was something of a punching bag even if she did likely have good moments before. She was also seen in a black leotard and gloves, despite attempts at dressing her more modestly at various times. So far, her reinvention’s successful enough to make it to merchandising (I did see somebody wearing a variation of her latest outfit in a mall before) and film. If most people don’t read comics, let alone that often, then the modest catsuit would be the first thing that comes to mind.

She was Miss Marvel, I say was as it’s now given to Kamala Khan. Carol Danvers, in her latest incarnation, has provoked the ire of misogynists who complain that she’s not relatable, she’s too much of a Mary Sue (even though she battled alcoholism before) and they also think she looks like a man just because she had a haircut and now sports a less buxom physique as well. I do think it’s unfair in that it’s all expecting women to have large breasts to be feminine.

Anything less than that makes them manly, even if her physique’s more in-line with most female athletes and bodybuilders (the only naturally buxom bodybuilder I can think of is Rasa von Werder/Kellie Everts). I swear, they have one of the worst expectations for women which makes them no different from their Muslim counterparts. In the sense that rather than expecting women to be modest, they expect women to dress sexily and be busty with little individual choice.

Honestly, there are characters who’re better qualified for the Mary Sue title than Carol Danvers will ever be. I actually think Patty Spivot, as presented in the Flash programme and to an extent the comics, would be a better candidate for the Mary Sue title. I say Mary Sue in that whereas Carol Danvers became alcoholic in response to being raped (her maladaptive coping mechanism I presume), Patty has become rather idealised in a way Carol never was and never will be.

I don’t know anybody who’s like Patty Spivot, but there’s at least one person I know who’s like Carol Danvers and his name is Chester Bennington. Much like Carol, Chester got raped and traumatised from it that he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with it. Unfortunately he’s dead, but he’s a person I can relate Carol to whereas I can’t with Patty Spivot. Well not in the form she’s presented in, which makes me think the real reason why she’s not called a Mary Sue because she’s pretty much what men want in a woman.

Essentially almost everything most women aren’t and will never be, a sexist fantasy if there ever was one. That might be one of the reasons why a good number of misogynists complain about Carol Danvers, but not Patty Spivot, the former has been freed of sexist stereotyping and is also practically a real human being. The other is a sexist fantasy. If Patty Spivot were like most women, the sexist fantasy would stop. In the sense that rather than being an idealised woman, she’s a normal woman.

By normal, she has horrible taste in books (romance novels) and men (goes after an Indonesian gigolo), she watches melodramatic soap operas and plays mainstream music in her spare time and is rude and prone to gambling. A normie if there were was one, despite her occupation and let’s face it there are geek girls who read romance novels, listen to mainstream music and watch soap operas. There are geek girls who write romance novels, especially the paranormal variety.

Kamala Khan’s also prone to this, but mostly because she’s a Muslim and she often irritates Islamophobic fans as well as fans who want Carol Danvers back as Miss Marvel. Kamala Khan, to me, seems to be a fine enough character and one who’s popular enough to warrant her own magazine series and now her own telly programme. She also gets called a Mary Sue, even if there are other characters who qualify for the title better. Honestly, I can’t think of anything about her that makes her a Mary Sue so she’s disqualified for it.

As I said before about Patty Spivot, she doesn’t get called a Mary Sue I think because she’s a character men wish women were more like. The same can’t be said of Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers, as far as I know about the latter she has battled alcoholism before and that alcoholism came about as a response to herself being raped. That’s not a Mary Sue, that’s somebody with a maladaptive coping mechanism at one point. It’s only now that she stopped drinking alcohol.

I think if Patty Spivot were portrayed as a more normal woman, or rather somebody with less geeky tastes despite her occupation she wouldn’t be seen as a strong female character for some men. Even though there are actually more women like her than the ones they seem strong, let’s say Patty Spivot overreacts to somebody criticising her taste in books and there are romance readers who get really defensive of their taste in books as well.

Caitlin Snow likewise reads male on male erotica and has a habit of dismissing heterosexual erotica as sexist, there are women who read or write slash fiction who’re like this as well. That actually makes them more like other women in a way they aren’t in the original stories, when I mean by that many women have read erotica and romance novels before. Many have also read slash in its various permutations. Though that’s what Bateszi calls facing the reality of a geek girl.

In the sense that her preferences and activities differ from what male geeks expect of her, if there are many more like her then the discrepancy grows bigger as well.

One of the girls

When it comes to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Cool Girl stereotypes, both centre on not being one of the girls despite adhering to male ideals of what women should be like or rather because of it to some extent for as long as she doesn’t outmale them either in appearance or in role. She’s into things most women aren’t yet be as conventionally attractive to men as she can be, she has to be approachable to men whilst not alienating them in her androgyny. She’s a near-impossible standard.

Somebody on Tiktok jokingly said that the preference for women who aren’t like other women goes deeper than that, perhaps because they secretly wanted a boyfriend or something. Not that they’re actually gay, but that their ideal woman seems awfully close to what most men want and are into. Not that women can’t be into sports, hunting and other butch stuff, but it seems their ideal woman is devoid of the experiences women get into when entering something masculine like say she’s into butch stuff but without encountering the sexism that comes along with such a field.

A woman without the femininity and womanhood women experience, a woman whose femininity is mostly unrelatable and artificial at that. Their idea of a girl next door, if honest, would be a woman whose interests are very much like a man but without being threatening to their masculinity and considered more approachable than women whose interests are more conventionally feminine. Imagine if these characters like Patty Spivot have more conventionally or stereotypically feminine interests and behaviours. Instead of being bubbly and into science a lot, she’s moody and into romance novels and horses.

You might say it makes her stupid if she reads romance novels but one of my own relatives loved both the National Geographic magazines and romance novels and she was big into reading in general, Patty Spivot could easily be her when you think about it. There’s another woman who’s big into critical thinking and romance novels as well as romantic fanfiction, to put it politely. Patty Spivot would also easily be her too. This Patty Spivot comes off as one of the girls in some regards, too unapproachable for some men even though her interests are closer to the everywoman than the woman of their dreams does.

It’s not that she has entirely abandoned science, but rather if she’s ever outed being big into romance novels and horses she would lose her cool girl status. She’s no longer one of the lads, instead she’s one of the lasses. Now let’s try Caitlin Snow, let’s say she’s not a scientist but rather an aspiring erotica writer who specialises in male homoerotica. You might say it makes her less intelligent now that she’s no longer a scientist, even though ironically it’s not uncommon for geek women to read or write slash fiction.

Some have even made a career out of writing professional male homoerotica, Caitlin Snow would easily do that. Instead of being an idealised geek girl, she’s more like what a substantial number of geek girls are like. By substantial, she indulges in male on male fiction like many geek girls have done before her. She might actually be relatable to other people this way, though that’s something some fans will not and never admit or realise. Even if other women have done something similar before, it’s not something fans would expect from her.

It seems like when it comes to creating these idealised women, it seems like cishet male writers want a woman who’s approachable but also not like other women which’s where their misogyny kicks in full. This stereotype is a standard women cannot fulfill for a long time, not to mention women who enter male fields encounter sexism and added racism if they’re not the majority ethnicity. Cool girls are also not made to outshine the male character in those fields, so such characters and stereotypes remain unrelatable and out of reach for many women.

Out of reach in that it’s always possible and has been possible for a woman to outshine a man in some fields, she could be better at playing football than he does. She might outearn a man, she might outrun a man or outlift a man. Men don’t like losing to women, so they find ways of bringing them down when they surpass them. The cool girl stereotype is something that walks on a tightrope, she can get into boy things but not outboy the boys and not complain or be concerned about sexism either.

Thus she can’t be like other women, she remains an elusive ideal. You can see this character in various forms and shapes, she’s the Goth girl who appears often in animation. She’s the adorkable ‘girl next door’, she’s the manic pixie dream girl. One thing’s for certain, she’s a character women will not relate to easily and a character straight men wish women were. She might as well be a man after all.

No (ugly) girls allowed

The thing with fine arts people’s excuse to keep having female nudes is that they find female bodies more aesthetically pleasing, even though the female bodies they keep churning out adheres to a standard. That’s why Milo Manara doesn’t do pictures of fat women and old(er) women, nor does Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri do pictures of women with flatter buttocks and nearly nonexistent breasts and neither of them do hairy women either.

They may say they like the female form, but they never depict women who anything other than what they find attractive in a woman. This says a lot about their sexism and misogyny, with why their muses are rarely ever anything other than their type. Makes me think they only think women are good for fulfilling their standards, it’s like praising women for being kind and gentle but excluding or even being biased against women who’re the opposite.

Then they’d turn around and say that men are ugly, even though there are straight and bisexual women who sexualise physically mediocre men a lot. Leonardo DiCaprio was physically mediocre then and is physically mediocre now, but he was a pinup ogled by many in the 1990s and early 2000s. It could be that he has a pretty face, but Adam Driver doesn’t have a pretty face and he’s sexualised by other women.

Okay imposing standards on men isn’t any better either, but if there are people who sexualise men a lot wouldn’t that mean they find men attractive? The straight female gaze is present in romance novels, so it’s really not that hard to look. But romance novels don’t get a lot of respect, some of it being sexist. However it does bring up the possibility of women finding male bodies, well certain male bodies, desirable.

The photographer Dianora Niccolini has made a career out of photographing muscular men, no doubt they’re her type but wouldn’t the same be said of many male fine artists since they never depict women who’re fat, old, hairy, flat-chested or flabby? Not to mention there are negative side-effects to objectifying women a lot, among these being inducing body image insecurities among certain women.

I admit to having body insecurities, namely over my hips whether if they’re wide or not. The obsession with the perfect female body has damning ramifications for women who don’t fit the standard, it’s like if you keep on seeing nearly hairless women (who often have a healthy head of scalp hair and sometimes vaginal hair) but you’re hairy yourself you feel underrepresented.

That’s the fundamental problem with the idea that women are more beautiful than men is that if you have women who fall short of the female beauty canon, would it make them any less of a woman? Is a woman who does steroids and bodybuilding any less of a woman than a woman who doesn’t? Physically, maybe to an extent but genetically she’s still a woman.

What about androgen insensitive women? Some of them fit the hairless beauty standard well but most of them are genetically male, despite developing into a female body and being raised as female from the start. Then again beauty standards are almost always impossible to achieve, perhaps always impossible to achieve since people fail in one way or another. They could fail genetically, they could fail phenotypically.

Beauty standards frequently set people for failure, that’s why there’s a lot of harm in prioritising the standard when others don’t fit it.

Idealised women, idealised people

When it comes to the ideal woman, many cishet male artists say they love the female body but the female bodies they present are often idealised. Their women don’t have flabby thighs, extensive body hair, stretch marks, sagging breasts and moles. They have to look perfect to fulfill their ideals of what a woman should look like, regardless of the women who do deviate from these standards and norms. I also think this extends to the way white artists objectify those of colour: they have to fulfill ideals even if some of them don’t fulfill it (the existence of black men with smaller penises should throw stereotypes into relief).

I admit to having insecurities with my body: I look myself into the mirror and worry whether if my hips are wide, I feel like my waist’s too wide and my buttocks aren’t big and defined. The cartoon characters I see don’t have flabby thighs but I do, so there’s a lot of idealisation when it comes to depicting female characters at all. Idealising somebody is not the same as loving somebody for who they are, if because the latter involves accepting their faults as they are. Accepting them as they are is more mature than wishing they’d fit a certain ideal.

Judging from my own experience, I do admit some body dissatisfaction that I feel my waist isn’t narrow and my hips aren’t that wide. I’m told to shave my armpits, which I do and yes I’ve been objectified before. I do think expecting people to live up to ideals can be harmful, especially if they have serious insecurities around their own bodies that it’s not a good idea to exploit their vulnerability for art. That’s why I think saying the female body is beautiful is harmful in that it ignores women’s bodies who don’t fulfill standards.

The same goes for those with differing ethnicities, not every Asian woman is submissive and not every black man is well-endowed and thuggish.

Sexual objectification as it is

When it comes to portraying female sexuality, there’s a tendency to conflate sexual agency with sexual availability. There’s a difference between a woman who willingly has sex with people and chooses the people she wants to have sex with and a woman who has sex for pay. That’s the difference between a promiscuous woman and a prostitute, but it could be me reading up on the stories about women who do change their partners and even masturbate.

To tell you the difference, this is like the difference between Druuna and a real life woman who willingly has sex with people. Or Milo Manara’s Il Gioco, the difference is that somebody like Jenny McCarthy admitted to masturbating since she was in her preteens and she masturbates willingly while the heroine of Il Gioco only masturbates due to a device implanted in her head. So it’s something she doesn’t do willingly, which’s very much framed for the male gaze.

If we were to compare Druuna to the real life female celebrities that I can think of, Druuna tends to get molested a lot but never gets traumatised from that experience. As far as I’ve read and remembered, there are only a few people Druuna willingly has sex with. Meanwhile people like Katy Perry, Madonna, Britney Spears and Elizabeth Taylor have changed sexual and romantic partners over the years, sometimes willingly divorcing them. Now that’s somebody with sexual agency.

Not to mention they do take the time to dress modestly when they want and will to, whereas Druuna’s oftentimes naked or scantily clad the better to emphasise her pert breasts and buttocks. Neither any of Milo Manara’s heroines nor Druuna have actual personalities of their own, they’re often portrayed as sexual playthings for other characters to toy with. They’re objectified in a way that strips them of their humanity and personality.

It’s one thing to willingly show up in the nude or wear less, it’s another to always be portrayed as this sexually available to be molested or do sexual acts against one’s will that it would be rather degrading in real life if it were done at all. David Beckham was made to masturbate to a photograph, that would’ve traumatised him a lot and that’s why he sympathises with those who’ve been bullied before. That’s pretty much the heroine of Il Gioco in a nutshell, made to do sexual acts against her will due to a device in her head.

Druuna and any one of Milo Manara’s heroines are hardly ever role models women and girls aspire to be, instead they’re very much sexual playthings who’re there to be gazed at and fantasised about. The fact that they have very idealised bodies without trying makes me think they’re very much idealised women by their creators, in some regards much moreso than any one of the Marvel and DC characters. In the sense of being proper sex objects, rather than fully realised characters.

Okay, there are some Marvel and DC characters that have come close but not to the same degree that any one of Milo Manara’s heroines and Druuna have been subjected to. In fact, a good number of Marvel and DC characters have been desexualised in recent memory. Whereas the Milo Manara and Paolo Eleuneri Serpieri women remain sex objects to be used and abused, they don’t do sex acts on their own and whatever they do is framed for the male gaze.

These comics are unlikely to have a feminist fandom the way many DC and Marvel characters do, which says a lot about how objectified these characters are. That’s pretty much the point of this essay, they’re never going to be feminist role models and they’re never ever going to appeal to anybody else other than sexist male horndogs.