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.

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.

If the trope fits

The website TV Tropes and its ilk exemplify and take the idiom ‘if the shoe fits’ to a logical conclusion, regardless of how badly handled the example is. It’s like how the hyena girl in the story Killing Bites is considered a heinous hyena and rape is a special kind of evil, despite the fact the people she attacks don’t get traumatised by it. The beagle girl may’ve been molested, but she’s never shown to be traumatised by it. If you abuse a dog, it will react badly and get traumatised as well.

Which means TV Tropers don’t have much critical thinking when it comes to understanding what the trope, well what they call a trope, actually means. If the word fiery means easily provoked, but it’s applied to redheaded characters who are rather bubbly (Barbara Gordon from DC Superhero Girls is rather perky) then it doesn’t fit the foot at all. It’s like TV Tropers have a broad definition of things, so broad even happy characters like Barbara Gordon get shoehorned in it.

No matter how ill-fitting the shoe is, hence misfit. I’m starting to think some of the problems with TV Tropes is that there’s not much critical examination of the stereotype and cliche presented, as well as whether if the character and situation fits or not. I feel as if literary critics and anybody who’s done a proper literary analysis and studied literature before have shown their hands in ways TV Tropers haven’t. There’s more critical thinking about the stereotypes and cliches presented.

To the point where I think TV Tropes and the like have done a bad job at it, mostly because their attempts at analysing stuff is shallow and the idea that tropes are tools, therefore not necessarily bad can be bad when it comes to damaging stereotypes. It’s like stereotyping black people as well-endowed and athletic, when in reality not all black people fit those stereotypes. There are black people who aren’t that well-endowed, there are black people who aren’t that athletic and into any sort of physical activity.

These are damaging when internalised, which can mess with their mental health because of the expectations placed on them. I also get the weird impression that the average TV Troper is probably a white westerner, maybe that’s why what interests them gets prioritised over the things Nigerians, Kenyans and the like have grown up reading (Bogi Benda for instance). That’s why nonwhite voices matter, they know a racist stereotype or cliche when they see one.

In some regards, they’d see it better than a white person does especially in media created by white people. Another problem with TV Tropes is the tendency to assume something attracts women because of the pretty boys or another matter furries when comes to some things, well that’s not always the case. I find rugby interesting, but I’m not sexually attracted to any rugby player. As for Tigra, she’s supposed to be part tiger but there are furries who don’t see as a furry.

(Thundercats is a mixed bag when it comes to character design, but its version of Tigra looks like a tiger and even has an entry on Wikifur.)

A good number of TV Tropes entries are poorly researched, in the sense that they don’t always come with references to verified sources the way Wikipedia does. Wikipedia may get some things wrong, but the users add references and footnotes to the entries they work on. TV Tropes isn’t that website, well when it comes to some things. At the end of the day, what TV Tropes says isn’t always well researched and well-done. I like football and rugby, but I have no sexual attraction to any footballer and rugby player.

Not to mention, TV Tropes does breed a form of anti-intellectualism that involves adding examples to it without further critical examination of it.

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.

The near-absence of women in art

When it comes to talks about the underrepresentation of women in art, most chalk it up to the historic underrepresentation of women in art as a byproduct of lack of education. While that would be true for most of the part, there are other barriers to it that not many people theorise or will admit readily. I’m talking about stereotypes about men being the most visual sex or gender around, when I mean by that it’s practically a self-fulfilling prophecy for many women to eventually fall out of the visual arts.

It’s also something of a self-fulfilling prophecy for women to be more evaluated in terms of their looks that women who work in modelling actually outearn men while occupations that are female-dominated but not image-orientated like say nursing don’t get paid much. It’s like if you expect women to be better-looking than men, that leaves out those who aren’t good-looking even if they could get away with it in jobs that aren’t so image-orientated, well to the same extent that is (something like nursing and dressmaking for instance).

If you want to work in modelling, power to you but I think making women emphasise a lot on their appearance is something not all women can easily aspire to and some don’t care much about it. This is the real flipside to the underrepresentation of women as artists, where if women do show up at all in art they’d most likely be muses and the ones most likely to show up in the nude. If women’s looks are heavily emphasised, it’s inevitable that modelling woudl be the rare occupation where women outearn men and it’s telling.

Modelling is something that provides the real answer to the art world’s sexism, albeit in ways female artists don’t realise and have the language for. This may not always be the case where there are jobs where women can outearn men and still not be that heavily valued for their appearances such as being a nursing assistant for instance. But modelling is the true flipside and logical conclusion of visual and fine art’s sexism, in the sense that if women are valued for their appearance they outearn men this way.

If a woman makes art, it would make less money than a man’s art. If women are deemed less visually orientated than men, they might as well drop out of art and head to occupations that aren’t so visual or at least male-visual to put it this way. Not to mention the tendency to devalue or ignore arts that are really female-orientated such as embroidery and fashion (dressmaking for instance). Maybe not entirely ignored but not necessarily accepted as fine art the way painting and sculpture are.

This is again why fine art is so sexist, not only does it expect women to be looked at but also ignores arts that are female-orientated such as sewing and why it’s a problem.