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AmazonGrace

The problem with female superheroes

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AmazonGrace

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-problem-with-female-superheroes/

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?  When pondering this question, most kids have given at least passing consideration to one fantastical if improbable calling:  superhero.  There is an understandable allure to the superhero position — wearing a special uniform (possibly with powerful accessories), saving the world from evil, and let's not forget possessing a wickedly cool special power like x-ray vision or the ability to fly. 

But new research by Hillary Pennell and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz at the University of Missouri suggests that, at least for women, the influence of superheroes is not always positive.  Although women play a variety of roles in the superhero genre, including helpless maiden and powerful heroine, the female characters all tend to be hypersexualized, from their perfect, voluptuous figures to their sexy, revealing attire.  Exposure to this, they show, can impact beliefs about gender roles, body esteem, and self-objectification.

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JenniferJuniper
6 hours ago, AmazonGrace said:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-problem-with-female-superheroes/

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?  When pondering this question, most kids have given at least passing consideration to one fantastical if improbable calling:  superhero.  There is an understandable allure to the superhero position — wearing a special uniform (possibly with powerful accessories), saving the world from evil, and let's not forget possessing a wickedly cool special power like x-ray vision or the ability to fly. 

But new research by Hillary Pennell and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz at the University of Missouri suggests that, at least for women, the influence of superheroes is not always positive.  Although women play a variety of roles in the superhero genre, including helpless maiden and powerful heroine, the female characters all tend to be hypersexualized, from their perfect, voluptuous figures to their sexy, revealing attire.  Exposure to this, they show, can impact beliefs about gender roles, body esteem, and self-objectification.

My girls never gave a thought to superheros of any sort.

It was the Barbie thing that gave me fits.

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CyborgKin

grrlpowercomic.com has a nonvoluptuous heroine protagonist, who works in a comic store.  But that's only a subversion of a troubling norm.

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Maggie Mae
On 1/30/2016 at 7:21 PM, JenniferJuniper said:

My girls never gave a thought to superheros of any sort.

It was the Barbie thing that gave me fits.

Did you show them superheros? My mom made me watch Superman and didn't let me have Barbies (we had "heart family" or some off brand.). I grew up watching Batman and Superman and enjoying both. 

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roddma

Wouldnt it be the same for guys? All the male heroes are muscular even if there secret ID personas are not like the incredible Hulk. The one that got me was Captain Marvel. Here's a smallish teen boy turning into a buff adult superhero.

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CyborgKin
11 hours ago, roddma said:

Wouldnt it be the same for guys? All the male heroes are muscular even if there secret ID personas are not like the incredible Hulk. The one that got me was Captain Marvel. Here's a smallish teen boy turning into a buff adult superhero.

Or Captain America, who was too small and weak to fight in the war like he wanted, but through the power of superserum he got muscles and could do something useful!

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Maggie Mae

Isn't that the entire purpose of superhero fantasies? Someone small, weak, without power, orphaned or otherwise unassuming gets bit by a radioactive spider or undergoes some weird science experiments, turns into a mutant or whatever, saves people. 

Batman is the weird one, as he doesn't have superpowers. However, the villains in Batman all have tragic backstory. 

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roddma

Oops I forgot abut Captain America. Anyhow many of the major superheroes were created during the Depression/WWII era.

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CyborgKin
9 hours ago, Maggie Mae said:

Batman is the weird one, as he doesn't have superpowers. However, the villains in Batman all have tragic backstory. 

Yes he does: the power of being a rich man.

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Khan

I found Wonder Woman a confusing role model as a kid. A woman trying to help Save Man's World from violence and destruction. While dressed like a patriotic hooker.

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WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?

My daughter is 7 years old and the only superhero she knows is Word Girl from PBS.

image.jpg.119f80c6f8dee0e64d1a471cc719a3

She also doesn't own any Barbies. (Yet.) I'm not trying to keep her in a bubble or anything, but I just want to let her be herself. When she grows up she wants to be:  a doctor (because Doc McStuffins), an engineer (because her cousin is in college for that), an astronaut (because Miles From Tomorrowland), and maybe a mom. Or a princess like Princess Sofia.

Maybe we need to cut back on the Disney Channel....

When I was about her age, Saturday mornings always included Shazaam and Isis.

 image.jpg.8cd6887b002b4f7c3bbbcb2b79bcbc

That seems like it was a loooong time ago.

Edited by WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?
Add Isis

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zebra #13
4 hours ago, Khan said:

I found Wonder Woman a confusing role model as a kid. A woman trying to help Save Man's World from violence and destruction. While dressed like a patriotic hooker.

Except for Supergirl, in whom I was no way interested, Wonder Woman was pretty much it for superhero women when I was a kid.  Loved her, and later, Lynda Carter in the role.  Still (as you can see, lol!) do.

Had boys, but had I had girlz, no Barbies would ever have darkened ma doorway.   When five year olds are dieting, and nine year olds think they'd rather be dead than fat, something is very very wrong. . . .

4 hours ago, Khan said:

I found Wonder Woman a confusing role model as a kid. A woman trying to help Save Man's World from violence and destruction. While dressed like a patriotic hooker.

 

Edited by zebra #13

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Jingerbread

Muscles imply strength.  Male superheroes get strong.  What does an impossibly small waist with huge boobs do?  Nothing.  Females are supposed to be sexy, males are supposed to be strong.  

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Mama Mia
On January 31, 2016 at 1:55 AM, roddma said:

Wouldnt it be the same for guys? All the male heroes are muscular even if there secret ID personas are not like the incredible Hulk. The one that got me was Captain Marvel. Here's a smallish teen boy turning into a buff adult superhero.

Yea, superhero movies and television series are definitely very, very popular right now -- and they definitely have some extremely attractive men in the roles! Thor, Iron Man, the many various Batman's...not to mention Wolverine. Be still my ancient heart. And they certainly don't seem to have any problem hi lighting that they are supposed to be hot. Come to think of it--- that seems to be a trend in action heavy series in general now - hot male leads who show a lot more skin than the women. ( or maybe that's just what I notice :my_blush:).  Vikings, Rosewood, SOA and a ton of others.

A couple of my elementary school age granddaughters are very into superheroes and Star Wars. One of them also loves Barbies. There seem to be lots of superhero/ action hero's that are girls and women -like I said, I seem to notice the ones with attractive men -- but ever since the late 90's ? , whenever Buffy was on, there seem to be lots of women kicking ass on both the hero and villain side of any supernatural/alien/action movie.  And, at least from my very minimal observation, the female characters seem to be less sexualized than the males.

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DaffyDill

We recently watched Jessica Jones, who isn't really not for kids, but isn't your normal female "superhero". She's actually kind of the anti-hero, really. Drinks like a fish, is regularly hung over, and pretty jaded and cynical. I loved that show, and I'm nit into the Marvel /DC /comic thing. 

My sons and hubby are into the Marvel stuff, more than DC. Speaking of which, I hate, hate, hate Captain America. He's such a humourless milksop with zero personality. He irritates me something shocking. Then again, like I said, I'm not a huge fan of the genre :) 

Jessica Jones doesn't have a lot of powers, but she has some, like being able to jump high, though she's more a mutant (I think? This stuff isn't my forté) than buff type superhero thing.

The new Supergirl TV show is pretty dire, I think too. Just my opinion, but younger kids might like it.

 

 

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Mama Mia

I read the news story, and the summary of the actual research study. I've got to say that it's a pretty gigantic stretch of speculation for them to draw the conclusions they did. Less than 30 subjects in each group, the subjects were a very specific, extremely  narrow demographic ( although that's a big problem with lots of research ) , and they are claiming these sweeping cultural generalizations based on their responses to each group watching a different 13 minute video?  That's pretty ridiculous. And if people had huge lasting changes in their world view and self-concept based on one viewing of a short entertainment  video - on any subject  - THAT should be the news.  

 

Also, it irks me when there is this idea that hot women in sexy costumes is somehow detrimental - but hot men in sexy costumes don't matter - because the implication is that women don't enjoy some shallow enjoyment of " eye candy" because either we aren't sexual, or we are somehow above all that . There's nothing wrong with people looking at other human beings and finding them aesthetically pleasing. It would be great though  if a much wider range of bodies and faces represented in the media.

 

Edited by Mama Mia

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CyborgKin

I'm waiting for more Daisy Johnson and Melinda May (and assorted friends) back on TV soon.  Agents of SHIELD does a good job of depicting powerful female characters in a way that is natural, without the characters saying "Hey look, strong female character here, isn't this great?"  If you have to spell out your message, you're not showing it well.

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Grimalkin
On January 31, 2016 at 3:42 AM, Maggie Mae said:

Did you show them superheros? My mom made me watch Superman and didn't let me have Barbies (we had "heart family" or some off brand.). I grew up watching Batman and Superman and enjoying both. 

Same. I have an older brother so that may have something to do with me liking Superman as a kid. My mom hated Barbies.

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Mama Mia
On March 5, 2016 at 3:43 PM, Grimalkin said:

Same. I have an older brother so that may have something to do with me liking Superman as a kid. My mom hated Barbies.

I came up against this a lot when I was raising my kids.

When I was a kid, back in the late 60's - early 70's - I liked my Barbie's. I loved dressing them up and making them clothes and  decorating and furnishing the set of shelves that served as their home. I loved my Francie ( Barbie's cousin ) doll the best because she looked kind of like me - at least what my 4 year old self thought I might look like as a grown- up. I also liked growing up Skipper with her magic boobs, and Truley Scrumptious with her beautiful dress and hat. I liked my Julia doll too - even though my pet rat ate her chin.  My parents, and my school, were VERY into " Free to Be You and Me" , but were  still okay with Barbie and Liddle Kiddles ( little miniature kid/ fairy type dolls ) .

When my kids were young - mid 80's - late 90's -there was a lot of disdain for Barbie's. People would get very, very adamant about not allowing Barbie's , and  What I never understood then, and still don't now, is WHY are superhero's better than Barbie's? Both are unrealistic physically, both promote fantasy play and imagination. Why are the stereotypically feminine traits prescribed to Barbie somehow less than the stereotypically masculine traits endowed on Superman? To me, it's always seemed odd that in the quest to have girls feel empowered, that the message is frequently -- ( or was back then ) - " you can do anything the boys can do-but what boys have always done/ wanted/enjoyed is better - so do that" 

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Grimalkin

@Mama Mia I secretly loved Barbies and played with them every chance I got at friend's houses. We mostly dressed them up. I once got a Barbie for my birthday and my mom made me give it back to my friend. None of my three girls were in to them, they all had them though.

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paulypepper
On 2/3/2016 at 8:29 PM, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

My daughter is 7 years old and the only superhero she knows is Word Girl from PBS.

image.jpg.119f80c6f8dee0e64d1a471cc719a3

She also doesn't own any Barbies. (Yet.) I'm not trying to keep her in a bubble or anything, but I just want to let her be herself. When she grows up she wants to be:  a doctor (because Doc McStuffins), an engineer (because her cousin is in college for that), an astronaut (because Miles From Tomorrowland), and maybe a mom. Or a princess like Princess Sofia.

Maybe we need to cut back on the Disney Channel....

When I was about her age, Saturday mornings always included Shazaam and Isis.

 image.jpg.8cd6887b002b4f7c3bbbcb2b79bcbc

That seems like it was a loooong time ago.

Being a young male with raging hormones  when the Shazaam Isis hour came out I must admit to watching said show every Saturday...Isis was my favorite superhero :my_blush:

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sockinshoe

I was a little girl who loved superheroes. I didn't necessarily realize that these were not realistic bodies to which to aspire. I just saw cool women doing cool things. I just wish that, looking back, I didn't feel let down a bit by the creators. I wish that I could look back now that I am grown and say "yes, this character is rounded and interesting and realistic".

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