Fangirl Concern: Gender in Comics and Your Reading Habits
Apr 24, 2013 by     3 Comments    Posted In: Columns, Editorial

fangirlI want to read comics and enjoy them.

Just open a book, find what I like, ignore what I don’t or just not buy the next issue if it’s that bad.

However, then someone points out that one comic ignores the main story of it’s female hero and over emphasis the stereotypical. Should I feel bad for still enjoying to read that book?

Someone else points out how a lead male looks down upon everyone around him and is lauded for his misogynistic treatment of others. Is it then wrong to cheer for this anti-hero? At what point do you separate bad writing from recognition of limitations within your cultural dynamic? Is automatic boycott of all stories with a hint of these problems the only solution?gender

With the #SuperMOOC underway (online course for Gender Through Comics) there is a lot of discussion on which comics treat the genders in a more fair fashion. There is also discussion of which comics are the most offensive and unfair to the sexes. It’s not just a discussion about which female heroes are overly sexual and demeaned, but also about which male characters are reduced to macho archetypes. Once you’re conscious of these issues what is a comic book reader to do about it?

There are three groups that are the most known:

  • The Activist: Pure in intention, will expect the best and most out of all, and will be completely unforgiving in criticism when someone does not live up to the expectations of treating all groups appropriately.
  • The Pacifist: Doesn’t like what they read, wishes things would change, might avoid certain authors or story-lines so they will not encourage those comics with their pocket book.
  • The Instigator: Feels all these arguments about women being looked down on or men being hyper-masculine is a bunch of crap and feels people should get over it. The extreme members of this group will go out and attack those who often associate with outspoken groups.
  • The Reader: Doesn’t care, just reads books and keeps mouth closed, and is all about enjoying comics. Why does this have to be an issue to begin with?

The majority of comic readers probably fit into the Pacifist or Reader categories. Considering you’re reading a social comic book themed website, chances are you might lean toward one of the other categories as well. However, there is another way: Open and respectful dialogue.

Instead of passive aggressive remarks, use calm rational discussion. State your opinion, know that not everyone is going to agree. Know that the world will not end if you cannot get them to think the same way you do. These are all nice thoughts, and sure not everyone will be willing or able to do this. It’s the Internet, it’s anonymity. However, things have to start somewhere.

In the meantime, how do these opinions, realizations or discussions about gender and comics affect your reading habits? Do they have an affect? Leave your comments below and lets see if we can get a dialogue going.

Jessica Boyd is a comic book reading mom who holds a 40 hour a week job. Somehow in between she manages to be a driving force for comic books by writing for and Comicosity! When not writing you can find her active on Twitter (@charmingred), Tumblr, and Facebook.

Read Jessica’s ongoing column, The Fangirl Concern, exclusively at! You can find previous entries in this series by following this link.


3 Comments Add Comment

  • Tim Morse April 24, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I think I fall more into the Reader category than anything else. I guess, when I read comics, I don’t see the female counterparts in the pages as treated wrong, sexist, or badly. Sure, you have some characters that are depicted in a totally stripper spotlight, with the costumes they choose to wear and how they present themselves, but on the other hand, the first women that come to mind for me in comics totally kick ass, and take absolutely no crap from any of their male counterparts. Storm and Wonder Woman immediately come to mind on this. In the ’80’s and ’90’s, Storm was dressed, in my opinion, very conservatively, but was a very powerful character, both for women, and the black community in general. She was strong, determined, and eventually lead the X-Men and became, to me, as important as the likes of Cyclops or Professor X himself, in terms of leadership.

    The same can nearly be said of Wonder Woman. In the DC Universe, she is, or was (last I knew), part of the Trinity, which made her very very important. Wonder Woman, I think, is the archetype that all other female characters are based on. They kind of have to lead up to that expectation to be relevant. They have to be strong willed, independent, and very much able to stand toe to toe with the males in their respective universes.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, when I read comics, I don’t look at them as sex symbols. Sure, they’re ALL drawn in a way that is extremely provocative, and I’m well aware that not all women are molded that way, lol, but to me, it’s all about the story. If the story sucks, they can draw any female hero in the least amount of clothing they want, I won’t buy the issue. However, if she’s a strong character, with lot’s of story and history, and doesn’t let herself be treated any other way than what she deserves, it doesn’t matter what she’s dressed in.

  • Juan April 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I definitely am a reader, I understand that there might be sexist problems here and then, but I don’t think any creator is sexist in anyway, but I think it just happens and they make mistakes. So it really irks me when people go after the creators for things like that. Especially in a time when comic books are moving away from the kind of sexism we could find years ago.
    I think there is a limit to how much we analyze, or else at some point it’s going to be that every little thing is sexist in some way.
    The other thing to note is that lots of people do not understand the character’s perspective vs. the creator’s perspective. Just because a character says something or acts a certain doesn’t mean the creator is like that or is sending some message.
    Of course the most prevalent problem is seeing females sexualized in art. And of course you will find stereotypes here and there. But that doesn’t ruin everything and there is a slow shift to less art like that. if we go peacefully, we’ll get there.

  • Jason Newcomb April 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I’m a story first guy as well but I can not lie and I’ve no doubt my brothers can’t deny… You know the drill.