First of all, straight white dudes bitching about it can fuck off. I’m not here to talk about that. Deal with it, guys. That it makes you uncomfortable is a good thing.
The Hawkeye Initiative flips these tropes and illuminates just how silly and awful they are by putting them on a male character….
This is a good response to the building sensation of the movement. There is valid critique in the hawkeye initiative, but there is also some who wish to desexualize the characters to the point where they would be, well, less strong.
I think one of the main points of the absurdity that is well pointed out with the movement is context.
If a character is posing sexily, why and for whom?
If a character is trying to attract another character and display their sexuality, it makes perfect sense for arched backs and high heels. Even some level of exaggeration if the style is more cartoony.
In the context of a fight, no it doesn’t make sense. Especially when you can tell an artist has used porn as a reference for a fight scene.
This is totally inappropriate.
No, not because seeing women’s sexuality is wrong or because porn is icky or any other anti-sex reasoning. It is totally inappropriate because this is a fight scene and the artist used porno to reference a woman getting hurt. That’s not just lazy art, that’s insulting to women.
We see artists do this all the time, overlapping women’s expressions of pain, pleasure, agression and sexuality as if they are interchangeable, and that women should be simultaneously violent, sexable minxes ready to go at a moment’s notice.
I think part of the Hawkeye Initiative wants not removal of sexuality, but seperation of sexuality from inappropriate situations. Place the sex and sex appeal where it is appropriate. Between characters. (Hey, I’m not even saying “keep it in the bedroom”. But if there’s bombs going off and civilians dying, it’s not a good time for sexyplayfun) Sexuality is a core part of being human and absolutely deserves to be explored. But when thrown at us during odd times, like space battles and jewelry store robberies, it’s jarring and adds little to nothing to the narrative.
Then there’s the relationship between artist, character and us. I think this article puts it very well when it talks about how Starfire isn’t showing off her body because she feels strong and empowered and freely sexual, she is flirting for us, the viewer.
She is, in a way, breaking the fourth wall with fanservice. There is no logical reason for her to sway and display her assets other than there is knowledge that there is a reader who is attracted to her. Whether that knowledge be in the artist’s mind, or supplanted into Starfire’s mind through writing and art. (Here is where I believe we have an argument for removal of sexual agency, even in a sexual sitation. Starfire is sexualized because the artist wants her to be and because the fans expect her to be. She is not sexual simply because she is free to do as she wishes.)
Again, this comes down to context. I’m not saying female characters shouldn’t be sexual on their own terms and even alone. Everybody who loves their body does some good ‘ol mirror-dancing/flexing on sunday morning. There is nothing wrong with masturbation and self-love. But again, it has to drive the story forward. otherwise, it’s just a porn interlude.
So for me, the constant tilt of tits and ass towards the camera, like any other breaking of the fourth wall, is a sign of bad storytelling. (Satire and lampooning and Deadpool aside) We see these female characters sashaying as if there is someone watching them all the time. Which, in its own way is kinda creepy. I believe this reinforces ideas that women should always be attractive and “on point” like a beauty queen. Smiling, toes pointed, shoulders back, etc. God forbid, when a women is alone, she lets her gut hang out.
This is a double-hit for women. They are often portrayed as universally sexual and appealing whether there is anotehr character around… or not. So, basically, all the time. This is a huge expectation and a huge drain of energy on women to be “presentable” even when the context does not call for it. I.E. hanging out at home in your pajamas, drinking coffee. There’s sexual agency and the right to be sexy, and then on the other swing of the pendulum you have hypersexuality where the character is non-stop sex appeal.
As a positive example to give, (and a shameless excuse to mention my favourite comic) women’s sexuality is handled rather well in Elfquest. The characters are very sexual and have open relationships with multiple partners. Female characters become pregnant, give birth, and are still treated as relevant to the story. Yet when sexuality is not important to the plot, the characters are not hypersexualized.
In this panel, the tribe of elves have just traveled through the desert with no food or water and are exhausted, but meet the village’s matriarch. The focus here is history and meeting others like your own.
However, on the very next page
We have a big party to celebrate the two tribes meeting each other with a full-page spread of ladies dancing. But look at their faces. Look at their body language. They are in the scene and dancing for the shown audience. They’re not dancing for us as eye-candy. That is sexuality in context. That is a seperation between sexuality when it makes sense and sexuality when it doesn’t.
EDIT: Here is another example of sexuality in context. This link is NSFW.
Here we have four panels of hot elven lovemaking. In the second panel, we even have what could be considered a boobs + butt pose. But the characters are invested in each other. They’re facing each other. They’re not posing for the reader, or aware that there is a “camera” on them. There is no voyeuristic quality to these images. What is displayed is the characters’ love and passion for each other. That, in my opinion, is what seperates plot-relevant sexuality from wall-breaking fanservice.
This doesn’t even cover the glaring sexual hypocrisy currently existing in American comics, where it is assumed that all readers are hetero men and that men-as-eyecandy is sinfully wrong. Part of the Hawkeye is a few female readers saying “Yeah, we have Nightwing, but we don’t nearly get the same kind of fanservice that hetero men do.” We see men displayed as sexual aggressors, not as vulnerable characters who want to attract a mate rather than pursue them.
this is part of the larger issue of patriarchy and sexism. men must always be the aggressor, the pursuer, the dominant. Women must always be the pursued, the attractive, the submissive. There are multiple ways to react against this.
1) is to completely desexualize female characters so as to not take part
2) is to do unto men what they have done unto us
3) is to address the larger dynamic and have multiple characters represented in diverse ways. Dominant women, submissive men, asexual characters, queer characters, etc.
It’s a larger argument that the Hawkeye Initiative is only focusing on one bit of. But, in my opinion, it’s still an important bit.
Originally from The Sociological and Cultural Value of Butts