Concept Experience #4: Analyzing the Obvious

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The obvious statement that I started with was The “S” on superman’s chest stands for superman.

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My first question was – Why does the S stand for superman?

When I started reading about the origins of superman and his symbol, I Saw the mention of superwoman, and I never knew superwoman existed, which lead me to my next question- Why are the male superheroes more iconic than the female superheroes? Turns out- Sexism and sexual discrimination were still very prominent in the time when superhero comics were becoming popular. Back then, women weren’t seen or treated as equals. Now, comic book companies (and hopefully everyone else in the world) are changing the way they treat women, fictional or otherwise.

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This article mentions how female superheroes are accompanied by a female distinctive name when it’s unnecessary, but why is that? For example, instead of Batgirl, why not Sonar? So my next question is exactly this. I found out that the word “superhero” itself invokes a very distinctive image in the minds of many readers. After thinking about this I noticed that most female superheroes are portrayed as unstable and lack control of their powers. Majority of them have powers that are more emotional, like mental powers, than they do physical powers. So why do most female superheroes have mental powers rather than physical powers and why are they so difficult for them to control? I found out that comic books usually take our typical American views about gender roles and they exaggerate them in the characters that many fans idolize. My questions steered into the direction of gender roles and gender equality; since I was going down this path I started thinking about how nearly all female superheroes are overly sexualized… I mean I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed the super skanky outfits, balloon sized boobs and the big hair. Why is that? I learned that there was a study by Pennell and Behm-Morawitz done on this very topic. They argue that “the sexualization of the superheroine characters serves to reinforce rather than challenge stereotypical gender role beliefs, and this effect may overshadow any benefit derived from observing a strong, intelligent, capable female character”.

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I started off knowing the answer to my search, but I ended up with something so much deeper that the obvious. I was in charge of my search, and I was interested in learning more about it. Going through these articles, I thought about things I never would’ve noticed before. Growing up I didn’t realize how much more went into these comic books; it has totally changed my perspective. As I continued searching I found myself coming up with new questions based off of the answers that the computer had given me. Each answer suggested a new question for me. Most of the articles I clicked on off of Google, which provided me with a wide variety of articles, were more focused on the feminist views and feminist theories.

4 thoughts on “Concept Experience #4: Analyzing the Obvious

  1. I really like your obvious statement. I didn’t even notice the “S” letter is that obvious because it’s always there just like a part of superhero. I only know a Chinese song named superwoman but I don’t know it is a existent character. I like how you think deeply about why superhero is well known but not superwoman and then came up different questions to solve the problem. I got lost in my research. I will keep my mind on one topic next time like you did.

  2. Wow, that is so true! There are no female superheroes that dress normally, they all have skanky outfits like you said. It just perpetuates this message that we have to be everything: strong, sexy, pretty, smart… Just being “normal” isn’t enough.

  3. I enjoyed your post because it started with such a simple question and ended in a search of a controversial topic of gender equality that we are dealing with currently. I never noticed the powers of the women superheroes until you pointed it out. Its sad to think that women were so overly exaggerated back then. At least, the comics companies are trying to fix that stereotype.

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