Gender equality is an area in which DC and Marvel comics have always struggled. Whether male or female, most superheroes are drawn to an ideal form. However, this often leads to over-sexualization of female superheroes or unrealistic situations that male superheroes would never find themselves in. It doesn’t help that comic book authors and artists are predominantly male, like most comic book readers.
That double standard still has a long way to go judging by the outcry over DC showing Batman naked. Either way, DC has made strides with heroines who have gone through questionable histories in the past.
ten Questionable: Wonder Woman was the secretary of the Justice Society
From the start, Wonder Woman was created to bring female empowerment to the DC Universe. A feminist icon like Wonder Woman may seem like a surprising inclusion, but she has had her fair share of questionable stories. Beyond different artists choosing different levels of lightness for their costume, some writers have forgotten what Wonder Woman stands for.
In her second year alone, Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society, but only as a secretary. Being a secretary even meant that she had to stay put while the men went on a mission. It might have been another era, but it went against everything Wonder Woman stands for.
9 Improved: Wonder Woman is a symbol of women’s empowerment
Wonder Woman has come a long way since her introduction to truly become the greatest female comic book superhero. She has saved the world on multiple occasions, earning her place alongside Batman and Superman in DC’s Trinity. There are sometimes a setback or two when it comes to over-sexualizing Wonder Woman. However, most often she is the symbol of gender equality that she was always meant to be. It’s probably safe to say that Wonder Woman will never be left behind as Secretary of the Justice League again.
8 Questionable: Power Girl chased her target in just a towel
Power Girl is the Earth-2 version of Supergirl, and although her origin has been changed several times, she generally shares the same name and origin as Kara Zor-El. The Power Girl costume is quite questionable, but beyond the oft-criticized elements of her costume, several of her plots objectified her more than most other heroines. One of the more questionable situations Kara has been put into was when she was chasing a child who blackmailed her with pictures he had taken of her putting on her costume. Kara was in the shower when the chase started, and naturally she loses her towel halfway through, conveniently covering herself with her neighbor’s groceries.
7 Improved: Power Girl has great characterization and fun teams
Power Girl has unfortunately been sidelined in recent years since DC Renaissance. She has appeared in several issues after Rebirth but has not yet received a lead role or solo comic book since the end of New 52. Prior to the Renaissance Era, Kara had received strong storylines in a team with Harley Quinn as well as a Superman and Batman style team with Huntress. Unfortunately, Kara was still frequently objectified and forced to wear light outfits. It remains to be seen whether it will be further objectified when it is finally once again in the spotlight.
6 Questionable: Supergirl Crash landed on Bare Earth
Supergirl generally does better than her Earth-2 counterpart when it comes to objectification, most of the debate over her costume should include a skirt or pants. However, a Supergirl storyline was certainly questionable. In the years 2004 Batman / Superman comic book number 8 tells the story of Supergirl’s origin when she crashed into Earth. This time Kara is naked, confused, and can only speak Kryptonian. Kara roams the streets of Gotham naked, causing a car crash and forcing the police to open fire before Batman intervenes.
5 Improved: Supergirl is just as great as Superman
Thankfully, Kara’s nude origin story was reconnected a few years later to be considerably less sexist. Supergirl has evolved in recent years to be less of a female version of Superman and has become more of a symbol of female empowerment, much like Wonder Woman. While still a bit brash, Supergirl’s recent appearances have presented her as a heroine just as powerful as her cousin. Even when not indestructible like on Earth, Supergirl went through pain and injury as if she was still invulnerable to protect Krypto when he was injured.
4 Questionable: Starfire takes a nude sunbath
Starfire’s costumes were some of the skinniest in the DC Universe, so much so that calling them bikinis might be too generous. As questionable as her costume may be, more questionable is the number of times she has not worn anything at all. Starfire radiates innocence and she ignores the customs of the Earth, finding Earthlings’ views on prudish nudity. His most questionable story is in the first issue of Titans 2008 relaunched when she took the opportunity to sunbathe naked while staying at Animal Man.
Worse yet, Cliff, the Baker’s son, came home just in time to catch her naked. Although he ended up alerting her of an attack from Trigon’s demon, she was in no rush to cover up, and parading Starfire naked in front of a child was one of DC’s most questionable decisions.
3 Improved: Starfire is a free-spirited mother
DC has since found ways to portray Starfire as a free spirit other than to strip her off on a regular basis. The representation of Starfire on the classic Teen Titans cartoon as well as HBO Max Titans The series shows that there is better way to characterize Starfire without sacrificing his personality. Although her costumes are even leaner, there have at least been more costumes than before. Starfire was even recently the mother of a teenage daughter in a separate continuity in the DC 2020 young adult graphic novel. I am not Starfire.
2 Questionable: Batgirl and Catwoman have a naked brawl
In what might be DC’s most questionable storyline of all time, Batgirl and Catwoman end up falling victim to oversexualization. In what can only be described as the fantasy of a depraved teenager, Batgirl and Catwoman end up stripping naked and fighting naked. As Batgirl chases Catwoman, Selina slips into a nudist masquerade party at the Gothom’s Hedonist Society. She then slides out of her suit, leaving only the mask to blend in.
Barbara is not allowed to enter the building when she is clothed, so rather than making her way as she might have, she also takes off her costume and continues to stalk Selina. Needless to say, Batman wouldn’t strip down to blend in with a party, which would make him an example of blatant sexism at its height.
1 Improved: Batgirl and Catwoman are essential members of the bat family
Both Catwoman and Batgirl have had their ups and downs, but nothing more questionable than the aforementioned fight. Selina Kyle has proven that she can have a villainous streak, but ultimately she’s a hero. Since Rebirth, Batman has saved Selina from death row after being blamed for the murders committed by her friend. As for Barbara Gordon, her ability to walk has been restored after spending many years as an Oracle, although fan reception to the change has been mixed. In a wheelchair or not, Barbara has been an invaluable member of the bat family and thankfully hasn’t experienced anything so blatantly sexist since.
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