A while back I was referred to an amazing Tumblr blog called Escher Girls, and ever since I first saw it I have found places to bring it up in normal conversation. I’m not a woman, but I’ve become increasingly annoyed by depictions of women in media. Movies like Snow White and the Huntsman or TV shows like Girls are a step in the right direction, but they are still fighting an uphill battle.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the male-dominated, fantasy-fulfilling arena of comic books. Many comic book fans will point the the inherent inclusivity of comic books. These are stories about outsiders, for outsiders. The problem is that they have often come from a very specific male mindset. Sure, there are plenty of female heroes now, but how can that be a good thing when they are depicted as nothing more than absurdly sexualized creatures? Escher Girls exposes this with dry wit and provides an important service for those unaware of just how bad comics are in this regard.
The purpose of Escher Girls is to point out absurd, anatomically bizarre depictions of women in comics. This isn’t just about sexualizing women the way magazines do in photographs. Comic books, because they are drawn, are able to put women in poses that range from impractical to downright insane. The most common problem is in proportions. Huge breasts and asses held together by torsos so thin it’s hard to imagine organs fitting in them. Following that is the very common and very stupid style of posing women so that in any situation the reader gets a view of their breasts and butts at the same time. You begin to wonder if these female “heroes” even have spines.
Escher Girls points out the absurdity of these drawings by analyzing them for anatomical accuracy and artistic intent, and in some cases re-drawing the images to be more natural and less offensive. Sometimes the blog posts versions of these drawings where the female character is replaced by a male one doing the same pose. Take a look at this image comparing a depiction of Black Widow with one of Iron Man, drawn by user Robinade:
Hilarious? Yes. Also extremely instructive. Why should we just accept these kinds of lazy, sexist, bizarre depictions of women in comics?
And this is still a huge problem. That Black Widow drawing is not half as bad as some others highlighted by Escher Girls. Take a look at this recent Catwoman cover:
Absolutely insane and unacceptable, but Escher Girls still approaches it with a dollop of humour:
And that’s why I love Escher Girls. Here’s an issue they could approach with self-righteous anger and it would be totally called for, but it also might turn people off. Instead they satirize, and through that satire manage to express their concerns brilliantly. It’s a way of opening eyes and changing minds, and it’s certainly changed my perspective on comic books. So please, go check out Escher Girls. Bookmark it. Visit it periodically. And be sure to share it with others.