If Superman was to replace Wonder Woman in any movie or comic book, one might not be able to see much difference, since both of them put their toughest face forward to fight the evil and protect humanity. But if the two change places on a Wonder Woman comic’s cover, the result might make you feel uncomfortable.
Imagine a half-dressed Superman, posing in a manner that accentuates his chest and butt, smiling mildly, just the way Wonder Woman does. The absurdity makes it clear that the well-established equality shown in the comic books fail to emulate itself on the covers of these books.
To point out the blatant sexism present in comic book covers, 21-year-old Shreya Arora flipped the narrative and made male superheroes pose in the way women are depicted.
Talking to The Indian Express, Shreya says that although this started as a classroom project, she continued it beyond that. “Choosing comic books to talk about sexism in the real world may seem unconventional, but one cannot deny that real sexism is shown through these fictional characters.”
Shreya is studying graphic designing from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and keeps working on freelance projects in her free time.
With this project, Shreya wants to start a conversation and make people question why superheroes and superheroines are depicted differently. “One option was to take covers with strong, iconic depictions of superheroes, and recreate them with women. However, I realised that while it would be a positive take, it wouldn’t have the shock value that is necessary to make people question the status quo. Hence, I decided on a drastic take and recreate sexist covers of superheroines with superheroes to highlight how bizarre it looks.”
Shreya says although women in comic books are ‘apparently’ more powerful than women depicted in other movies and books, most often the covers don’t depict the same, and that’s where the problem lies. “Notice that my project is called ‘Sexism in Comic Book ART’. If you analyse mainstream comic books from the 1980s until now, most of the stories are empowering and inclusive, but their covers still rely on hyper-sexualisation for sales,” she says.
The objectification is real
While Shreya’s art received immense support and appreciation on social media, there was a bit of criticism too. People started pointing out that superheroes too are depicted in a similar manner.
“As an avid comic book fan, I can vouch that female superheroes are portrayed amazingly and exactly how you’d expect a superhero to carry herself.” “Don’t you think male superheroes are also sexualised to promote false beauty standards,” ask her critics.
To which Shreya responds, “there’s no doubt that both superheroes and superheroines are subjected to unrealistic body standards, but in the former case, it is done to make them appear strong, while in the latter case, it is done only to make them appear sexy. Strong and athletic women are deemed ‘masculine’ and ‘unattractive’”.
Shreya further asks her trolls, “if men were already portrayed in a similar manner, why do my covers offend you?” She has just one thing to say to everyone who has been supporting her as well as criticising her, “Thank you for the motivation.”