DC’s ‘empowered women’ defense a joke

By Luke Wilusz

I’ve got to hand it to DC Comics—when they set their minds to alienating their readership and upsetting a lot of people, they seem to be second to none. The comic giant’s much-maligned universal reboot saw the end of many ongoing series starring female lead characters, and some of DC’s remaining superheroines have been reduced to shallow, oversexed shells of their former selves.

While female superheroes have always been designed to pander, to some degree, to a young male audience, they have traditionally still been strong, interesting, dynamic characters involved in worthwhile plotlines. The first issue of the relaunched “Catwoman” title, on the other hand, introduces readers to the titular character with a focused shot of her breasts in a lacy red bra in the first panel of the first page. She spends the next few pages somersaulting half-dressed through her apartment, and it isn’t until a couple of pages in that readers even get to see her face for the first time. She proceeds to spend the majority of the issue half-naked, and the book ends with a two-page spread of a gratuitous, borderline voyeuristic image of Catwoman and Batman mid-coitus on a rooftop.

To be fair, a certain amount of sex appeal has always been part of Catwoman’s character—we are, after all, talking about a woman who dresses in a skintight leather cat suit and routinely wields a whip. However, in the past it’s at least served some sort of narrative purpose. Here, it just seems excessive and unnecessary. It isn’t telling much of a story or developing any characters. It’s just two superheroes doing the nasty on a roof, because that’s apparently what sells comics.

Even more startling was DC’s change in the character of Starfire, a former member of the Teen Titans team. She used to be a strong, confident woman who fought villains and stood up for her values and beliefs. However, she spent the entirety of her first appearance in the new “Red Hood and the Outlaws” doing nothing but walking around in a microscopic bikini and having random, emotionless sex with pretty much every man she encountered.

The worst part about this whole situation is that DC has defended these comics by saying that they feature bold, empowered, modern women with active sex lives. That would be wonderful news if it were true, but these comics aren’t about strong female characters. They’re not about proud, confident women with healthy sex lives doing things that make them happy. These comics are about scantily clad women doing things that are meant to satisfy a predominantly male and hormonal target audience. I can enjoy the occasional piece of eye candy as much as the next guy, but somebody needs to tell DC that a sex object with super powers is not an empowered woman.