Yes, yes. I’m a feminist. Listeners of our Nerds on Film podcast have been quite aware of this for some time. Feel free to shed your image of man-hating, bra burning feminazis however. We come in all different shades, and yes, feminists have a sense of humor too. Specifically, clever nerds and artists who have started what I deem (in all my righteous power as galactic empress) to be the greatest thing to ever happen to the internet: The Hawkeye Initiative.
(All pictures borrowed from http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/)
The Hawkeye Initiative is a delightful tumblr/blog page that began in December of 2012. Started by web artist Noelle Stevenson, THI is dedicated to collecting fan drawn art of Hawkeye placed into the poses of female comic book characters. The origins page cites four different sources behind the cultural conversation, why they use Hawkeye, and what drove the creators to start this phenomenon. Ultimately, though, it’s not the origins that matter, but what the THI has been able to expose to the average comic reader.
All of our favorite strong female comic characters are hypersexualized. Yes, we’ve been calling out the ridiculously skimpy outfits, the frighteningly large knockers, and asses that just won’t quit, but some of the poses found in comics are simply preposterous. THI simply proposes a test for your comic art. If you can swap in Hawkeye in place of your female character, and it doesn’t look ridiculous, you’re probably safely distant from a sexist portrayal. Probably.
What I appreciate the most about this is that it’s feminism with a lot of funny. Some critics argue that it detracts from the cause by focusing too much on the humor that it masks the satire. To those critics, I say shut your yap. I like to assume that not all people on the Internet are too dumb to understand what THI is all about. Feminists can see the ridiculous nature of a serious subject and have a laugh while they’re at it. And if Gail Simone is on board, you should be too.
It’s really easy for people to shut down and roll their eyes when gender inequality is brought to mind, but that fact remains that it exists in the media, and in particular with comics, it can be alienating to female readers. Comic books have grown beyond paper and staples, and that world is by no means a boys club anymore. There needs to be a clearer variety of female characters that girls can relate to, portrayed appropriately.
Now I’m not talking about making a series about ass-kicking puritans (or am I?). Yes, there can be female supers that can use their sexuality and play the seductress, just as male characters that can do the same. In that case, go nuts with showing skin. But if that is not within the character’s personality or set of tactics, why show her with her breasts thrust forward and rear pushed back into a back breaking and often physically impossible arch?
This meme has completely grown beyond what was originally expected. Fans have commissioned their favorite artists to join in and submit works, and there has even been live cosplay done by a few brave and supportive men (skip to 2:13). It has spawned several internet relatives that can be found described here. If it wasn’t for the THI and related memes, I truly doubt there would have been as much conversation around the recent DC Harley Quinn art controversy.
What I love is that this seems like a way to unify nerds in a just cause. Female fans can stand up for depictions of their favorite characters in ways that are equivalent to their male counterparts, and Male fans can prove that they can appreciate the hell out of a good female character without requiring it to fulfill the masturbation criteria. As with all great change, it begins with conversation, and what’s a better way to break the ice than opening with a joke?