High Heeled Warriors - Why Wonder Women Deserves Better
In a perfect world where a superhero's ability is not measured by the height of her heels and the strength of her push-up bra.
Wonder Women as a concept deserves more respect from her artists. As a swords-women of some years experience, it has always seemed to me that female superheros are never properly attired for battle.
Ladies, imagine, if you will, you are fighting for your life. Now, imagine that same fight after putting on a strapless bathing suit, some high heels, and letting your hair down. Add a hazardous pointy tiara for flourish; its a recipe for defeat.
The notion the female superheros are at all time attired in the style of a swimsuit model, afflicts superhero fiction's strongest, and most visible female members. Sex sells, even when it means your own hair can be used as a weapon against you. Strong anti-hero women of dark evil and revenge are no exception either. Think Vampirella (my personal favorite since childhood), and Cat Women; all wrapped up in barely there lingerie, ready to lash out and kick some butt.
The problem with this imagery is that a true warrior bears almost no resemblance to the smooth skinned, hair model super heroes we commonly see depicted in female superhero art and entertainment. They are strong, they are fierce, and no doubt skilled, but hobbled by exposed vital organs, push-up bras, and bad shoes. They are often seen standing in sexually suggestive poses as they prepare to fight. Why does this image persist as the definitive model of female superhero perfection? It is the superhero version of foot-binding and female circumcision; designed to impose a false standard of beauty and virtue while also incapacitating a woman and diminishing her abilities. What makes this dynamic so appealing?
Ask any real swords-woman, MMA fighter or soldier and you will get a full analysis of exactly what protections are necessary for engaging combat. None of those description will involve high heels or bustiers. Reflecting on the recent Rousey vs Nunes fight, neither of these tough fighters would fit the mold of the female superheros seen in popular comics and art. With their hair bound up in less than stylish arrangements, red-faced, sweaty, bleeding, and with old scars and uneven faces and body parts from past broken bones, these women represent what a real female warrior should look like.
Even today a look back at the woman warriors of Athens renders sexualized interpretations of women astride horses, meeting violent, untimely deaths reduced to an allegory for an expression of sexual frustration. In the original Amazon myths, from which Wonder Women hails, legend has it that they cut off their right breasts to be more effective archers, so much the ol' bustier.
For a more modern take, there is now a new, more edgy female anti-superhero. Harley Quin, born of domestic abuse, but never able to escape it, has become quite the popular figure. She too bears the trademark barely there outfits, and seems to have ditched any insight or common sense that she might have gleaned over the course of earning her PHd. Even a women of letters cannot dress properly for combat, and this one has the added bonus of romanticizing domestic abuse. It's almost as if no women could possibly be this edgy and cool without having first been damaged beyond repair by a strong male villain. This is designed to give a false sense of strength to dependency, a favorite technique of the new patriarchy.
Wonder Women's own journey as sex symbol in popular culture has undergone several changes in her media career. As a character, she was softened up in the 1960s – 1970s to appeal as much to boys as to girls. The market strategy makes some sense, if your primary market is male oriented, but fast-forward to the post-modern feminist era where girls and women are encouraged to be tough and push the boundaries of gender identity and it would seem that some equal opportunity in the imagery of women warriors might be in order. It will be an exciting development when we start seeing female superheros who more closely match reality in today's climate where women are successful in all manner of combative experiences from sports to careers.
And so the trend continues. There is nothing wrong with the free-market pursuit of what sells, and obviously sexualized versions of female warriors have been popular for centuries. But, as we make progress as a culture that accepts women as strong and equal players, even on the battlefield, it will hopefully sweep aside the vision of warriors in high heels and bustiers.
One day, I hope we see a world where a superhero's ability is not measured by the height of her heels and the strength of her pus-up bra. I think Wonder Woman deserves better.