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From the inception of the funny pages until today, sexism in comics has been rampant. While things are better for female characters than they’ve ever been, that makes the comic book sexism that’s still happening even more egregious. Even though the female superheroes that grace the pages of our favorite books are just as powerful and nuanced as their male counterparts, they’re still hyper-sexualized in a way that Batman, Robin, and other male heroes never will be (unless we’re talking about slash fiction, and if that’s the case then all bets are off). Prepare to have your feathers ruffled, these are the most sexist moments in comics.

The marginalization of women in comic book takes on a plethora of forms. From the obsession with spanking women in the Silver Age to fridging them in the ’90s to the ongoing struggle give female characters sensible costumes, sexist comic books have never truly gone away. It seems that every decade, the culture realigns its sense of morality and sexism shifts with it. For instance, the sexist comics in the Silver Age suggested that while women could be heroes, they couldn’t be as heroic as men. Which is why you’ll find characters like Wonder Woman and Batgirl bumbling through a sticky situations only to be saved by their more heroic male counterparts.

Sexism in the comic industry isn’t going to go away over night, but by pointing out some of the most sexist elements from the last 80 years, we can start trying to make sexism a thing of the past. Vote up the most outrageously sexist moments in comics, the ones you can barely believe happened. And if you have some thoughts on this polarizing issue, leave them in the comments.

The Women Of ‘Sin City’

Photo:  Sin City/Dark Horse Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

In Frank Miller’s Sin City, most of the female characters are pros. If they’re not ladies of the evening, then they can be one of two other things – lesbian cops or strippers. That’s it. The only real exception is a fetishized and totally silent ninja death machine.

Based on this, it may seem that Frank Miller only sees a woman’s worth in who’s sleeping with her or who wants to sleep with her. 

Orion Slaps Wonder Woman On The Bum

Photo:  DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

In Wonder Woman #17, new god Orion smacked the Amazon Queen on the hinder because he thinks she’s cute or something. Being a strong, proud woman who defends the honor of all people, Wonder Woman goes off on Orion about how degrading it is to be spanked by anyone, especially a male co-worker does nothing.

Power Girl’s Busty Window

Photo:  Power Girl/DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

A superhero has a right to dress however she likes, and she certainly doesn’t need to cover any part of herself to cater to anybody’s prudishness. That said, doesn’t Power Girl’s outfit look at little… impractical? Kara Zor-L is a powerful female character, yet she’s best known for her bust and the ridiculous costume that goes out of its way to showcase said bust.

That she’s Superman’s cousin only underlines the objectification, since you don’t see the Big Blue Boy Scout flying around in a thong. And the in-story explanation – that she always meant to have a Supes-style symbol but never came up with one – makes her seem like an ineffectual airhead.

Wonder Woman Is A Weakling

Photo:  DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

According to Superman, if a man can’t do something, there’s no way in heck that a female (even if she is a super-powered Amazonian) can do it. Even if this comic exists in the context of a time when women weren’t perceived as equals to men, it implicitly asks the question:

“Why even have a female superhero is she’s just another damsel primed for distress?”

Superman Spanks Lois Lane

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

Just so it’s clear what’s happening: in Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #14, Lois Lane accidentally ended up in the Fortress of Solitude so Superman is using telepathy to make one of his narcissistic identical super-bots to give the woman a spanking.

During the Golden Age, spanking ran rampant in comics. In this case, it seems that Superman is allowed to get his spank on because the woman accidentally broke into his house, and technically he’s not spanking her – his robot is. Another plot point of this comic has Superman using his X-ray vision to read Lois’s diary, just in case you weren’t sure whether or not Superman respects personal boundaries.

Catwoman In ‘Batman: Year One’

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

Once again, Frank Miller proves his take on women by changing Selina Kyle from the best cat burglar in Gotham to a dominatrix/prostitute.

Emma Frost’s Outfit

Photo: Marvel Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

Since the ’80s, powerful mutant telepath Emma Frost has been fighting against and alongside the X-Men in a pair of white silk panties and a matching bustier. While it may look great, there’s no way that outfit is battle ready.

Batgirl With A Run in Her Tights

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

By 1967, Barbara Gordon was able to help Batman and Robin fight bad guys, but she wasn’t very good at it. Or at least the writers of Batman weren’t ready to allow her to be a crime fighter equal to the Dynamic Duo.

This cover from Detective Comics #371 goes so far as to say that Batgirl cares more about her outfit than helping the bat boys out of a dangerous situation.

Milo Manara’s ‘Spider-Woman’ Cover

Photo: Marvel Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

Milo Manara is known for his erotic comic book art, so Marvel should have seen it coming when they hired him to illustrate the cover of Spider-Woman #1The art shows Jessica Drew in a costume that’s ludicrously skintight even by comic book standards.

She’s also presenting like an animal on the cover as if to say: “Hello boys. Don’t worry about a female superhero replacing your more popular male superheroes, I’m just a sexual object.”

Wonder Woman Was The JLA’s Secretary

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

When Wonder Woman tried to join the Justice League of America back in the Golden Age of Comics, the super boy’s club refused her membership and only offered her a job as their secretary. Instead of handily tying them up with her lasso and saving the day on her own, Diana accepted the position and started filing super-paperwork.

Wonder Woman’s Feminine Vanity

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

In Wonder Woman #2, fans learned that the muscles in Diana’s face are easily strong enough to remove the tape a captor has stuck over her eyes and mouth, yet she leaves her eyes taped up. Why? Because her vanity, specifically her “feminine vanity,” won’t allow her to remove her eyelashes.

Batman And Black Canary Have Relations Within 5 Minutes Of Meeting Each Other

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

In Frank Miller’s laughable All-Star Batman and Robin #7, Batman and Black Canary have intimate relations on a burning dock right after they meet for the first time. We’ve heard of moving fast, but that may be a bit ridiculous, even for comic standards.

Ben Grimm Wants To Spank Sue Storm

Photo: Marvel Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

What is even happening here? Why is The Thing obsessed with spanking Sue Storm? Why is Mr. Fantastic okay with it? Where is the HR department in the Baxter building? To be fair to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Ben Grimm spanked a lot of people in the ’60s. Still, though…

‘Archie’ Proves That Twin Sisters Are The Same Person

Photo: Archie Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

There’s always been a certain casual yet overt bias in Riverdale. It’s tempting to say that no one reads Archie Comics so the blatant offenses on display here don’t matter, but the long-running series has a history of treating female characters like easily interchangeable pieces of a machine.

Alpha Sets Her Clocks Early Because You Know She’s Always Late

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

What were comic book writers trying to tell the young men that read their publications during the Golden Age? If it was “Women are awful harpies who can’t show up on time, even when the fate of the world hangs in the balance,” then this Batman panel is on point.

Black Widow Doesn’t Get An Action Figure

Photo: SHERARDREX/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

When Avengers: Age of Ultron hit theaters in 2015, fans were a little confused about why Black Widow would be treated as essentially a den mother to the Avengers. There was some back and forth between journalists/bloggers and Joss Whedon about his intentions, but all that wasn’t anywhere near as sexist as this tie-in playset.

The playset came with a Captain America action figure, despite the fact that the set replicated a stunt actually performed by Black Widow in the film.

Batgirl Does ‘As Any Girl Will’

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

Why was it necessary for the writer of this Batgirl comic to insist that only women would straighten out their super masks if they became knocked off keel? Don’t you think Robin would adjust his mask if it got all wobbly? Or do men’s masks not ever get knocked loose?

Harley Quinn’s Suicide Fan Art Contest

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

Harley Quinn has been a hot button character since her introduction in the early ’90s, and depending on who’s writing for her, she’s either a strong feminist character or dum-dum whose only purpose is the sexual titillation of male readers.

In 2013, DC opened a contest that allowed readers to draw an illustration of the fan-favorite character naked in a bathtub preparing to end her life. Not only did this contest disqualify artists who would rather not add to the echo chamber of an already over-sexualized character, but the contest was announced three days before National Suicide Prevention Week. Yikes.

Ant-Man, Wasp, And Domestic Violence

Photo: Marvel Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

In Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, the Wasp and Ant-Man are some of the most cringe-worthy characters in modern comics. In the first year, the Wasp manages to anger her jealous husband so much that he beats her, forcing her to shrink to escape him.

However, he proceeds to spray her with Raid. Then he uses his telepathic helmet to order (relatively) gigantic ants to attack her.

Debbie Harris Is Terminated After An Intimate Encounter

Photo: Marvel Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

In Savage Dragon, Debbie Harris is kicked out of her home by her mother, so she goes to stay with Savage Dragon (natch) and they end up having relations (obvi). Because Savage Dragon essentially exists in the Friday the 13th universe where any woman expressing sexual agency must be punished, Debbie is promptly shot in the head by her ex-boyfriend.

Her-Oes

Photo: Marvel Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

In a confusing grab for female readers, Marvel launched a 2010 fem-centric comic series called, appropriately enough, Girl Comics, which was an anthology of “comics by girls for girls.” Then they announced Her-Oes featuring younger versions of some of the women of Marvel.

You know, because women and girls can’t read comics if it’s not based around cute YA versions of actual heroes.

That Time The Green Lantern’s Girlfriend Was Fridged

Photo: DC Comics/Amazon/Fair Use

Alexandra DeWitt may not have been the first woman to be used simply as a plot device, but she’s definitely the most famous. For those not in the know: Green Lantern had been in a funk for some time and in order to give the floundering story a bit of depth, writer Ron Marz had Major Force terminate Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend and shove her body in a refrigerator.

The act propelled Rayner to go ham on the entire universe and cemented, to some audiences, that many comic book writers of the ’90s barely saw women as anything other than plot contrivances.

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