Well i've seen a lot of posts made about this very topic. Here's an example:
So I thought i'd throw in my two cents on the matter.
So here goes:
The one that seems to crop up a lot is:
- "All the women look like supermodels"
True they do I won't try to defend this but this is also the case with male characters. Take a look at characters like Captain America, Gambit, Nightwing and many many others. All of these are on model level of fitness/physique in realistic terms. The point in comic heros is they are supposed to represent the best of us not just mentally but physically as well and the stereotypical view of this is the kind of things you see in comics (supermodel style men and women). Whether this is right or not is not what i'm arguing about i'm just pointing out that women are not the only ones to fall prey this trend. Its just a woman's physique is more pronounced thus a lot more visible and obvious. This tread does happen to both sexes and is not unique to just female characters. The most notable male comparison to this that has happened recently was in Scarlet Spider #1. Everyone's favorite Spider-man clone went swinging round Houston topless for 4 whole pages. I'm not arguing that this sort of thing isn't more common in female characters but i'm just trying to point out it is not unique to them.
Another example of the whole model physique in men is Captain America. He went to the army as a normal guy and they turned him down because he wasn't fit enough so what happened next? He took an experimental procedure to make him uber-fit and give him model style looks in the process. Then it was fine for him to be in the army. What kind of message does that send? Steve obviously wasn't stupid but because he wasn't physically imposing they basically said no and yet we all know that in the real world you don't have to be supermodel level of physique to get into the army you just need to be disciplined, intelligent and reasonably fit but not peak human sort of level.
So yes while women are a victim of this supermodel look so are men this is not unique to women and is seen in both male and female characters and yet in men this is complained about FAR less.
- "Female superheroes wear revealing clothing"
This is a point I will completely agree with. Female costumes are often very revealing (especially street level characters for some reason). The biggest culprits are classic Witchblade (that was so revealing it was hilarious), Red Sonja (Witchblade levels of hilarity), Lady Death (lol that's all i'll say) and few others. The ones I just mentioned are blatantly obvious and quite obviously sexist and I have no problem saying that something should be done to make them more practical and less sexual. However I have seen people complain about women in spandex which I will address.
I do not see the need to pull up women in spandex as revealing. Again quite a few male characters wear spandex. Nightwing, Spider-man and Batman for example. It is essentially meant to be a second skin and for some characters like Spider-man who thrive on agility this is essential for him to move around. The same goes for Nightwing. This is the case for a lot of women characters as well and yet it seems to be instantly seen as revealing because it's skin tight. Why can't it be seen for the practical use for which it has been chosen? We don't get all iffy when we seen Nightwing's or Batman's abs through their costume and yet we seem to when we see anything with female characters. That to me tells me that we the readers are putting to much work into objectifying the person in question than the actual portrayal itself. The phrase never judge a book by its cover never rang so true (however this doesn't excuse Witchblade or any of the blatantly sexist ones).
Why this happens:
Now this is just my opinion. Comics are only based on realism to a certain extent. The point in your stereotypical comic heroes is that they are supposed to represent the best of us. There in lies the problem as the comicbook world is dominated by men. You ask me to name 5 female artists or 5 female writers i'll have a lot of trouble. I can name a few such as Kelly Sue Deconnick (she would write an awesome Spider-man imo! As soon as Slott's run is over I want her as the ongoing writer) or Sara Pichelli (who is a fricking awesome artist) but for every 1 female member of the comic industry I can name about 4 male ones (i'm only talking about Marvel here as my knowledge on DC talent is very bad) and due to the number difference it means that men are more likely to get the bigger mainstream titles such as The Avengers etc... Its not that they are better its just law of averages.
I'm not going to sugar coat it men are men and we unfortunately are creatures that are biologically programed to look for certain things so what we see as best is likely very different from a woman's perspective so whats happening is that process is being placed into the comic art industry. Artists have the opportunity to create a character that is supposed to look how they envision he or she should look and 99% of the time with male ones that is always going to be some sort of drop-dead gorgeous model because that is how they have built them up.
If we put a woman in the same position there is no kind of sexual agenda thus they are more likely to build something realistic based on how they think there character should act and look. I'm not trying to defend what the male artists do sometimes i'm just trying to point out how and why it happens. Maybe if you put an all female creative team on a male character the same thing would happen except the other way around? I can't say because I honestly can't think of an all female creative on a male character which speaks volumes for itself really.
The main problem is simply that there isn't enough women in the comic industry thus its like having a double headed coin. There simply isn't enough variety. Women think about things differently to men and see things differently to what we do (much to our dismay most of the time :p) but that is the sort of thing that is essential in an industry that thrives on both male and female characters. Sometimes you need that female input as it gives the characters more depth.
Honestly in my opinion the main problem female characters have to deal with is not how they look or what they wear but how they presented as characters. In real life women are less physically imposing than men. However this isn't real life this is a place where a giant runs around eating planets for "tuh lolz" and yet we still find that women are in general treated as physically inferior. A prime example is that at one point Spider-man was actually denied a female villain because they didn't think she would be threatening enough. That there speaks volumes. How many villains can you think of that are women who have actually gone into a slug-fest with a male hero opponent? I can hardly think of any. With the women as the hero and the man as the villain yes that happens quite a bit. With two women one villain and one hero yes that also happens a lot but the woman as the villain and the man as the hero? Nope that hardly ever happens. Women seem to be given powers that allow them to take the battle without having to get down and dirty (i'm generalizing here). Telepathy is a prime example. Telepathy is almost becoming a stereotypical female power.
The reason they don't seem to get into vast physical confrontations with a male opponent when the woman is the villain seems to be the chivalrous concept that men shouldn't hit women (which I agree with) however if this women is evil, psychotic and downright disturbing beyond all reason I do not see the problem and yet it hardly happens. Women especially as villains in comics are fighting a battle to be equal with their male counterparts but its not mainly because of how they are dressed or how they look its how they are treated in comparison to men.
Every now and then someone comes out who breaks the mold. JMS for example did what had been denied to Spider-man previously gave us not just my favorite female Villain but my favorite overall villain EVER. Shathra. She was everything you need from a good female villain. No female sexual undertone (like villains such as Poison Ivy have), able to match the male hero in physical ability, smart and deadly. Not only did she outsmart Spider-man but hunted him like a dog, emotionally hurt him and even when Spider-man's morals went of and he hit her with everything he had he couldn't scratch her. Heck he dropped a building on her and Shathra didn't budge:
But the best thing about her was that even though she was a woman she physically went toe on toe with the male hero and throughout all of her battles you never felt that Spider-man shouldn't be hitting her because she's a woman because she was physically tough enough to take anything he could dish out and evil enough that the whole "shouldn't hit a woman" didn't come into play. This to me is one of the few occasions i've seen women treated equally to men even though in this case the woman was the villain. As all you saw was how her character played with Spider-man and nothing else.
To conclude while women do seem to suffer from revealing costumes and stereotypical supermodel physiques this overshadows the true problem. The fact that in physical ability women are still treated as inferior even in a made-up universe. Because people are busy obsessing over how the character looks they forget to look at the deeper problem. Don't get me wrong i'm not saying that the costumes shouldn't be dealt with. What i'm saying is that this is not the main problem. We are instantly judging the character on how she looks and not seeing the rest. There's your problem!