Continuing in my runup to The Avengers (seeing it tonight, super pumped) geekout, I'd like to take a second and think about the rash of indignities frequently foisted upon female superheroes by artists and costume designers alike. I'm talking, of course, about the female supersuit.
Now, it's a pretty obvious argument to say that they're sexist. They're skintight, usually made of latex or leather, or another fetish material, and show way more skin than their male counterparts' suits do. But that's not actually my issue with the suits today. (Today being the operative word in that sentence).
No, I want to talk about the fact that the damn things are freaking useless for the purpose that they are supposed to serve: helping the superheroes to fight crime.
1. They lack support.
|The defense rests. I'd make a breast pun, but I don't think I need bother.|
For whatever reason (and I think we can all guess exactly why), female superheroes are usually drawn and cast to have ample bosoms, usually so that they can heave when in danger and when running in chase of bad guys.
Running with two melons strapped to your chest is one thing. It's hard, and it's not particularly pleasant, requiring an impressive sports bra, and some really good yoga for your back afterwards, but it's doable. Running in without any support? Forget about it.
Yet artists insist on drawing female superheroes without a stitch of support. While I understand vaguely that this must be an attempt to appeal to their presumed male audience, I can't help but be pulled out of the scene every time I see a shot of Mystique or Black Canary, or especially Power Girl, sporting a pair of tits that look like they're about to thwack her in the face if she starts a light jog.
2. They use unbreathable or unreliable materials.
|Shiny? Yes. Breathable? No.|
Ever work out in a bodysuit made of latex? No? Well, then you're probably a normal person and not a fetishist, so good job, I suppose, but the point stands that latex is an absolutely terrible material to wear when you're going to be sweating. First, it doesn't breathe, so all of your sweat just pools inside it and makes it all slippery, which is gross. Second, it doesn't breathe, so you're going to get very hot, very quickly. And third, unless there's really obvious and easy to access zipper in there, good luck peeing.
This is all without mentioning the fact that latex isn't actually a very stretchy material. It's not great when you need to hit a villain who's above your head, and your arms can barely stretch that far. Plus, you'll make a terrible squeaky noise while doing it.
And think rubber or leather is any better? Nope. Rubber's pretty much exactly the same, with the added bonus of being an insulator, so have fun with that! And leather will just smell. Again, gross.
Spandex raises an interesting point, as it is breathable, easy to take off, and you can move in it, but it also has its own issues. One, it snags on absolutely everything, creating little holes and runs in your costume. Two, it provides no protection whatsoever from anything, and three, it looks good on absolutely no one.
3. Running in heels would break your everything.
|Fig. 3: Woman with broken everything.|
I don't feel much need to explain this one, but there seems to be a persistent myth that women can not only run in heels, but actually run just as well as they can in a supportive running shoe.
No, while heels do make your legs look slimmer, and do wonderful things to your posture, they are positively terrible for quick motion. Even when you adjust for superheroic balance and an insane ability to keep away from a turned ankle, it simply isn't possible to gain as much momentum in a heel as it is in a regular shoe. You don't have as much traction with the ground to push off.
But mostly you'd just fall and die.
4. The chafing.
|Please note that of these women, two are wearing pants. Two.|
Again, it seems self-explanatory, but artists insist on drawing female heroes without pants, sometimes substituting them with fishnets, or something else "feminine" and "sexy". True, it's rare to see a superheroine whose thighs contain enough muscle to actually touch, but even without that guarantee of chafing, consider the amount of running, jumping, and acrobatics they do.
Now consider doing all that in what basically amounts to a swimsuit made of very unpleasant material, digging into your crotch. Probably while wearing fishnets and heels.
(Quite frankly, I don't think people give pants enough credit. Not only to pants keep you from chafing when running, walking, or just hanging out, they also keep your legs warm, protect you from scrapes and bruises, and keep you from flashing people when getting in and out of the car. Pants. They rule.)
I don't think I have to explain this one, I just need to point out that without pants, there is literally nothing to these costumes to keep them from riding up. And once it's up there, it's staying up there.
6. No storage space.
Where are you going to put a gun? Honestly. I'm dying to know.
7. Bonus possible upside: Distracting your enemies.
|Were you surprised? I was very surprised.|
Distraction is powerful tool in a fight, because it enables you to strike while the enemy is incapacitated. But if this is the goal, and the whole point of the indignities listed above, then I have a few issues with that. Namely, there are much easier and less painful ways to distract your opponents, and ones that require a lot less potential death on your part.
But if distraction is the goal, then why not make it equal opportunity? Captain America is a fine looking man. Why not cut his costume to show more of his abs so that his enemies are more dazzled by his handsomeness?
I'm just saying.
The real problem with the distraction argument is that it feeds into the trope of women as evil seductresses, using their feminine wiles to destroy men. And frankly, that's a trope that needs to die. (Watch Feminist Frequency's awesome video on this trope here for more on the topic.)
When it comes down to it, the best outfit for fighting crime is basically what people already wear to fight crime--your basic military uniform. You've got supportive undergarments, clothes that both breathe, and protect you from snagging on things, boots, for running and jumping on rocky terrain, and full range of motion.
And, if you need it, body armor. Because, seriously, body armor.
|I dream of the day I look this cool doing anything. Though, she does look a bit like she has a wedgie.|
(As a side note, from all of the pictures I've seen from Avengers, Black Widow's costume actually doesn't look terrible. It appears to be made of some kind of breathable kevlar, which is a good idea, and while fully fitted, it looks like she can still breathe and pee in it. She gets a utility belt, which is good, and it appears that the male and female SHIELD agents have pretty much the same uniform. Which is good. Also, she's wearing pants, which, as I've said before, is always a plus.)