How Gender is Represented in Comics

Gender stereotyping is a subject of world wide controversy with many sides putting out different arguments for and against.

Today’s argument:

In comic books there are normally only two of the four sexes are represented (male and female.) The stereotyping of these is that men have big muscles square jaws with large necks. Male superheros tend to have skin clad full body suits to show the anatomy more. men are typically presented as having a hard nature whilst being heroic.  Women are shown as curvaceous with emphasis around the bust and waist. They tend to have soft and finer features with large eyes. Women tend to be wearing skimpy outfits again showing of the unnatural anatomy. This much is not argued.

Marxist view:

It suits the capitalist movement as it creates division of labor. the warm bath theory says that this division benefits business leaders as there workers (men) are less likely to revolt against poor standards if they are going home to a family (women) who have run them a ‘warm bath’. Having women as nurturers and men as workers provides a socialized workforce and social control.


Gender stereotyping provides a sense of purpose in society and so the division of labor it causes is good for society.

Feminist (not extreme feminist):

Gender stereotyping reinforces a division of labor which suits patriarchal society.


Here are some examples of gender stereotyping

Gender equality between male and female has not been right since later ancient Egypt which to this day remains the most equalized human society in history. (despite the myths Egypt was not built on the backs of slaves. the workforce was both men and women who were equally well paid and not treat differently to each other the same applied to home life.)

In this book Ken brown talks in great detail about the cause and effects of gender stereotyping –


Primary Research:

I have acquired 5 graphic novels and 5 kids comics to do a bit of my own research.

Thunder birds:

Suspected target audience: boys under 12.

52/136 characters are female.

No skimpy outfits nor exaggerated muscles or curves.

Characters are all shown at the same sort of angles (no bias proxemics)

Both genders work together and perform the same style tasks with the same importance.

Over all this comic was very good in terms of not stereotyping genders. it showed both genders fairly and evenly and despite its Suspected target audience of boys I believe it is would equally suit girls as a target audience and the only reason it isn’t for both is due to pre-gender stereotyping meaning girls are lead to think that action adventure stories or the color blue aren’t for them and so the company would waste its time marketing towards them in current climate.


Suspected target audience: children under 12.

95/323 characters are female.

Characters of both genders are exaggerated but not to sexualise them (more for knee shape and facial feature size.)

the Beano is fairly good in terms of equality but it still portrays stereotypes such as boys being trouble makers and dirt lovers while girls are image conscious and talk about people behind there backs.


Disney Princess:

8/87 male characters.

Suspected target audience: girls under 12.

All girls are stereotype pretty i.e long hair big eyes thin and unnaturally curvaceous.

There is a focus on being nice and nurturing.

There is a focus on liking flowers and baking.

Men are either background or an authority.

Men objectified as muscular triangles.

This magazine in terms of stereotyping was atrocious as it encouraged shallow behavior and unrealistic ideals. The story line itself was fine in terms of stereotypes but it was buried by the stereotypes shown throughout (tut tut Disney)


Go Girl:

36/111 characters male.

Suspected target audience: girls under 12.

All pictures were famous people and models

Focus on being cute (pugs and kittens)

Focus on celebrity’s, accessory’s, friendship and clothes.

Females: pretty, fun, cute, long hair, slim.

Males: cool, hansom, slim, famous.

again this magazine was very shallow and focused on looking good and acting cute. (It endorses this as a tool of manipulation subtly)


Comic Heros

42/99 characters female.

Suspected target audience: boys under 12.

There were very few cases of objectification mostly were men were extremely muscular and there was one case where a women was in a fairly skimpy outfit.

Both genders were portrayed as brave.

again this comic was very balanced in terms of that anyone could have read and enjoyed it and that the only reason for its gendered marketing it pre-gender stereotyping.


In my research of comics I have seen that gender stereotyping is still common but not all comics do so or are bad. In my small sample the boys magazines have made the most progress in leaving behind gender stereotypes whilst the girls magazines are in desperate need of sorting out however this is a very small sample and so probably isn’t reflective of the wider range. A question that arises however is: is it down to the comic artist to make these changes or is it up to family to say no to the kid having that magazine because after all you don’t have to by it people should be educated to be aware of gender stereotyping and then aloud to make there own decisions with diminished influence or indoctrination. As a film maker i do believe it is up to me to avoid stereotypes so as I don’t influence my audience with them but i hold onto that my story is my story and I will not token parts for the sake of making it look more equal  there isn’t anything wrong with a stereotyped story as long as it is not the only story. Overall it isn’t just down to the comic book artist to make changes  the audience has to create the demand because they shouldn’t be made too surrender there market if it is a desired market it just has to be balanced or a reflection of society.

Gender equality speech:

I believe that all genders should be represented as equals and that characters looks should not be everything about them whether muscle or curvature. I believe the artist has the right to draw the characters however they imagine them as it is just a bit of ink depicting a body and then the audience can decide wether to purchase it or not. The sexy lamp effect tells you wether a character is there for a good reason or just for sexualization and if the story flows just as well with a lamp in place of the character then they are only there for sexualization and so the character needs redrafting till they cannot be removed or replaced. –

About kitjaytaylor

Film student
This entry was posted in Year 2 Films. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How Gender is Represented in Comics

  1. Dom Bush says:

    This is a great post Kit, I love that you have brought in some Marxist theories.
    It’s great to see you considering this carefully from different angles and the research is fantastic, it really adds different dimensions. Well done


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