As sometimes happens, I bumped up against a collection of articles a while back that all seemed to share a theme: the depiction of women in fantasy and sci-fi.
Once upon a time there was a cartoon. Some say it hailed from Dragon magazine. A female warrior in a chainmail bikini is drinking and yarning in a tavern with fellow adventurers. Several arrows poke jauntily from her left boob. The caption reads something like, “Fortunately, I was wearing my armour.” (Sadly I can not find the cartoon online).
Ah, the ubiquitous CMB. Where would fantasy artists be without it and other metal swimsuit variants? Not sure what I’m on about? Just type “female armour” (or “female armor”) into google, click on “Images”, and see how many of those outfits you fancy donning to dash headlong into a melee of scything blades, bludgeoning maces and raining arrows.
Oh, come on you big spoilsport, this is fantasy!
Yes, yes it is. But women read fantasy too. And our kick-arse heroines who live by their wits and the sword and who don’t have the benefit of magical protection aren’t stupid enough to run around in two saucepan lids and a brillo pad. So, can there be some kind of balance between aesthetics and practicality? This article by an armourer discusses that very thing.
Then there’s female superheroes. The depiction of them in comics has led to them being called brokeback girls or Escher girls, as their spines are twisted unfeasibly to prominently display their boobs and bum at the same time. Kevin Bolk tackles this -er- head on. Here’s the original poster for The Avengers:
And here’s the poster re-drawn by Mr. Bolk, with all the male Avengers re-drawn posing like Black Widow:
And I haven’t even mentioned the unfeasible proportions used in most cartoons. Apparently, this is required for superheroines.
But this is all fantasy, right?
Well, we all know that all the ads are photoshopped, but you might be surprised how much. Here, Dove shows us in 60 seconds how far the image is from the original:
I’m hoping the Olympics will have given girls and women a more diverse and accurate idea of what fit, healthy, strong and attractive looks like. But I won’t be holding my breath, even it does make my boobs stick out.