Recently there has been a plethora of columns/blog posts regarding women in comics and the apparent hyper-sexualization and objectification of female characters within the medium. (A couple of outstanding columns here and here.) The argument that comic objectify women comic characters has been pretty thoroughly discussed and with the case of the Kelly Thompson article on comicbookresources.com (the first link above), laid out in very clear terms focusing on body type, clothing, beauty, and posing. What Thompson and other commentators point out is that there is an obvious discrepancy between how mainstream comics represent their female characters verses their male counterparts.
Take for example the X-Men photo below. There is the obvious use of ridiculous spandex on most of the characters, but intentional lack of spandex when it comes Psylocke’s derriere or the swimsuit styling of Storm. Thompson, in her article, points out that many female characters are often posed in the ‘brokeback’ position, a practically impossible position that exposes both the butt and the breasts of a character, here we see Psylocke in a perfect example of this.
My point here is not to make yet another column about the objectification of women in comics, but rather point out how the positing of women in comic and hip-hop is similar. Hip-Hop, probably just as much as comics, seems to be constantly attached by commentators for sexist lyrics, scantily clad women in music videos, or female performers wearing unwholesome outfits. Though slightly different mediums, both Hip-Hop and comics conceive women in the same image. For example see below.
It is impossible to not to see the similarities between Beyonce’s outfit with Jay-Z and Wonder Woman’s with Superman. They are both cut in the same leotard way that accentuates their bodies. Rather than focusing on their talents, Beyonce’s ridiculously awesome voice or Wonder Woman’s superhuman strength, it is their bodies that are the focus. (So much so that both Jay-Z an Superman seem to be gazing at them.) In comparison is Jay-Z and Superman whom are clothed from head to toe, giving space for their respective talents to be noticed instead of their bodies.
I do not think comics and their creators, or hip-hop and their artists are to blame. Rather the problem of objectification of our popular female cultural icons is an issue of how we objectify women in western society, particularly how culture demands and expects women characters or performers in novels/comics/movies/or television to first be objects of desire and then talented. It is a system and expectation that makes money; obviously there are notable exceptions to the rule, however, this view of women in popular culture straight up sells to both men and women.