Introducing The Hawkeye Initiative

Hawkeye, but not

Comics’ depictions of women – particularly superheroines – is something of a thorny issue. For a lot of people, both male and female, the hypersexualisation of female characters is off-putting at the very least. Those who want to investigate this angle further can read this fine essay at Comics Alliance or this one at Comic Book Resources.

There are some, however, who argue that both genders are treated fairly: the depictions of superheroes aren’t exactly realistic portrayals of men and their bulging muscles are equally hypersexualising. That, in fact, superheroes and superheroines are treated equally (badly).

To disprove this theory, a little project has been gathering steam this week. The Hawkeye Initiative (NSFW, which should tell you something) has a simple premise: take a given picture of a superheroine and put Hawkeye (the character played by Jeremy Renner in The Avengers) in the exact same pose and the exact same costume. If he doesn’t look like a tool and you can argue that what he’s wearing is actually a really good outfit for fighting (or doing anything) in, then that pose isn’t hypersexualising. And women from all over the Internet have been sending in their ‘compare and contrast’ drawings.

Compare and contrast

My favourite, though, is this one:

Batman fantasy

  • Yes � and I say this as a fan � the superhero genre is largely founded on a mixture of power fantasy and adolescent (heterosexual male) sexualitiy.* So, we shouldn't be surprised that the men are drawn as macho gym rats, poised ready for action, and the women are slim-yet-curvy, resembling any number of interchangeable models or porn stars, and posed to emphase these qualities. (There are exceptions to this, mostly due to character conventions or individual artists, but it is the rule.)

    I'm not sure that something like The Hawkeye Initiative will do much to change the minds of those who've already made theirs up. Ok, it does grab the intention, but for much of the time we're effectively saying, “Hawkeye looks gay, LOL”, undermining the power of the point trying to be made.

    In my world, Black Widow would look more like a female MMA than Scarlett Johansson (an excellent actress, but not really formidable in appearance) but I've learnt to accept the status quo. After all, I can't draw that well, so I have to rely on the work of others to get my Avengers fix.

    * Relevant quote on this from Jerry Siegel in a 1983 NEMO interview:

    “Clark Kent grew not only out of my private life, but also out of Joe's. As a high school student, I though that some day I might become a reporter, and I had crushes on several girls who either didn't know I existed or didn't care I existed … It occurred to me: What if I … had something special going for me, like jumping over buildings or throwing cars around or something like that?”

  • I'd have preferred 'Hawkeye in a refrigerator'.

  • Excellent points. Not sure that Black Widow should look MMA-ish, though, given she's supposed to be a spy so able to blend in or at least not alert people to the danger she poses: she's more gymnastic and balletic than crush, destroy. Having said that, Gina Carano looks fine in a cocktail dress.

    The Hawkeye Initiative I think works best when it shows how silly costumes are and when it points out that some positions are anatomically impossible for anyone to achieve.