When we said we wanted more Black Widow merch... perhaps we should have been more clear.
Sure, some of the details on this figure are REALLY cool. She's got pistols, little pieces that can be added to her gauntlets to simulate firing a weapon, and yeah, the hair is a nice touch. And yet, there's no way to put this kindly...
Her boobs look like actual melons.
Or like small soccer balls attached to her chest. Or maybe water balloons is the closest approximation. Either way, it suggests that the people who made this action figure have not seen the movies, which feature real women with real boobs. It's entirely possible they have not ever used Google with Safe Search turned off. Someone's gotta tell them.
The figure is from Play Arts Kai, and in their defense, they've done worse:
"There's the hair, flowing out below Catwoman's helmet (which oddly enough looks more Batman-y than the design he actually used for Batman). There's the impractically gigantic claws on her hands. The absurd combination of heavy armour everywhere except where it would actually protect her, which is where, of course, she's basically naked instead. This is battle panties to the max."
So with that in mind, this Black Widow figure is actually pretty restrained. Water balloons aside.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good sexy action figure.
I'm a huge fan of anatomical realism too, but that's more a matter of taste (just because I'm not interested in a lady who's willing to snap her spine just so her boobs and butt can be on the same side of her body doesn't mean someone else might enjoy that kind of thing). But where's the sexy Iron Man? Sexy Captain America? Sexy Thor?
Showing more skin than Black Widow and yet he's LESS ATTRACTIVE somehow.
Human sexuality is really, REALLY complicated.
And in a lot of ways, the things that we determine to be "sexy" are very socially constructed. In our culture, thinner bodies are generally considered more attractive, but that hasn't always been the case. Rewind the clock a couple hundred years, and women were expected to have a couple hundred more pounds than they do today in order to be considered good-looking. And these inconsistent standards aren't just for women: Once upon a time the most attractive part of a man was considered to be the ankle and lower leg.
Okay, maybe not the *most* attractive part. Then again...
Hello there calves....
So what's the deal?
The deal is that female fans are a significant portion of the fandom (and women are in fact half the planet) yet they're treated as less important. Like, is the money that women spend on merch somehow less valuable? I'm not saying that we should go around sexually exploiting men to somehow even things out. I'm saying that people don't LIKE being treated like they ONLY exist to be sexy. And I'm pointing out that this is something that disproportionately targets women and female characters.
Because female characters aren't treated the same.
It's bad enough that there are so few female characters to begin with. For the ones that are there, everything about the way they're written and marketed suggests that they only exist for the enjoyment of the male audience. It's been said before, but I'm saying it again: Marvel has got a bad case of the Smurfette Principle. This is a term from 1991, and it's sad that it's still totally applicable today:
"Contemporary shows are either essentially all-male, like "Garfield," or are organized on what I call the Smurfette principle: a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined... The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys."
This is incredibly frustrating. And tiring. And frankly, it's getting really boring. It would be great if the solution to the problem was 'just don't watch shows like that' but almost EVERY show is like that. Every movie. Every book. Should women really be locked out of our entire culture? Because that's what it will take if we want to avoid this kind of marginalization in the media. It's not enough to get one Mad Max: Fury Road a year. What would it actually cost to have equal and accurate representation across the board?
Women don't want special treatment. We want to be seen as human.
Long story short, this isn't just about the boobs.
It's about being bombarded with toxic messages about femininity every day. It's about being disrespected by our own communities. It's about equality.