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The Hawkeye Initiative: A commentary on the Hyper-sexualization of female superheroes.


Hyper-sexualization of female superheroes is old news at this point. Whether it's in comic books, TV shows, films, or even video games, it has always been about skin tight latex costumes, minimal armour, nudity, accentuated hairstyles and the list goes on. I remember my younger self's main concern while watching a female superhero fight sequence in a film being "but what if her top came off? What if someone just grabs a handful of her hair? She's done for...".


It's not just about the hair and costumes either, it's the poses as well. There is an alarming obsession with "Strong Female Character" poses in superhero comics, that make absolutely no sense once you start paying attention to them. The superheroes are always posed in some compromising position that accentuates their body parts. It's even more confusing when female superheroes are drawn in such poses while in the middle of a fight sequence. Clearly the heroine’s main concern isn't defense, rather it's making sure that her curves look best at every angle and in any position. What's interesting to note here is that male superheroes are never presented in such "strong poses" and this is the concept from which "The Hawkeye Initiative" eventually arose.


"The Hawkeye Initiative" is a Tumblr page that provides a satirical commentary on such strong female poses. The description of the page quite literally reads "How to fix every strong female character pose in superhero comics: replace the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing."



This initiative started back in 2012, and it originally had art comparing Hawkeye to Black Widow and portraying him in the same poses she was presented in, with the intent to highlight the grotesquely unrealistic and sexualized drawing of female characters. However, the art eventually went beyond Hawkeye and expanded to all other male superheroes.



The art hilariously portrays how if the same "power poses" that accentuate body parts are applied to male superheroes, they merely look ridiculous and make no sense whatsoever.



Especially considering how these weird poses are always depicted as fighting stances to appease to some sort of a sexual fantasy, the page offers a hysterical reality check.




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3 Comments


Khubaib Riasat
Khubaib Riasat
Dec 12, 2021

An exciting read and a great write-up. While it is true that these female characters are hyper-sexualized, it's awkward to see the male characters swapped with female poses, which makes us question why women superheroes are added in the first place. Hyper-sexualization is, however, an ancient practice that has convinced the majority to perceive it as "normal." These female costumes clearly can't endure the superhero fights, which again reinforces that their tight latex costumes are merely for the "male gaze." I'm surprised I was not aware of the Hawkeye Initiative until now. Hyper-sexualization does plague games, movies, and many forms of media.

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Loved reading this. I had no idea about the "Hawkeye Initiative," and apart from being quite entertaining, it's pretty refreshing to see this subversion of these power poses through Hawkeye, as I think otherwise, the often sexual stances taken up by female characters usually appear normal to the average viewer and is something that we've increasingly normalized (partially) due to the perception that comic artists have, which is that they're catering to a predominantly hetero, male audience.

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This was a really fun and interesting read. I've been reading comics since I was in the womb and I have had my fair share of crushes on female superheroes. Its 100% true that they are hypersexualised, and there's a lot of focus on their sexual prowess rather than characters. I think some characters that rejected this were Storm and Mystique from X-Men, Black Widow, Bat-Girl, etc. They were drawn the same way but had less sexualised outfits compared to some other characters, especially in DC Comics.

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