I’m back with another installment of Females in Fanart.
Last week I talked about fan art that reveals the dark side of our fandoms, by depicting abuse for the sake of abuse. This week I’m highlighting fan art that addresses the problems in our fandoms.
Enter The Hawkeye Initiative, (THI), a Tumblr that shows us exactly how ridiculously comic book women are drawn by twisting Hawkeye into the backbreaking, butt-showing, writhing poses we see in many comic books, mangas and videogames.
The site is run by Cait Crutchfield, 29, of Texas. Crutchfield, a volunteer EMT/firefighter and a homeschooling mother of three. She and her contributors put images to the Hawkeye Test, which was proposed by a contributor named Glitchy:
“If your female character can be replaced by Hawkeye in the same pose without looking silly or stupid, then it’s acceptable and probably non sexist. If you can’t, then just forget about it.”
At the Hawkeye Initative, this test is applied by all levels of artists to all kinds of characters in all kinds of poses. There are some offenders that show up regularly; a panel from Catwoman and a panel from Black Canary make several appearances.
Crutchfield was inspired by two other bloggers, who came up with the idea of reversing the poses of Hawkeye and Black Widow on one book’s cover. One of them wrote this:
How to fix every Strong Female Character pose in superhero comics: replace the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing. –Gingerhaze
Read on to find out more about The Hawkeye Initiative, Crutchfield and Strong Women Poses.
Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted over the internet and has been edited for the sake of clarity. Typos have been corrected and answers have been clarified.
A.J.: I’ve been on your site for the last few days and I have seen a LOT of Hawkeye. Parts of Hawkeye I’ve never seen. Parts of Hawkeye I didn’t know Hawkeye had.
Cait: Yeah, the Battle Butt Sparkles were a bit of a surprise to me.
A.J.: I have to ask: are you surprised at the number of contributions you’ve gotten?
Cait: When all of this got started, I expected a few of my friends to enjoy it, pass it around, and that would be it. Currently there’s been somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 submissions– and that doesn’t include the art people haven’t submitted to me.
It’s rather mindboggling just how many people have joined in, and how much they have contributed.
A.J.: When did you start the Tumblr?
Cait: December 2nd
A.J.: I think I read somewhere that you got an insane number of followers in one day.
Cait: I started the blog in the middle of the night– one of those 3am decisions. When I got up just a few hours later, I had 500 followers. 12 hours later, there were 4217. And fifteen days later on December 17th, we hit 30,000.
A.J.: Wow. It sounds like you had your finger on the pulse of the Internet.
Cait: Really, I think it was one of those moments where the planets aligned right. Blue and Noelle (Gingerhaze) had come up with the idea of switching Clint and Natasha — and I just put together a platform where people could centrally share the THI concept. It was the sort of luck you only see in the movies.
A.J.: Were people already drawing and posting pictures of Hawkeye in Strong Female Poses then?
Cait: At that point, not really. I found the post that inspired me just a few hours after Blue posted it. From there I went through and found where her other fans had commented, then found Noelle’s posts, and had reblogged everything I could because I loved the concept so much. When I realized that I was probably spamming my Tumblr dashboard I decided to create a secondary blog where I could reblog this stuff and not overload my follower’s dashboard….. and then boom.
A.J.: Before I go any further, can you explain to people who might not know what a Strong Female Pose is?
Cait: A “Strong Female Pose” is where a woman is posed in such a way that her butt and breasts are both shown, or is in some other way hyper-sexual. Many times they are exaggerated or contorted to the point of physical impossibility.
A.J.: Why do you think people were so hungry for a site featuring Hawkeye in these poses?
Cait: The subject of this poses has been discussed for a long time. The author Jim Hines has had some really good commentary on it– and has photographed himself in some of the poses. Websites like eschergirls.tumblr.com have also done and amazing job of dissecting the anatomical flaws of the poses, often with contributing artists redrawing the comic panels to show the woman in more realistic poses and clothing. But it seems like progress has been slow. While these people and sites have done a lot to start changes in the comic industry and the fan base, I think that maybe there was a need for a new platform, a new hook.
THI brings a different angle to the table because instead of me talking to a friend and saying, “Hey, women almost always being portrayed like this isn’t a good thing”– I can just show them a THI before and after.
There’s not the same struggle to get them to see that new angle, and then be able to discuss it. It’s been amazing how many people who have gotten in touch with me to say how they have never considered the issue before, but how this has helped them to see comic books in a new light. Even my own view has changed in the past few months.
A.J.: Do you look at comic art differently now?
Cait: Unlike many of the people who contribute to THI, I haven’t been a comics fan very long. I grew up reading positively ridiculous amounts of Tolkien and Lewis and Zelazny. Star Wars and all of the ‘80s sword and sorcery movies were a thousand times cooler than Saturday morning cartoons. But none of my friends read comics, so I never had anyone to get me hooked on them.
Bryan Singer’s X-Men came out, and I found myself fascinated by the characters, but too overwhelmed at finding where to get started with the stories. I was in college and newly married when my husband sat me down and put all four issues of DC’s Kingdom Come in my hands and said, “Read this.” Thankfully, there was nothing else I needed to do for the next three hours as I devoured them. To this day Alex Ross’s artwork gives me goosebumps.
New superhero movies kept coming out, each more awesome than the last, but it wasn’t until last spring’s Avengers that I finally caved in and started reading comics. My wallet has been lighter ever since.
THI has made me look at them in a new light. I’m more likely to notice over-exaggerated poses and clothes that would be less that useless in a fight, and I’m more likely to invest in comics that draw women anatomically-possible. Ironically, I’m actually able to enjoy them more now, because I can recognize the Strong Women Pose and then choose to ignore them. Stories are just more interesting when they’re not overshadowed by HH cups and spandex thongs.
I think that’s one of the key things that the comics industry can learn from THI. Beyond the hyper-sexualization of women and all the problems that go with it, companies are potentially losing a whole new fanbase. For people like myself who start with the movies and then move on to reading the comics, it can be a turn-off to find beloved characters who are strong women in films turned into sex kittens. Just as we’re seeing a lot of other changes in our culture concerning equality, I think publishers need to consider this new demographic that are used to seeing superheros as being real people — not just wet dream caricatures
A.J.: Do you think comic companies are getting the message?
I think that’s one heck of a start.
A.J.: I totally agree. I have a couple more questions. The first is this: are most of your contributors male or female or do you know?
Cait: I really don’t know. I try and check out people’s pages and stuff, but unless someone specifies it can be hard to tell.
A.J.: The second is what’s next for the Hawkeye Initiative? Do you see the site going on as it is now, or do you have other plans for the site?
Cait: There’s actually a lot coming up! I can’t give out any details yet, but l can tell you I’ll be representing THI on a con panel in just a few weeks. It’s the first live event, and I’m really excited about it. Beyond that, there is new material in the works for the website, and with that I am hoping to support up and coming artists who are working to equalize women’s representation in comics.