The way women are represented in the media undeniably shapes the way female viewers feel about themselves. It's an anecdotal reality backed by science: Multiple studies have shown that exposure to media images of the "thin ideal" negatively impacts the way women view their own bodies.
This is why the representation of strong female figures — like superheroines — has such great potential to foster positive body image and self-esteem. Yet comic book brands like Marvel insist on depicting wildly unrealistic, highly sexualized heroines in their pages, undermining their potential ability to empower fans.
Now, Bulimia.com is pushing back on these images by digitally editing Marvel's major female characters (and some male characters) to "reflect the typical physique of most Americans."
The goal behind these illustrations, a Bulimia.com representative told the Huffington Post, is "to show the extent to which superheroes' body types (as is the case with their superhuman abilities) are fictional." The hope in doing so, the representative continued, is to encourage individuals to "feel better about themselves and realize the futility of any comparison between themselves and the fictional universes of Marvel and DC Comics."
The treatment of female comic book characters has been called out before. Just last summer, for example, Marvel was taken to task after releasing an egregiously sexual variant cover for Spider-Woman No. 1. Artists have pushed back on these representations as well: Brett White of Comic Book Resources, for example, responded to the sexualization of comic book heroines by subjecting male superheroes to the same treatment.
Let's hope that plenty of young women and men get to see to these updated (and arguably improved) comics and feel empowered by these heroes rather than inadequate in comparison.
h/t Huffington Post