Image by Kevin Bolk
It’s only May, but the summer blockbuster season is already upon us, starting with Marvel's The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble if you're in the UK). Many of you may have already seen it, and may also have seen the image above doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter showing what the official Avengers movie poster would look like if all the male characters posed the same way that Black Widow, the only female Avenger, does.
The image was drawn by Kevin Bolk, who noticed that a lot of the promotional shots of Black Widow showed her in at best impractical and at worst impossible, spine-bending poses. Sadly, these poses are common in the comic book world. Escher Girls is, "a blog for pictures of female characters in impossible or ridiculous poses or with disturbing anatomy because the artists need to show teh[sic] sexy." As well as highlighting the worst examples of this practice, readers of the blog also submit their own more realistic versions of comic panels, drawing the female characters in a way that doesn't require the removal of internal organs or injury in order to hold the pose.
When I saw Bolk's image it reminded me instantly of a similar gender role-reversal I saw a few months ago. Men-Ups by Rion Sabean is a series of photographs taken in classic 1950s pin-up style, but with male models. Rion has said that he is interested in how we are taught to believe that gender identities and biologically assigned sex are one and the same, saying, "thought and insight on just how ridiculous and restrictive the socially created gender roles are from their very inception... How can color have a sex? How can a pose be acceptable (and even provocative) for one, and not the other?"
The initial reaction of most people I've shown Men-Ups to is laughter, followed by "these men look so ridiculous!" Why? The purpose of these poses is to show off the model's body, which they do equally well for both male and female models. It is only because these kinds of images are always of women that they have become normal; seeing a man in the same poses showcases their absurdity. I applaud Kevin, Rion and the creators of Escher Girls for their pieces, and for highlighting the disparity between how men and women are portrayed in media. I can only hope that their voices and others like them become louder and louder until seeing women twisting their spines into "sexy" poses is ridiculed the way that it should be.
Image from Rion Sabean's Men-Ups
Girl Museum Inc.