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hail HYDRA | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is it okay for female action heroes to use sex as a superpower?

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Black Widow Marvel Avengers Assemble Scarlett Johansson

Katy Waldman at XX Factor has been thinking about female action heroes:

To me, the most fraught questions surrounding the representation of female action heroes actually have to do with sexuality. The real, enduring difference between depictions of world-saving men and women? Women use sex appeal as a weapon far more than guys do. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’s Jane Carter seduces her way inside Brij Nath’s inner chambers for satellite override codes. The three Charlie’s Angels, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, the Batman saga’s Poison Ivy and Catwoman, Jennifer Garner’s superspy on Alias—all of them inevitably reach a point in their missions where they must feign desire for a powerful male to get what they want. Even Katniss Everdeen realizes that she can improve her odds by playing up a lukewarm romance with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta. So is this empowering or exploitative? If female action heroes excel in marshalling their sexuality, does that take away from their athletic or mental feats?

Is it okay for female action heroes to use sex as a superpower? Does it undermine their talents of brains and brawn if they utilize their sexuality? Is an insult to these characters to presume that they should not use whatever talent they may possess — including their sexuality — to do good, save the world, or whatever needs to be done?
Perhaps this wouldn’t be an issue if the depiction of male action heroes differed just a little, as Waldman notes:

Maybe it’s just all about balance. There’s nothing wrong with tough women manipulating weak-willed men with their womanly charms. It would just be nice to see, say, Spider-Man have to sweet talk his way past a gun-toting female guard for once.

What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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