Women in Comics: Batgirl
Recently, there has seemed to be an ever-growing war between feminists and comic books. As a female, I do support certain aspects of feminism and I do understand where they are coming from in the current struggle in comics. Many feminists are angered by the unrealistic and provocative portrayal of women in comics. Superheros like Power Girl and Black Canary wear very little clothing, fight in boots with a heel high enough someone like me could barely manage to walk in, and manage to contort their bodies in ways that no real woman ever could. In conclusion: its more about being sexy than having a plot.
However, there are a few superheros who stand out against this current trend of overly busty women. Batgirl happens to be one of them. Batgirl has always been one of my favorite superheros. She is not only acrobatic and strong, but she's smart and sassy. She is independent and is a role model for young girls and women, especially in her return in DC's New 52s.
A brief back story:
Barbara Gordon became Batgirl in the 1960s. She is the daughter of Commissioner James Gordon and apprentice of Batman. That is what she remained for quite some time. However, in the graphic novel “Batman: The Killing Joke” written by Alan Moore, Barbara is shot through her spine by the Joker and is crippled. Down but not out, she returns as Oracle and she uses her intellect to continue assisting Batman and others. She aids in hacking into computer systems, security, and helps keep an eye on the city and where a hero might be needed. Currently, DC released their New 52s and Batgirl has her legs back and is determined to continue protecting Gotham even at the risk of losing her legs again for good.
Why she stands out:
Batgirl sets out on her own to prove to herself that she can protect the city just as well as Batman or Nightwing, as well as show others that women are just as good as men. She is a strong-willed character that never gives up, but who also doubts herself constantly. That makes her even more relate-able. Women still struggle with what they can and can't do and if they are ever good enough. So does Barbara. She wonders if she should just give up crime fighting, if Gotham would be fine without Batgirl, and if she should choose herself over the people and just live a normal life. Batgirl also makes mistakes, she's clumsy sometimes, she gets hurt and on occasion, she just gets lucky. That makes her great though, because she isn't perfect but she still finds a way to defeat the bad guy. She is a complex character and she deals with more than just issues as Batgirl. She has struggles with relationships and within her family like her strained relationship with her mom and dark secrets from her family's past that haunt her. Yet, she still puts that aside every night to put on her cowl and focus on what's important: the innocent people of Gotham.
In the physical aspect, Batgirl seems to have a balance of beauty, grace, and sexy. Yes, she does have a skin-tight suit, but that's necessary if you're going to be fighting and doing acrobatics from building to building. Her suit covers her entire body unlike the sleeve-less leotards most other females are suited with. She also wears boots. Real boots with bottoms that are more like sneakers rather than heels, boots that any girl would be able to run and jump in. Batgirl is also proportional. Meaning, she doesn't have breasts bigger than her body and she isn't ridiculously skinny, but she is in good shape. She fights like a normal person too, without having to move into awkward and unnecessary positions that most other female heroes are in clearly more for exploitation rather than for the battle.
Batgirl is a female, a hero, and a symbol. She is an inspiration to women to fight for what they believe in and that they can do anything they put their mind to. Yes, she is like Batman, but she's also different. She is her own person with her own style and her own story. She can exist without Batman just like a woman can exist without a man. She is also a symbol of beauty and that women don't need to have large breasts and show off their bodies to be sexy and beautiful.