Via K8theCurst comes news of a fat female superhero heading our way! Yes!
Harbinger, a comic book series about super-powered but socially challenged teenagers, has been penned by men and centered on male characters since the early '90s. In a few months, however, the series will get a female-powered breakout: a spinoff miniseries featuring a bold, full-figured female protagonist Faith, a Harbinger ensemble character, written by acclaimed comics writer Jody Houser.At the linked article, however, I gave this bit a big fat side-eye: "Faith is an affront to the comic book industry's status quo, which often renders female characters as hypersexualized objects who exist to please and support male heroes, if they're not excluded altogether." Because, sure, I don't want hypersexualized female protagonists, but I also didn't like the implication that the only way to not sexualize a female character is to make her fat. As though fat and sexy and desired are mutually exclusive.
...Valiant editor-in-chief Warren Simmons describes Faith as "one of the most unique characters in comics — a sci-fi loving, Firefly-quoting fangirl" who, when given the chance to stand alongside other superheroes, ends up proving herself "to be the bravest of them all."
Houser agrees. Faith's authenticity makes her particularly likable and relatable, she told Mic. The protagonist, a "superhero fan" herself, is enthusiastic in "embracing her powers and her determination to help others," and is like "the real-life geek friends we all have instead of a stereotype of a comic fan or a plus-size woman," Houser said.
But that was from the writer of the piece, not the writer of the comic. The writer of comic, Houser, positions Faith a little differently: "While Faith isn't hypersexualized, she's 'still allowed to be sexual,' Hauser added, noting that Faith has an intimate relationship in the series."
That sounds a little better.
Clearly, one of the ways Faith is being rendered as not hypersexualized is with her superhero garb, which includes a full-body suit and a flowy cape/duster jacket. You can see Faith's figure, but she is covered from shoulder to wrist and neck to toe. And I have really mixed feelings about that.
It's not that I want to see female heroes clad in skimpy outfits, but I also don't totally love that a fat female hero's outfit skews wildly in the other direction. Because then the question is: Is she that covered solely as a reaction to the hypersexualization of (thin) female superheroes, or is she that covered because she is fat? Because fat women aren't supposed to show our bodies? Because fat women aren't supposed to/allowed to be sexy?
I mean, she's not even sleeveless. She's got multiple layers covering her up, as her cape starts at the waist, like the sweep of a long coat, rather than from the shoulders, like a traditional cape.
I don't want Faith to be hypersexualized, but I also don't want her body treated as something hideous that must be covered with eleventy yards of fabric, either. It's the very tension that I described in "On Harassment and the Marking of Visible Womanhood," where women who are invisibilized by virtue of their transgressive bodies want to be visible in the way conformative female bodies are, lest we still be marked as less than.
There has to be a middle-ground for Faith, in which she is neither hypersexualized nor treated like an object of disgust whose bodies needs to be concealed. I hope her creators find it.