Megan Rosalarian Gedris said what I think about female characterization and sexiness better than I ever could. She’s referring specifically to comic book characters, where the problem is particularly rampant, but you see in every male-dominated narrative genre.
Like I’ve said before, it’s not sexiness we have a problem with, but the overt and constant sexualization that is only applied to women. And it’s this male created brand of “female empowerment” that we’ve been fed over and over and over that we’re sick of.
When a blogger I read then said offhandedly that “a woman’s sexuality is arguably her greatest economic asset” I about lost my shit. (I was already arguing with him about issues related to gender, sexuality, and economics, but that’s another point.) The problem is endemic. It’s just not true, guys. Women have tons of avenues of power and influence open to them, from physical strength to intellectual strength to traiend skills to personal charisma. Yes, sex appeal is a source of power, and that’s fine and good and inevitable, but it’s not the only one or the best one or (for most women) the strongest one. The fact that most fictional media are dominated by het males dramatically reduces the scope of female potential into “this kind of sexy” or “that kind of sexy.”
Male characters have diversity in their designs. Big, small, muscular, fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, sometimes really gross. If you removed the heads of the female comic characters, would you be able to tell the difference between any of them? Diversity in female comic characters is: are her boobs D or DD, and exactly how much of them is she showing?
Half the people are women. There are as many different kinds of women as men, and as many ways for women to be awesome. Fiction writers everywhere need to be conscientious that the worlds they create reflect that reality.
Also, be sure to check out her cross-dressed superhero pictures.