Feminist concern with representations of women in comic books and video games is hardly a new thing, nor is it always greeted with support—just ask Anita Sarkeesian, whose Tropes Vs Women has inspired intense backlash from territorial gamers. But as more and more women enter these previously male-dominated fields, the possibility of feminists effecting change from within the industry has, logically, skyrocketed. Take the case of Meteor Entertainment/Adhesive Games, where a female employee recently punked her boss, and with outstanding results.
Meteor Entertainment is the creator of the free-to-play mech game Hawken, in which users build their own virtual robots and use them to fight other users’ robots. But the tale of the master prank actually begins with a tumblr called The Hawkeye Initiative.
Founded on December 2, 2012, this project creates and solicits original art that addresses the over-sexualization of women in comics by replacing them with a male hero—Marvel’s master archer Hawkeye—standing in the same pose. (Moviegoers may know Hawkeye from Jeremy Renner’s hotsy-totsy portrayal in The Avengers.) A manly man with super strength and agility, Hawkeye posed as, say, Black Cat from The Amazing Spiderman makes a powerful visual point: that comic book women’s costumes, body shapes, and poses undercut their superpowers by overemphasizing their sexuality.
A Meteor employee and fan of the Initiative, who goes by the handle K2, was disgruntled by prominently displayed office art of a scantily-clad woman. (K2 dubbed the woman “Ruby Underboob.”) She conspired with co-worker and artist Sam Kirk to change out the poster with one of a man, equally sexualized and equally naked. And thus was born “Brosie the Riveter.”
Luckily for our merry mischief makers, Meteor CEO Mark Long loved it. In fact, he copped not just to having sexual art around the office, but also to contributing to the creation of that art. He wrote in an email: “I didn’t just hang the picture on the wall. I collaborated on the design with the artist. He and I came up with the Rosie idea. The underboob is pretty much all my fault. Since then, I’ve learned about The Hawkeye Initiative and the larger gender-flip meme going on in comics and games, which is righteous and transgressive. I’m a dumbass, but at least now I know I’m a dumbass!” He and his employees are now in an “open dialogue about gender in comics and gaming.”
K2 told XX Factor, “I’m glad to see awareness of the gender-flipping meme spreading. I hope and expect to see a lot more of it, and other innovations on the theme, too. There’s more than one right way to do this. The Hawkeye Initiative has put out a call to action for more real-world plays in the gender equality space. The more—and the more real-world—the better.”
K2 is also collecting stories of action on the tumblr GenderShenanigans.
All too often, Internet feminism of the kind practiced by The Hawkeye Initiative preaches to the choir, rarely resulting in or even aiming for concrete outcomes. In the case of Meteor Entertainment and their intrepid employees, though, the idea behind The Hawkeye Initiative produced tangible results. That’s my kind of feminism.