It's no secret that sexism in comic books has, and continues to be, a problem. From Superman spanking Lois Lane to Ant-Man domestically abusing Wasp and superheroines being continually drawn in leering and anatomically ridiculous ways, sexism in comics is still as prevalent as ever. Even when comic books are trying to be progressive they can still manage to be incredibly demeaning, patronizing, or just plain offensive toward women.
Historical moments to celebrate like Lois Lane starring in her own spin-off series or Wonder Woman being the first woman inducted into the Justice Society have been marred by sexist blunders. Meanwhile, in the modern day, impractical and needlessly over-sexualized costumes are explained away in a fashion that usually just makes things a lot worse.
Here are some of the most sexist moments in comic book history in stories that ruined their progressive context.
Sue Storm Becomes Marvel's First Silver Age Superheroine, But Is Apparently Only Good For One Thing
Today, the Invisible Woman is one of the most powerful people in the Marvel universe. But, back in the '60s when she was still going by the infantilizing Invisible Girl mantle, she was relegated to being the Fantastic Four's cheerleader, and oftentimes their maid.
Sue Storm was envisioned by Stan Lee as being Marvel's answer to Wonder Woman (just without the super strength) and though she made history as the company's first superheroine, sexist writing like this example above from 1963's Fantastic Four #12 kept her from reaching her full potential for years.
Wonder Woman Is Inducted Into The Justice Society... As Their Secretary
Wonder Woman's induction into the Justice Society of America in All Star Comics #13 should have been a celebratory moment. The first female superhero becomes the first female member of DC's first superhero team. Great! Except that the role they assigned to the strongest woman on Earth was... a secretarial one? Not so great!
This wasn't just a gestural thing, either. In the very next issue, Wonder Woman was officially listed in the team's roll call as "secretary to the Justice Society," and for scores of issues after that, she was benched while the boys went off on missions.
Batwoman Arrives To Save The Day Only To Be Ridiculed By Batman
Though she became quickly reduced to being a love interest for both Batman and Bruce Wayne, Batwoman was originally intended to be a legitimate threat to the Caped Crusader's superiority. Her introduction in 1956's Detective Comics #233 was progressively promising. "Batman finds he has a great rival in the mysterious and glamorous girl... The Batwoman!"
Of course, '50s era thinking meant that her utility belt was stuffed full of lipstick and powder puffs. And her "rival" Batman enjoyed belittling her at every turn, like in this delightful panel from Detective Comics #307.
Wonder Woman Can Do Anything. Regular Women? Not So Much.
Created as a champion for women everywhere by the forward-thinking feminist psychologist, William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman's pioneering strength and wisdom could easily pacify and humiliate men.
However, the feminist impact of this was frequently diminished in Golden Age panels like this one, in which her unique Amazonian abilities were used to callously remind other women that they were comparatively inferior.