Everyday sexism

Superman without tights, Spider-Man in a thong: An Indian lampoons the sexism of comic book covers

Tired of hyper-sexualised depiction of female superheroes on comic book covers, a graphic design student turns the tables by objectifying male superheroes.

On the cover of a 1991 issue of The Sensational She-Hulk, the female counterpart of the superhero Hulk appears in a G-string bikini. With all her curves in sharp focus, she strikes a seductive pose with a strategically placed beach ball in her arms. While the covers of She-Hulk comics emphasise her sexuality, those of Incredible Hulk focus on his strength. Artist Shreya Arora, 21, who grew up reading comic books, was surprised she had not noticed this contrast earlier.

Comic books are largely targeted at young audiences and such depictions could well play a key role in how they learn to engage with strong female characters. “She-Hulk covers are sexist in every way possible,” said Arora. “Nothing about that depiction would ever be done to a male, be it the body language or the clothing or the frivolous dialogue.”

A student at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, Arora decided to flip the sexist narrative around by depicting superheroes in the same hyper-sexualised manner that superheroines are subjected to. For a class project during an exchange semester in France, she created six comicbook covers using familiar characters from Marvel and DC, such as Spider-Man, Batman, Superman. Three of these were created in collaboration with BuzzFeed India.

The subversive artworks have Spider-Man in a thong showing off his buttocks in a coy pose or Superman prancing across the sky without his cape and tights, demonstrating the absurdness of it all.

Arora says that even if the storylines of superheroine comics isn’t misogynistic, the covers tell a different story. “Both men and women in comic books have unrealistic body standards,” said the 21-year-old artist from Mumbai. “However, with men, their biceps and abs are exaggerated to make them look extraordinarily strong, while with superheroines, their breasts and buttocks are accentuated, and the waist is narrowed, to make them look extraordinarily sexy.”

An article about women superheroes on the blog of the London School of Economic says:

“If male characters are representative of what readers would like to be, the female characters are who they would like to be with; or, commonly, what they would like to possess. If the men possess extraordinary agency, women are receptors for that agency, waiting to be acted upon. Every difference between the traditional expressions of gender is heightened and refined. The relationships between superheroes operate within a fantasy space, following rules and conventions that accentuate the privilege of male characters and make their entitlement seem natural and inevitable.”

Arora believes there is nothing wrong with superheroines being sexy. This, however, should not detract their powers being taken seriously. “The superheroines in comic books are mostly made by men, for men to enjoy,” said Arora. “This is different from a female celebrity choosing to appear nude on a magazine cover because those women have a choice and autonomy over their bodies.”

This is not the first time that Arora has used art to talk about the patriarchal narratives in news, literature and pop art. In a personal art project that she worked on in March, titled The Good Victim Starter Pack, she lampooned the culture of blaming victims of sexual assault. In most cases, the implication is that the length of the woman’s clothes, the time of the incident and the woman’s demeanour were to blame. The artworks included a magazine cover with the title “LOGUE Kya Kahenge”, with an exclusive scoop on “why getting sexually assaulted is your fault”. She also created vintage style ads with taglines, such as “Maybe she’s born with, maybe it’s patriarchy” and “Give her the gift of Domestic Silence”.

An overwhelming majority of the comments Arora has received on her comic book project have been positive. But her work has also been criticised as not real feminism since it involves fictional characters. Comments on a post on BuzzFeed India’s Facebook page, where Arora’s work was shared, are divisive. One user commented that since the target audience for these graphic novels is teenage boys, featuring scantily-clad women is a business decision rather than a creative one. Another argued that the comic book audiences include women and adults as well, and that comic books can be sold to teenage boys without needlessly sexualising female characters. Data shows that female readership for comic books is growing: according to research conducted in 2017 by market research firm NPD, which collects point-of-sale data for the US publishing market, 37% of graphic novels are purchased by women.

Arora is not demoralised by the reactions that say her project is only a small part in the social project to overthrow patriarchy. “At the end of the day, it’s about me doing the best I can as a student and a graphic designer,” she said.

All images courtesy Shreya Arora.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.