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New Superhero T-Shirts Latest in a Long Line of Sexist Licensed Products from DC AND Marvel

New Superhero T-Shirts Latest in a Long Line of Sexist Licensed Products from DC AND Marvel

I’m not entirely sure who is making the decisions when it comes to licensing at DC Entertainment, but recently two somewhat controversial shirts have appeared at retail outlets, and it’s safe to say most people aren’t very happy with them.  The first shirt was revealed on the DC Women Kicking Ass page, which features an image of Superman and his now-girlfriend Wonder Woman locked in a mid-air kiss from the cover of Justice League #12, with art by Jim Lee.

It’s already an older image, so why all the hubbub now? Well, you can thank a couple of modifications made to the original image just for this t- shirt that take the whole thing to a new, sexist level. Now there’s a caption above the image that says “SCORE!” and another that says “Superman Does It Again!” reducing his relationship with Wonder Woman to a hook up at a frat party. All that’s missing is Superman sporting a propped collar, a backwards baseball cap, and Batman appearing somewhere to the side giving Clark a high five on a job well done.


Maybe the most offensive thing about the shirt isn’t the captions (though they’re bad), it’s the changes made to the original art. In the original Jim Lee cover image, Wonder Woman has Superman tied up in her lasso, the suggestion being that it was she who snagged him, not the other way around. Maybe the shirt manufacturers  thought that men wouldn’t wear a shirt that suggested that a woman was the sexually dominant one, and had the lasso removed. But at the end of the day, DC and/or Warner Brothers had to approve it. The whole thing is pretty gross, and the most shocking thing is that DC thought that they could put this out there and that no one would care or notice.


The second shirt, revealed via a blog called PJ Says, is one that was discovered while shopping at WalMart in the juniors section. All in hot pink writing, it features the bat symbol and the words “Training to be Batman’s Wife.” (The word “wife” is in cursive, because reasons.) Why not “Training to Be Batgirl,” or Batwoman? Or even training to be Batman’s partner?? (Which has a double meaning, if you happen to be one of the many women who find Bruce Wayne attractive.) Nope, this shirt instead is telling young women and girls that you shouldn’t fantasize about being a hero yourself, just the hero’s wife.

The author of the original blog post sums it up pretty well: “F–k being Batman’s wife. I want to be Batman. I want to wear a skintight bat suit the color of dark justice. I want a utility belt. I want to drive an impossibly fast car or a tricked out motorcycle. I want to save people. I want to be the biggest badass in Gotham. I want to be talking to someone at a boring party at the mayor’s house, see the bat signal over someone’s shoulder, and say ‘Excuse me. Someone’s calling me.'”


DC has officially responded to the criticism, giving an official response to Comic Book Resources, saying “DC Comics is home to many of the greatest male and female Super Heroes in the world. All our fans are incredibly important to us, and we understand that the messages on certain t-shirts are offensive. We agree. Our company is committed to empowering boys and girls, men and women, through our characters and stories. Accordingly, we are taking a look at our licensing and product design process to ensure that all our consumer products reflect our core values and philosophy.” While it’s nice to see DC admit that these products are offensive, the real question remains: will they really change what products they approve moving forward, or is this all just PR?

Superheroes and superhero images are everywhere, thanks to the huge presence they have in popular culture these days. But outside of movies, it’s clothing and other licensed product that really convey what these characters are supposed to represent to the mainstream, and in particular, young people. (I wish it were comics, but its not.)  Walk into any Target for example, and you’ll see tons of items with the Justice League characters on them (they recently signed a licensing deal for Justice League products with DC). But if those clothes/toys/school supplies are aimed at young boys, then the image of Wonder Woman is almost always removed from the team line-up, even if she is more famous as a name brand than either Green Lantern or the Flash.

By doing this, you are instilling the idea in young boys’ minds that female heroes are not to be admired or looked up to, much less have their images displayed on their clothing. And this isn’t a DC issue alone; Marvel got tons of heat for not featuring the character of Gamora on many licensed Guardians of the Galaxy items, and last year had a t-shirt for girls that said “I Need A Hero,” while shirts for boys (albeit young boys) had phrases like “Be A Hero.” Neither DC nor Marvel create the sexism in our culture, it’s already there, and in fact, in the comics themselves female characters are often portrayed as just as (or more) powerful and capable as the men. But these companies need to be sure that is the image they project when being licensed out, otherwise they’re simply not doing their job, and all those strong female characters in the comics and even in the movies will be for nothing.

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  1. deadended says:

    HEY! Don’t knock the Green Lantern!

  2. skamew says:

    Thank you for being the voice for everyone who has been frustrated by this continued onslaught of sexist consumerism. I am a Marvel fan and a feminist – many days that combination does not mesh. And if I am going to pick one, it’s not the comics.

  3. Fox says:

    I swear the comment section is more sexist than the actual shirts are. If you wanna stop sexism than quit blaming the media and start blaming the parents. The media and marketing people are all making a crapload of money off of sex. Objectifying women is very profitable. And this money isn’t just coming from men. Most of it is coming from women. These products are aimed and being sold to women. And they’re selling. Are little girls being affected by this? Absolutely. But this is because parents are letting the television and internet teach their kids instead of doing it themselves. Take responsibility. Feminism is the minority. Way more women accept the status quo than who don’t. The proof is in the fact that these companies are making millions off of sexism. This will never stop unless parents take responsibility and teach their children that these products aren’t right. If you see a homophobic shirt that says “Your gay!” in the kids section, is your child gonna become a homophob? Well that depends on if you teach him to become one. Teach your kids to accept and love each other and this crap will go away. The media and internet are like Cholera. Not every well is infected. But if people just stop drinking from the ones with crap in them than the disease will go away.   

  4. Ian R. says:

    This write-up is the absolute epitome of someone feeling the need to act butt-hurt on behalf of other people for the sake of showing just how enlightened you are. Here’s what you do to solve this problem: don’t buy the fucking shirts! Ask your friends to not buy them. Show them you disapprove of their insanely white bread, softball sexist comments by not consuming DC anymore. Put your money where your whine-hole is.
    I feel like reading this and writing this comment have wasted five minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. Save your bitching energy for real issues.

  5. Brian with an eye says:

    The original art was so much sexier. The embrace of two attractive heroes that obviously want to be with each other.
    In the altered version, WW’s clenched fist (sans lasso) makes it look like she’s struggling to get away.
    Combine that with the good-ol-boy verbage displayed on the shirt, and suddenly it’s Super-creepy-man about to rape Wonder Woman.

  6. anovelintro says:

    Without the lasso, Wonder Woman’s fist looks really weird. I’m absolutely offended by the title, but the author of this piece is right: the removal of the lasso is the worst part about the change. Instantly, she goes from an empowered woman who is pulling Superman to her into a passive participant who is being pushed over and for some strange reason is clenching her fist in anger. It’s not only an insult to Wonder Woman and girls, but an insult to the original artist of this beautiful panel.

  7. asdf says:

    The only disgusting one here is you. Nerdist, you have officially lost a reader or subscriber. I’m shoving you in the dustbin along with Kotaku for attacking your audience and being completely out of touch.

  8. The t shirt, meh.  The graphic…are you seriously offended by that? We are becoming the thinnest skinned society in the known world.

  9. Sophiebiggens says:

    The real problem here as far as the Nerdist is concerned is that it isn’t WonderWoman and Supergirl locked in an embrace, or Superman and Batman…

  10. Who cares, I have an idea if you don’t like it, don’t buy it.

    For the women are “more than wives” comment, doesn’t that work both ways? Shouldn’t you I don’t know actually be attracted to your wife? God forbid a man actually attracted to a woman.

    Did you ever think maybe you’re not the target audience? I have an Idea, buy something else. Just because YOU don’t like it doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t be able to. I don’t agree with the views of man hating feminists, maybe they should be ban from the internet, as well as all jobs requiring logic, and every room in every house except for the kitchen? Don’t agree? But, it’s my opinion why isn’t it more important than yours?

    Maybe in an attempt to stop sexism people are going a little too far in the opposite direction. While people should respect YOUR rights to not be oppressed you should also respect their rights to not be oppressed as well. Does everyone have to be suck control freaks that if something doesn’t fit their point of view it just shouldn’t exist? Who gets to pick the point of view we are all forced to go with? How about feminists, misogynists, the Westboro baptist church, Muslim extremists like Isis, the Nazi party? They ARE all the same, a group of people who don’t tolerate the rights and point of views of others who want to force their ideologies and wills upon everyone else. (agree or not that’s not an exaggeration.)

    It’s called tolerance people you, may not agree with something but you can tolerate it.

  11. Macphx says:

    You wanna talk about intolerance and bigotry, and fairness? Then use that logic all the way around, not just in one direction. 
    There’s nothing wrong with the “Batman’s wife” shirt. If someone wants to be Batman’s wife, who are you to say that’s inappropriate? If a girl would rather be Batman or Batgirl instead, then fine — but don’t force that on everyone, or be so condescending on those who prefer to be the wife. 
    That is every bit as respectable a choice as being the superhero. There are many different kinds of heroes, and housewives can be pretty heroic — especially the ones who are moms too. 

  12. AJ says:

    I literally fucking hate all of you who think this is somehow sexist. Its shirts. SHIRTS!!!! I could understand if the meaning they portrayed something horrible and ACTUALLY sexist but wonder woman and superman kissing isn’t fucking sexist. For fucks sake stop reading to far into this. Trying to find hidden symbolism in a shirt or some shit. Next you’ll say you see triangles and scream ILLUMINATI like a bunch of fucktards.

  13. MichaelatPlay says:

    Wow, very disappointing. You want to enjoy the excitement, adventure, gonzo escapism, but then there is this other layer that you don’t want to support. At least there are a lot of good novels (reading is sexy).

  14. Kris says:

    So, I’ve seen the Batman’s Wife, thing. I think the type of t-shirt is referred to as a “Princess T”. The same style of shirt also has things like “Batgirl in Training”. In the Men’s section you’ll find “Batgirl’s Future Husband” and “My Mom is Wonder Woman” (w/the symbol and everything).Words only have the power that we lend them. Their meanings can be debated all day. The Sups/WW shirt looks like it would appeal to the 12 -22 male crowd. I, personally don’t care for it, but I see plenty “girl power” stuff EVERYwhere. The only thing I find actually offensive about the shirt is that it’s an obvious knock-off of a really cool panel for a really crude purpose.

  15. Sea says:

    The first one is obviously gross but the second one is fine. Honestly this is being a little over sensitive. There are other female Batman shirts, it’s not like there’s no other option for girls other than “wife”. Maybe some ladies don’t WANT to be a vigilante type super-hero but find being in a loving relationship and doing their own thing while supporting each other is their thing. Maybe Batman’s wife is spending the time that Bruce doesn’t have monitoring all the charities. Or wants to wear a police uniform instead of tights. Not all heroes wear capes. We’ve started treating wife like a bad word and it’s not. There definitely needs to be more variety in the girls section and that’s more of the issue. There also needs to be a variety in the boys section, like Future Husband of Wonder Woman or Superman’s Future Cousin-in-Law. The message itself isn’t sexist but the lack of variety is.

  16. Sarah says:

    Female fans want to participate and support their favorite fandoms in ways that don’t relegate them to the sidelines or imply that that’s where they should be. I don’t feel entitled about it, and while I believe that if men were marketed to the way women are we would make some real progress very quickly, I don’t think that we should suddenly make all men’s superhero shirts variations of “Training to be Wonder Woman’s Husband” You can argue that you would love to be Wonder Woman’s husband that’s not really the point. The point is equality. While I would rock a Mrs. Wayne shirt, I don’t want it to be my only option and I don’t want my drawer to be full of Mrs. [insert favorite male characters’ surname]. Perfect, real equality means that for every “I only date Superheroes” there is a “Future Captain Marvel” and for every “Future Man of Steel” there is an “Mr. Diana Prince.”

    It’s not difficult math. If one side of the scale is weighted down you have to add to the other side to balance it out.

  17. Ryan says:

    The “tumblr feminists” aren’t out of control.  They’re still as irrelevant and ineffectual as they’ve always been.  You see, it’s not that their speaking out about this ridiculous t-shirt and then DC apologizing is a show of their power.  It’s that nobody cared about what sexist stuff was put on a licensed t-shirt in the first place that shows how powerless they are.  Gail Simone herself told the tumblr echo chamber that tumblr passion does not translate into sales figures large enough to get the suits attention.  There is a difference between pandering and sea change.
    The fact that DC will make many more sexist decisions in the future will continue to show this.  The big 2 have a primary demographic that they cater to.  That they will continue to cater to it shows that no change is happening in favor of a vocal minority on tumblr.  There is lip service being paid undoubtedly.  But there is a financial reality here that is anathema to the tumblr set.  They can continue to ignore it.  They can continue to site irrelevant facebook polling that tells them what they want to hear yet has no bearing on actual sales and demographics.  The biggest proof of this is that Disney purchased Marvel to get one specific audience….male. 
    There will continue to be sexism and objectification in big 2 product because that’s simply bound to happen when you pander to a demographic whose majority by an epic proportion is male.  The suits can apologize to the small, hysterical fanbase that complains about it, but that changes nothing.

  18. Sea says:

    Hot topic has some more options than other stores.

  19. Sara says:

    Do you mean at walmart? or in general? Because, if you mean in general, your shopping at the wrong places:

    Hot Topic, Target, Forever 21 (the last two sell as much superhero clothes as walmart, ie not very much).

    There’s more but those are the big ones

  20. Im down with satanic verses. And so long as you step in my yard we are cool.
    People are not encouraged to rape. And you cant teach criminal rapists to not rape.. they will always exist, and blaming or holding responsible the arts is not the answer.

  21. asdf says:

    And more than one site can have their head completely up their ass about a non-issue, apparently.

  22. asdf says:

    I concur as well but unfortunately it looks like most of the commenters on here are idiot SJWs.

  23. asdf says:

    And it shows what a bunch of entitled little twats you feminists are, and how you think you have the right to tell us how to believe and live our lives. Go fuck yourself you cunt.

  24. asdf says:

    Worthless, brainless SJWs with nothing better to do than get offended by a T-shirt and want to insult nerds.

  25. asdf says:

    Ooo, look at all the downvotes. Someone clearly struck a nerve. SJWs HATE being called out on their bullshit.

  26. Gentleman says:

    Why don’t YOU go fuck YOURSELF, since no woman in her right mind would give you the time of day…LOSER.
    By the way, I’m a real man, secure in my manhood, and I see women as my equals. I don’t feel the need to get hostile when an opressed minority expects to be treated as equals.
    Why don’t you go take a Sociology class….after fucking yourself, that is!

  27. Brian with an eye says:

    John-Women are paid less because of society’s perception of them as being less than equal.
    The modification made to the art on this shirt strips WW of her equality.
    In the original art, the embrace was showing two sexy heroes that  WANT to be with EACH OTHER. The shirt, on the other hand, suggests that Superman can take WW sexually, regardless of her opinion on the matter. In other words, it’s promoting male dominance over women (and dare I say, even RAPE).
    That’s why we, as a people, need to be more “whiny” about things like this.
    Men are not going to take equality seriously, until we start taking it SERIOUSLY. Garbage like this shirt is a big step on the ladder of “equal pay for equal work”.

  28. Andréa says:

    John, do you know a little girl that is crushed because she can’t be the hero? Do you know the joy of finding something that says you are a equal or that you matter? I was that little girl in the 90’s. Until you hit walls because you are not a boy or a man, I think you need to rethink  the issue.  I for one am appalled that this shirt says that I cannot be a hero. This shirt says that there are no other options. For what it is worth I proved myself in a “man’s world” very nicely. I just had to spend every day proving that I was just as good. 

  29. taterparker says:

    Feminism believes in equality and until most people are ok with slapping a shirt like this on their boy they shouldn’t be ok with it on their girl. There’s nothing wrong w being a wife, i’m one too, but the idea of “training” someone (in swirly pink text, no less) is just so sickening 

  30. anovelintro says:

    Feminism does not discredit being a mother and loving housewife. If anything, it supports these ambitions as a valid career choice therefore making it arguable in divorce court that the wife was “working.” Being a wife and mother is really hard work and the definition of feminism does not work against this. Wanting to be someone’s wife is not a problem. Assuming every woman wants nothing more than to be a powerful man’s wife is a problem and that’s what this shirt does.  

  31. taterparker says:

    No one is saying they cab’t I think it’s just sad if that’s what you want girls to choose to highlight about themselves.

  32. anovelintro says:

    You can instill and influence your kids all you want. That doesn’t make what has happened here not wrong.