The Hawkeye Initiative is the new trendy way to fight back against comic-book sexism. It all started when Tumblr user Hoursago re-drew a Marvel comics cover with Black Widow and Hawkeye’s positions switched.
In the original, Black Widow is upside-down, her body in a contorted position and her legs in a split, whereas Hawkeye is simply jumping straight down and holding his bow over his head.
Hoursago drew Hawkeye in the upside-down split, and Black Widow jumping down carrying her guns. The caption reads, “For real though, look me in the eye and tell me which is more likely for these two.”
Popular artist Noelle Stevenson reposted the drawing, and added her own advice on how to fix sexualized feminine poses in comics: “Replace the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing.”
Hundreds of artists joined in, depicting Hawkeye saucily turning to show the viewer his behind, contorting himself into an impractical position for a kick, and many others.
The genius of the Hawkeye Initiative is in its simplicity. Rather than try to argue that comics often draw women in sexist or unrealistic poses, the artists involved in this project simply illustrated how ridiculous the pose would look if made by a body that is not traditionally objectified and sexualized.
Indeed, the Initiative led to the coining of the “Hawkeye Test“: “If your female character can be replaced by Hawkeye in the same pose without looking silly or stupid, then it’s acceptable and probably non sexist. If you can’t, then just forget about it.”
This is a great way to expose insidious sexism. Ridiculous comic book poses for women are so common, it’s almost background noise to see a woman bending over gratuitously, or twisting her spine around to show off her chest and bottom simultaneously.
Seeing Hawkeye in these poses serves not only to highlight the hypersexualized nature of these drawings, but also to remind us that these positions are unnatural for women as well.
Women don’t usually run around with their backs constantly arched, forever swiveling to show off parts of their anatomy to an imaginary camera.
But now, Hawkeye does.
Magdalena Newhouse is a senior at Oberlin College, where she teaches a class on body positivity and fat acceptance.