Thursday, June 01, 2006

The survey says

I have de-linked the Women and Comics survey and called it closed with 42 responses. This was a surprisingly high response; I didn't publicize the survey anywhere but here, but it was linked by a couple of blogs and LiveJournals.

The primary research question of this pilot study was whether objectified or highly sexualized images of women affect the comics-buying decisions of female fans. The hypothesis was that such images would affect purchasing behavior. A weak or inverse correlation between the fans' having been offended and decisions not to purchase would tend to disprove the hypothesis; a strong correlation would tend to support it.

It can be presumed, based on the access to and sources of information about the survey, that the responders are fans invested enough in comics to read comics blogs or discuss comics online; since the responders self-selected, it was clearly not random.

Responder demographics:

Two (2) of the responders were aged 12-17, 17 were aged 18-25, and 23 were over 25.

Nineteen (19) responders buy five or fewer comics per month; nine (9) buy 6-10 and nine (9) 10-20; five (5) buy more than 20.

The reasons for purchasing a particular comic (responders could choose more than one) seemed to span a broad range and be consistent with reasonable expectations:
  • 32 mentioned the writer
  • 20 mentioned the artist
  • 37 mentioned the character
  • 29 mentioned the current storyline
  • 3 mentioned the cover
  • 11 mentioned the need for completion
  • 5 mentioned recommendations
There were also five considerations that were mentioned only once: the publisher; whether a complete version of a serialized story is available; the "nostalgia factor"; "something that's different"; and "boobs"

Research questions:

The survey indicates that 37 of the 42 responders (88%) have been offended by a cover depicting objectified/highly sexualized images of women.

Such covers have caused 28 of the 42 responders (67%) to not buy a comic they otherwise would have purchased.

The survey indicates that 28 of the 42 responders (67%) have been offended by objectified/highly sexualized images of women in a store where they purchase comics.

Such images have caused 20 of the 42 responders (48%) to not make a purchase or to stop visiting a store.


While this pilot is too limited to draw broad conclusions, it seems clear that the hypothesis (that there is a connection between images considered offensive and the purchasing choices of female comics fans) is not without support.

It seems of particular interest to note that while only 7% of the responders indicated that the cover generally contributed to their decision to buy a comic, 67% indicated that they have refrained from buying a comic because of a cover that was perceived as offensive. Rather than merely being a feature of books that are already known to be male-targeted or female-targeted (as some have suggested), highly sexualized female images seem to be a barrier to women's accessing books they might otherwise have been interested in. Artistic merit aside, this raises concerns from a marketing perpective, at the least.

It is also interesting to note that the two extended comments left by responders both indicated that a greater influence than any particular instance of an objectified cover image was the "repeated objectification" of women in the pages of comics - described by one as "wearying." While the cover images may be a touchstone in this inquiry, it may be that the overall sensibility of a comic is even more significant.


The first six reasons for purchasing a comic were selected from a list; the remainder were entered as text after the responder selected "other."

The text entry of "boobs" may indicate a spurious response; no attempt has been made to isolate any associated data.

The complete survey may be accessed here. (Further results will not be tallied.)

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