Although never directly stated, an important subject in The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 No. 16 is whether or not a woman should dress modestly in public.1 The Insect Queen wears revealing clothing: a low-cut black dress that exposes more than half of her breasts.2 In response, Spider-Man calls her a “skank.”3 One theme in the story is that if a woman wears clothing that violates public standards of modesty, people have the right to call her a stigmatizing name.
For Christians, dressing modesty in public is a virtue. 1 Timothy 2:9 says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…”4 It is also a virtue for Muslims. The Quran 24:31 says, “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms…”5
For Christians and Muslims, dressing immodestly in public is a sin because whether the woman intended it or not, it can cause men to experience greater sexual temptation, e.g., to commit adultery or have pre-marital sex. Men, having free will, are responsible for how they choose to respond to their sexual desires. Nonetheless, a woman who wears revealing clothing is responsible for increasing men’s sexual attraction to her.
One reason women (and men) wear revealing clothing in public is it increases their self-esteem. If you have a beautiful body, and people look at you and respond positively, you will naturally feel good about yourself. However, when deciding what clothes to wear, it is important to consider how your clothes might affect other people.
Throughout history, women who dress immodestly have been called stigmatizing names, e.g., a slut or whore. Calling someone a stigmatizing name is a form of social pressure, so they will conform to a certain standard of right and wrong. The resulting feelings of guilt and/or shame become a deterrent against committing the stigmatized behavior again. Thus, for good or ill, the stigmatization of women who wear immodest clothing is a means of social control, reinforcing traditional values on modesty.
In The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 No. 16, the Insect Queen does not dress modestly. Spider-Man stigmatizes her for how she dresses, and also for kissing him against his will. He says, “You have the right to remain skanky. Anything skanky you do will be held against you by the court of public opinion.”6 Urban Dictionary defines skanky as “looking cheap, dirty and nasty. Also acting slutty.”7 Spider-Man is saying that when a woman dresses or behaves like the Insect Queen, she has the right to do so, but people also have the right to follow his example, and form a negative judgment of her. However, the comic was published in 2004; it is now 2017, and times have changed.
In making fun of the Insect Queen for her clothing and behavior, Spider-Man is politically incorrect. In the “court of public opinion”, he would be accused of slut shaming.8 In America today, it is considered offensive to call a woman a skank, even if in reality, she dresses like one. Furthermore, with decreased public shaming of women for what they wear, it has become more common for women to wear extremely risqué clothing, especially among celebrities.9 Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your moral viewpoint on modesty.
- Marie Jackson, “Modest dressing: Why the cover-up?”, BBC News, June 29, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40442478
- Paul Jenkins, The Spectacular Spider-Man No. 16 (Marvel Comics: August, 2004), 2, 4, 18.
- Jenkins, Spectacular Spider-Man, 5.
- 1 Timothy 2:9 (New International Version).
- Quran 24:31 (Yusuf Ali). https://quran.com/24/31
- Jenkins, Spectacular Spider-Man, 15.
- Urban Dictionary, s.v. “skanky,” accessed June 23, 2017, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=skanky
- JR Thorpe, “The Long-Term Effects Of Slut-Shaming,” Bustle, June 22, 2017, https://www.bustle.com/p/the-long-term-effects-of-slut-shaming-64302
- Natalie Matthews, “See the Evolution of the Naked Dress in 36 Photos,” Elle, July 26, 2015, http://www.elle.com/fashion/celebrity-style/news/g26/naked-dress-celebs-red-carpet