But There Are Still Legitimate Concerns


I wanted to weigh in on the controversy surrounding Riri Williams- the kickass new Iron Man who happens to be a teenaged Black girl.

First and foremost- is it me or has she gotten LIGHTER since we first saw her? THAT should be the main (and in my opinion only) controversy.

Riri was not over sexualized in the now pulled variant cover. She was in the form of a young teenage girl who felt like showing her navel. In a time when young girls are being body shamed in school and sent home for “showing too much skin” (i.e their arms, a navel in hot weather, or shorts or a skirt that don’t rest below the knee) I don’t think it sends the right message to say that there is something WRONG with the way Riri was dressed because of how someone else might over sexualize her appearance.

It doesn’t take clothes for someone to be inappropriate towards women (hello, Donald Trump anyone??). Riri’s clothes aren’t going to stop some person who wants to objectify her to… well… objectify her.

Women are assaulted every day wearing plenty more. Some less- and even then, guess what? It isn’t the woman or the girl’s fault! If a young girl wants to show her navel because of the weather- or hell- because she likes her friggin’ stomach, she should be allowed to. By pulling this cover we effectively say RiRi shouldn’t want to show her curves (because yes, girls can and often do develop curves at 15) because she’s being “sexual”. No.

Now, I’m all about saying the hell with the male gaze because I dress the way I do because it makes ME feel good. Not for “approval”. But this isn’t what this is. Yes, white artist did draw her, but it isn’t like we have not seen young girls dress similar to what Riri had on. He wasn’t pulling this from thin air. Her outfit was tame actually. It was cute and she seemed confident. Some 15 year old girls have curves like Riri had on that cover and having curves alone (and not trying to cover them or play them down) does NOT mean you’re trying to make yourself sexual. All too often Black girls who develop early are shamed to feel like they did something “wrong” by going through friggin’ puberty.

How about we focus more on teaching our boys and men that no matter what a girl or woman is wearing it is her body and it does not equate sex or free access? Riri’s outfit was fine. It’s society that needs a makeover.


What do you think about Riri’s “evolving” appearance?


  1. You are so right,a woman or girl should wear what she want and not be accosted, this is her body,not yours ,like I said just be prepared to fight some dumb ass man who feel they have the right to touch you! Kick his Ass for all women,we must all learn self defense!

  2. This whole controversy is a no-win (though you’re right, the skin lightening sure is a thing I wish more people were talking about). I’m old, so honestly I was just so glad to have a girl who is a super genius NOT portrayed as a sloppy geek like Scooby Doo’s Velma or Stranger Things’ Barb. I can definitely get behind a confident smart young woman!

  3. @Karen- Exactly. The intent of if Riri is being sexual depends on the perspective of the person looking at her. And she will “sexualized” by someone who wants to sexualize her no matter what she wears.
    @Clockwork Cat (first off, love the name haha!)- Exactly! I agree, I’m excited for this kickass character. And I totally get and agree with your point of liking the idea that we have a super genius geek girl who is NOT portrayed as “undesirable” or as the Velma or the Barb. Sexy geeks exists! *raises hand* lol. And I think it actually works against us to make it seem like Riri has to dress a certain way to be taken “seriously” as a geek/genius.

  4. Honestly, I’m not with you on this one and it has nothing to do with her outfit. It’s a very similar outfit to what she wore in the art that introduced her. The outfit is cute on her and has been my mental ‘go to’ outfit for Riri since I first saw her.

    But it IS about the combination of the pose, plus the ‘juuust a little lower plunge waist, plus making her hair more ‘acceptable’, PLUS taking her from perfectly chocolaty brown to somewhere between milk chocolate and latte.

    It’s about this artist being the focus of more Hawkeye project spoofs than so many others because he never puts his ink and lead to paper without making sure the women and girls he draws are jerk worthy first, accurate and anatomically correct second.

    Because those design elements add nothing to the character. Or the story.

    What they do add is a level of sexuality that they don’t tend to add on young to mid teens. Think of the Teen Titans. Look at the build on Raven and Starfire. Look at Mz. Marvel. Carrie Kelly (that one was a reach since that was like 32 yrs ago). They look like teenagers.

    I don’t draw professionally, but it is a passion of mine and I have been doing it 20 yrs. Lots of us who draw have had the same complaints about the design changes. He’s making her lightskinned, and changing her hair, and enlarging her chest and giving her that jailbait expression because it’s more important that she read sexy before she reads strong or black.

    It’s infuriating and as pretty as that girl is, she’s not RiRi and I’m not going to pretend I’m cool with looking for my girl and being given a pin up. I’m not eating it just because people are focusing on the clothes and not the drastic changes made to the character with the intent to make her a sexual object suitable for a primarily white audiance.

    TLDR; I disagree because it’s about a lot of things, but not the clothes.

  5. I disagree. The changes made were intentionally about making her more sexy. Tjis was an artist taking a girl and turning her into a woman because sex sells, not strong black girls.
    Larger breasts, slimmer waist, more curves, tamer hair, lighter skin (which is a problem of its own), seductive look and pose.

    This is now a woman. This looks nothing like a 15 year old teenage girl. The previous designs clearly do. And that was the intention. And that is messed up.

  6. @Leanne & @Autistictic- I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree because from what you both are saying in your comments it sounds basically like you’re saying “There’s a certain way we think a teenager should look and this design doesn’t fit it.” Which to me boils down to preference. Like I said in my original write up- there are girls who are 15 with a body similar to the new drawing. Are they not 15 year old girls because they don’t fit the “proper” mold you all have in your head on what a 15 year old is “supposed to look like? I don’t think so. There’s a vein of respectability politics going on in these arguments against Riri’s pose on what will make her a true super hero or “legitimate”. I think respectability politics are a dead end. Her having slightly larger breast and standing a certain way does not take away from her being a badass super genius or any less of a strong Black girl.

  7. i dont know, keep in mind that those art are from different artists. and they tend to draw their women the same way/ in the same outfits. they all have their own idea of what riri williams should be. the only real change i see there is the hairstyle. the skin tones is fine. tony also sometimes drawn as light brown or white as heck. its just slightly more sensitive because she’s black/ lighter black. honestly in the comic where she’s drawn as darker. most other characters are also drawn the same way.

    definitely just artist’s drawing/ coloring style

  8. I’d just like to say that I am a 15 year old girl, and I have wider hips and larger breasts than Riri does in this. For the record, most girls start developing between the ages of 9-13- I was an A-cup by 6th grade- so I don’t see how she looks “too old.” I know plenty of high schoolers who look older than this. Plus, this is a really tame outfit for high schoolers our age, and anyways- she should be able to wear what she likes.

    Also, being a big comic fan and an artist (I’m in a nationally-recognised, college-level art program), I’d like to address a few things:
    1) Yes, her skin does look lighter, BUT we have no way of knowing if it really is. (I’m thinking like an artist here, so bear with me) The original picture has her in darker spacial lighting (there isn’t a direct light source creating highlights and lowlights), while the new one has her in direct light, which will-with any skin tone(or really any color), cause a stronger highlight, which will cause the color to appear lighter.
    2) The only major differences in the two pictures are THE ART STYLE FOR ONE, her torso has been slightly elongated, her hair is shorter, she’s posing differently and her skin appears lighter. Her breasts, hips, and clothes haven’t changed.
    3) Her pose is not provocative. If you stuck out your arm and hip a little, would you call yourself sexy? Unless you’re doing it to be sexy, it’s not. I don’t see her wearing lingerie or anything, so why assume it’s supposed to be sexy?
    4) This is me speaking as a comic fan- This new cover was made to be a variant cover. In other words, it’s not the official cover, and would probably have been sexualised. I’m not saying that’s ok- its not and it should stop- but people don’t have to buy the variant edition. In fact, I was surprised that it wasn’t super-sexualised, because most variant editions are. And it’s not just women and minorities. Its all characters, no matter race, age, gender, or anything. Captain America, Hulk, you name it. There’s a reason my friend group calls variant editions “pervies.”
    Sorry for ranting, but honestly, if you find this 15 year old “provocative” or “sexy,” that’s a problem in and of itself. Don’t interpret things based on your own assumptions, our society does too much of that. It’s our mindsets that are the biggest problem here.

    • Thank you so much for your feedback! You hit some amazing points about art direction, variant covers, and the mentality of the one worried about whether something is sexual or not! We’d love to see and feature your work sometime. Hit us up at info@theblackgeeks.com I was a teen artist once and love hearing about others that are doing the same.

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