Sunny loves superheroes.
She reads superhero comic books and graphic novels.
She watches Young Justice, Teen Titans, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on YouTube and Justice League Unlimited with her father.
She loves live action superhero shows and movies, too.
She hasn’t outgrown her Super Sunny bedtime stories, either.
And at recess, she plays superheroes with her friends. She’s Flash’s daughter.
I asked her why, and she said they had decided to be superkids, because there weren’t enough girl superheroes that anyone wanted to play. Her friend Kira had called being Wonder Woman’s daughter.
“I didn’t care, though, because I want to run, and Kira says Wonder Girl wears these high-heeled boot things like her mother, which you can’t run in. That’s why she flies, I guess. Flash Girl can’t fly, but she wears supersneakers. If I wanted to fly, I could be Hawk Girl, um, Girl . . . but that sounds weird. Plus, we aren’t allowed to hit stuff at school and that’s all Hawk Girl does. ”
This is a great attitude, but it also made me think about female superheroes as role models.
Traditionally, one would be forgiven—if not entirely correct—for thinking that the majority of female superheroes were originally created or significantly modified by artists who were into silicon-based porn and also extreme wish-fulfillment.
Some of them also maybe didn’t like or understand women that much, either, outside of some clichéd, stereotypical roles, which were the norm at the time, so perhaps they might be forgiven, too.
Times have changed, though, and are also changing for female supes, too, sort of. People are starting to question the the plausibility of a universe in which all female supes and mutants are equipped with incredibly strong Cooper’s ligaments and supporting back muscles—or localized anti-gravity powers over their upper torsos—paired with the inherent ability to keep their nipples (or whatever those things are on non-mammalian-based species) almost covered with whatever is passing for a costume, even while doing the MMA version of twister.
The Hawkeye Initiative in particular has brought attention to the differences between the way men and women supes are depicted on covers (and other comic-based art), simply by putting the decidedly male superhero Hawkeye (or his bros) in the costume and position of the woman in the original. It’s surprisingly effective and intentionally hilarious.*
But we’re still in a strange time when female supes are allowed to be smart, strong, and deadly but are still being drawn or dressed in tight leather catsuits or body paint and using sex to sell their stories—and their “action” figures.
And now that the holiday gift giving season is coming around, I’m looking for superhero stuff for our tiny superhero that will let her play without marginalizing her—or giving her a head start on the body issues that the fashion industry will start giving her any minute now.
Luckily, her Aunt Watson is on it.
A week ago, my SIL sent me sent me an article from Time Magazine about a new kind of female superhero, based on the actual proportions of a real human woman.
Not only can these figures do anything a male action figure can do—like sit with their knees together, because their hips work as nature intended instead of what plastic can force them into—but they aren’t locked into backstories or ready-made storylines, either.
They’re power based female superheroes who can be whomever the kids imagine them to be.
When I showed them to a friend who has almost given up finding super figures who match her children’s racially-mixed identities, she said, “Even their skin tones can be any shade you want!”
These are the kinds of superhero role models** I want for my kid. Because she will essentially—elementally?—making her own. The website even asks kids to send in elementalselfies to proclaim their own powers.
I bought the whole set the same day. I almost bought two, but my husband assured me that Sunny would let me play with hers.
I hope so—I could use a role model or two, myself!
*The fantastic and utterly flexible Jim C. Hines did the same challenge—personally—for fantasy covers depicting women in anatomically suspect poses. The poses are hilarious, but it’s his description of the effort and pain involved that really drives the (pressure) point home.
** With the exception of Fear, maybe, though you can’t really have Bravery without her, right?