Superheroes Are Not Just For Boys

Over the summer, we had some family come visit us for a few days from California. My mom’s cousin came along with her husband and two little boys, who were about six and four respectively. I went into my room for one reason or another and the two decided to sprint down the hallway and follow me, taking stock of everything in my room. As a very big Marvel fan, there is a lot of superhero paraphernalia around my room. The little four–year–old sees all the superhero stuff, turns to me with a big grin, and asks, “Are you a boy?” I was stunned by this question and before I could answer his older brother quickly responded, “No! She’s definitely a girl,” and it got me thinking about what this little boy was being taught about gender.

For almost seven years now, I have been an avid fan of Marvel superhero movies. While I am very aware that most of the superheroes in the movies are men and that the stereotypical superhero fan is male, I never really was affected by any of those things. Most of my girl friends were superhero fans as well — my best friend Josie was the one to introduce me to the franchise — and so I was always engulfed in a world where both boys and girls liked superhero movies, and it was never an issue. So, when my four–year–old cousin asked me if I was a boy because I like superheroes, it started to make me think.

Courtesy: Stephanie Stevens

This little boy already has strict gender binaries in his mind. After talking to his mom, I found out that a teacher at his pre-school is hell bent on teaching them “proper gender roles.” She claims that girls like dolls, boys like superheroes. Well, Ms. Pre-School Teacher, let me tell you something: Girls can like superheroes too. Girls can like strong, powerful and inspirational characters even if they are male. And, if you haven’t noticed, there are a ton of female superheroes too. Gender binaries are a complete social construct. The only reason society tells us superheroes are for boys is because we made it up. There is no binding law that tells us this is how things should be. 

Yes, it is unfortunate that most of the superheroes in the cultural eye have been consistently and mostly male, but why does that mean that women can’t want to be like them? Why can’t they want to be strong, passionate, selfless, or able to stand up for those who cannot? And, if you think about it, women superheroes have always been there; they just haven’t had the spotlight until recently. X-Men, one of the first really successful superhero movies of the 2000s, had four female characters — three superheroes and one villain. Catwoman has had multiple appearances in films. Black Widow was a major player in Iron Man 2 and is an original member of the Avengers squad. There’s Scarlet Witch, Gamora, Valkyrie, Elektra, Sif, Nebula and my queen of all queens, Peggy Carter. There are plenty of female superheroes in the fray who are just as strong and just as powerful as their male counterparts.

If you are a girl who likes superheroes, or anything else that is for some reason considered for boys, don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you that you shouldn’t like it. You are allowed to like anything you want to and it doesn’t make you any less feminine. For guys, too, if you like something that girls like, screw anyone who tells you that it makes you less of a man. Interests don’t have genders. They just have fans, and those fans can be whoever the hell they want to be.