I’ve been fascinated by super heroes since the Super Friends watching days of my childhood. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that the world of superheroes was a rough place for a girl.
There are so many ways I could talk about the mistreatment of super women, but for the scope of this post I’m only going to discuss one: numbers.
Look at the poster for any of the recent superhero movie posters. You’ll notice that best case scenario, female characters are outnumbered 2:1 and more commonly 5:1.
I didn’t used to be so bothered by this. Sure, it was annoying. But as long as the token female was super cool (I’m looking at you, Black Widow) it was sort of okay. But more and more I find myself dissatisfied with the “token female” approach. I’m starting to see the need for superhero movies and tv shows that pass the Bechdel Test.
To pass the Bechdel Test, the show in question must depict two female characters having a conversation with each other about something other than a man. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three qualifying movies in the entire Marvel franchise (Jane and Darcy in Thor and Thor: The Dark World, Gamora and Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy). Maybe I’ve missed some, but it took me a few minutes to even come up with those. The point is, girl/girl conversation in Marvel are scarce.
But why exactly is this harmful? The first problem with the heavily skewed male ratios of most superhero shows is that they suggest that extraordinary men are a dime a dozen but extraordinary women truly are rare.
This doesn’t even make sense to me, since I struggle to think of any plausible reason men would be more likely to obtain super powers on a statistically significant level. But these skewed ratios are so prevalent that we start to subconsciously accept this idea that men are more likely to be super than women. That’s why the idea of an all male team or almost all male team seems normal to us but the idea of an all or almost all female team seems radical.We can’t even seem to get a female solo movie, forget a whole team of female supers.
Token femaleship also doesn’t allow for a variety personalities, either. What’s even more problematic is that you’ll notice all the token female characters start to look very similar. They all have a certain type of personality, a personality that reflects more stereotypically masculine characteristics. This seems to suggest that female characters can only be strong if they act like men.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with female characters who have more masculine personality traits. But only having strong females with these traits sends the message that women can’t be strong acting like women. They have to act like men to be strong.
We need more diversity in this regard. Give me girls who are super perky, cutesy, quirky, or nurturing and can also beat up bad guys. Don’t send the message that girly is weak. Strong male characters don’t all look and act alike. Strong female characters shouldn’t either.
Furthermore, movies or shows with only one prominent female character do not provide opportunities to show women working together. Steve and Bucky set serious friendship goals. Who’s setting the friendship goals for girls? They exist, but they’re not on the big screen.
We need role models to teach girls that female friendships can be powerful. That relationships between girls can be important. That they can accomplish more when they work together.
Let us see how strong we are as a team.
I’ll leave you with a few examples of female friendships that we do have. Let’s see more like these, please. (Bonus points to those that feature POC or body type diversity)