Inspired by his daughters Anya Rose and Sofia Grace’s love of superheroes and cosplay, John Marcotte started up Heroic Girls, “an organization dedicated to empowering girls by advocating for strong role models in alternative media — particularly comics.”
In his TED Talk, Marcotte addresses why it’s important to teach girls they can be more than damsels in distress, women in fridges, or the good guy’s girlfriend. But there’s some lessons in here that serve non-parents as well. Like posing like a superhero for 2 minutes a day can be good for you. No really!
Marcotte speaks to the fact that both male and female moviegoers turn out in force for superhero movies. The new Miss Marvel featuring Pakistani heroine Kamala Khan was the #1 selling comic upon its debut. The new female Thor is outselling her male predecessor. Comics are seeing an upswing in diversity, and it’s proving good business! “So, where,” Marcotte asks, “Do kids get the idea that superheroes are just for boys?”
The short answer: the toy aisle. There girls find TONS of Barbies and princess toys. What they won’t find are action figures. But here’s the truly fucked part. Even if the non-pink boy aisle doesn’t make girls feel unwelcomed, girls won’t find superheroine action figures there either. The age old wisdom is that girls don’t buy action figures. But how can they when toy companies won’t make them?
But Marcotte goes further, revealing how rigidly enforced gender norms can be damaging to kids. For girls, it teaches them to focus on their looks (Hey, Barbie) over their ability to be their own heroes. Similarly, boys are taught that boys are heroes, and thereby girls are less-than. It hurts their sense of empathy, and thereby can hurt society at large.
“Gender lines are not walls. They are meant to be crossed. I am here because putting yourself in women’s shoes does not make you less of a man. It makes you more of a person.”