Wanting Female Superheroes For Our Sons

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By Aubrey Hirsch for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

Sony recently confirmed that they’re going ahead with a female-led superhero movie, the first since Elektra flopped back in 2005. It will hit the big screen in 2017, fully 12 years after the last one. When asked about Marvel’s plans, studio president Kevin Feige simply couldn’t say when, if ever, Marvel will respond by producing its own superhero film with a woman in the leading role.

Obviously this is bad news for our daughters, who would surely gain from seeing a woman save the world for a change, but I want to make the often-overlooked point that this is also bad news for our sons.

My son is just getting to the age where he’s starting to sort things into categories in his mind: these things are blue, these are animals, these are for eating, these make loud sounds. I am hyper aware of the messages he’s being sent about girls and boys. In his Sesame Street book, the girls go to dance class and the boys rollerblade. His singing pink teapot has a woman’s voice; his blue motorcycle, a man’s. I have to keep myself from defaulting to “he” when referring to his stuffed puppy with the brown stripes.

For now he’s fairly insulated from popular culture, but that time is nearing its end. Soon he’ll be interested in TV shows and action figures. He’ll want t-shirts and lunchboxes with licensed characters screen-printed onto them. He’ll want to watch the same movies over and over and over again.

And what will those movies teach him? That the job of a man is to be physically strong, fight aggressively, save the world? Will he notice that when there are women in these movies, it’s usually their job to look pretty, get into trouble and then reward the hero with a passionate kiss? I certainly don’t believe these things, and I don’t want him to either.

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4 thoughts on “Wanting Female Superheroes For Our Sons”

  1. That’s a good point! I have a son who loves watching those superhero movies as well but never thought about that. I hope directors and producers would also realize that especially that superheroes are kids favorite.

  2. So don’t let your sons watch those movies. I didn’t. Why support an industry that does nothing to advance women and girls as strong and heroic? The best superhero a boy can have? A strong, loving, compassionate mother (or any other woman in his life). One who is active in local environmental, social and/or political issues? Even better!

  3. There are great female superheroes out there. I have actively sought strong female characters and then I point out their characteristic to my son as we read: Zita the Space girl (brave, tough, loyal), Magic Tree House (Annie is fearless and my son admires her tenacity), Harry Potter (Hermione is bright and creative and we’ve spoken at length about her invaluable contributions to the war against Voldemort).

    Movies are harder to find. If we watch something that has a female in a role I don’t like then we discuss it. I avoid certain films, but I also would rather my son have the skills to CRITIQUE bad portrayals of women, rather than just keeping him from them entirely.

  4. You do have a point there – and I like the idea of restricting what your children watch. But I fear that there comes a point sometimes when you just need to let them see the world, including superhero movies, the news, etc… We need to arm them with a well-rounded perspective – especially about gender roles – so that they can make their own sense of the differences between whats in the media, the reality, and perhaps more importantly, where these issues could go in the future…

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