Arbitrary or not — they still disproportionately hurt girls.
When I was a child, there was a riddle:
A father and a son are in a horrible accident. The father dies, and the son is rushed to the hospital. The surgeon rushes in, but suddenly stops, saying, “I can’t operate on this boy, he’s my son.” How is this possible?
30 years ago, this routinely stumped children, because they could not imagine a world where a woman was an accomplished surgeon. It served as both a parlour trick and a cultural marker the showed how far we still had to go in the quest for gender equality.
The premise of that riddle has been brilliantly updated by the MullenLowe Group, in the above video, an ad for Inspiring the Future, a nonprofit that connects people from the business world with public schools and universities. I was hoping that by now, gender barriers had fallen in the minds of children.
Sadly, the new riddle seems to be, “Will we ever be able to protect our children from these damaging stereotypes?”
October 1st is upon us once again, and that means it is time for the second annual “Wear Your Superheroes Day.” Heroic Girls was one of the first to cover these two super-sisters last year, and we are firmly on-board for a second go-round.
We caught up with their parents, Tom and Mindy Nagel, and talked to them about why superheroes are important to girls, and why they are making this an annual event.
Why did you start “Wear Your Superheroes Day?”
Our daughters, Adalina (then 7) and Leanna (5), developed an interest in superheroes over a relatively short period of time last summer. Leanna in particular seemed to be captivated by the idea of superheroes and the virtues they represented, and she began wearing superhero shirts and Batman shoes to school.
One day, I picked her up from school and she had her jacket on and zipped up, even though it was hot out. She explained that some of her classmates had been telling her that superheroes were for boys, so she decided to cover up her new shirt featuring members of the Justice League.
That evening, we talked about what had happened, and Adalina decided that we needed to tell everyone to wear superhero clothes on the following Wednesday, October 1, to show people that superheroes are for everyone and not just boys.
What was the response like last year?
It was unexpected and overwhelming. One of our friends, Stacy Brannan-Smith, posted a Facebook event page to share the idea publicly. Word spread rapidly, and shortly thereafter, the girls were featured on a local television news broadcast. When the day arrived, we were pleased to see that many children at school wore superhero clothes, as did both of the girls’ teachers and other staff members. Later that morning, the school contacted us to get our permission to let a news crew film Adalina in her classroom. As I was walking to lunch, I passed someone wearing a Captain America shirt over a dress shirt. And in the evening, we sat down in front of a computer and browsed hundreds of pictures that were shared by people around the world, in support of Leanna. All told, there were more than 1,800 participants from around the U.S. as well as several other countries.
How have your girls responded to the media attention?
At first, it was novel to them, and they really enjoyed being on TV. Aside from that, they’ve been somewhat ambivalent, almost as if the attention was to be expected. They were more pleased that so many people participated at school and online.
What superheroes do the girls like now?
Adalina is into Phoenix, Wasp, and Black Widow. Leanna still likes Captain America and Batman. They’ve been reading Squirrel Girl lately too.
Why do you think it’s important that we give girls permission to like superheroes?
Well, I don’t think girls need permission to like superheroes in the first place — not from their peers, anyway. For us, as Leanna’s parents, it’s about being comfortable with who you are and being able to share that confidently with the world. It doesn’t just apply to girls, and it’s not even just about superheroes, although I think they can exhibit many characteristics that are worth aspiring to.
How To Get Involved
Boys and girls who believe superheroes are for EVERYONE should wear their superhero stuff on Thursday and post a picture to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #WearYourSuperheroes.
Writer/illustrator Charles C. Dowd is the creator of the great all-ages comics Lilith Dark and Kidthulhu. His most recent project is the Kickstarter-backed The A to Z Guide to Jobs for…