More Wonder Women!

So as you all may remember, Joanna first blogged about Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superwomen on February 9th. Since that time, they have raised the money and premiered the documentary at the SXSW film festival! Those who donated will receive their gifts sometime this summer. Why the wait? I don’t know. But it’s slowly killing me.

Anyway these lovely ladies have also been in contact with my mother, who is writing an article about the film and the filmmakers for her newspaper. What follows is my very first ever byline for her paper about Wonder Women and positive female role models:

When flipping through the television channels, magazine ads, or books in the children’s and young adult section you may find that there is a void. There is a large, gaping hole looming out of the pink ghetto of sex-segregated toy stores that was once filled by an empowering role model. Wonder Woman. The name conjures an image of stars, action, adventure, and a tall amazon who stands tall against her foes. During the 70s Wonder Woman was played by Lynda Carter on a popular television show of the same name. But what has happened between then and now? Wonder Women!: The Untold Story of American Superwomen is a documentary by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Kelcy Edwards traces the evolution of Wonder Woman from her debut in comics during the 1940s to today. Additionally, the film explores how cultural perspectives of women roles have changed overtime through comics and other aspects of popular culture by interviewing real-life superheroes like Gloria Steinem and those involved with the Wonder Woman legacy.

In the ‘pink ghetto’, the ‘girls’ section of toy stores, we typically find baby dolls, Barbies of various professions,  Disney Princesses, and dress-up clothes. Sure, its nice to know that little girls can be a mommy or a vet when they grow up- but how do these things help them cope with difficult situations? In the ‘boys’ sections of toy stores are lined with action figures of positive role models. The girls are left with Disney pop-stars and Barbie.

“Girls actually need superheroes much more than boys when you come right down to it, because 90% of violence in the world is against females. Certainly women need protectors even more, and what is revolutionary of course is to have a female protector not a male protector.” – Gloria Steinem, from Wonder Women!

So how does Barbie protect us? Barbie, Disney, and baby dolls may inspire young girls to value friendships and dream about their potential future roles, but they do not protect us. Girls need a positive role model who shows them that they are and can be strong.

“I thought it was my job to show women that, this guy’s knocking you around well, you know, knock him back.” -Lynda Carter, from Wonder Women!

If I had the access to records and data, I would like to do a study that correlates watching Wonder Woman and how likely women are to fight back in domestic abuse cases.

Reflecting upon Wonder Women! and the overwhelming lack of strong role models in pop culture has made me grateful for the strong role models and experiences of my childhood. I was lucky enough to have a mother who idolizes Wonder Woman to teach me how to stand up for myself and Girl Scouts for helping me understand who I am and explore my interests. You cannot pick who your mother is, but you can join Girl Scouts. Through this organization girls become strong together and are encouraged to become leaders. Whether its Girl Scouts, Wonder Woman, or your mother having a strong positive female role model is essential for all girls and women if we ever want to fill that void in the pink ghetto.



2 thoughts on “More Wonder Women!

  1. The superheroines and strong girl role models for girls are out there, but it seems like there’s a pretty sharp divide based on the age of the brand.

    For example, there are some great super-heroines in kids’ books, like the Priscilla the Great Series (superhero girl from family of super heroes) and TEEN Agents (three girl best friends with extraordinary abilities join a secret organization of kid heroes). They’re both self-published, which is where I’m finding most of the girl super-hero stories, but if the traditional companies are ignoring the need and other people are filling it, then I’m fine with that. It’s not 1990 anymore, and I’m not limited to what my local comic book store stocks.

    We’re kickstarted Wollstonecraft (steampunk series about a detective agency run by girl versions of Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley) and watch Studio Gibli movies like the Secret of Arietty and Ponyo, and we have our fingers crossed for Brave to turn the tide for the girl-empowerment for Pixar. She also likes some of the older movies that make me want to stab myself, like Pippi Longstocking, but at least it’s a girl-heroine movie.

    So, the super-heroines are out there – they’re just not in the big name comic books. I say, screw Marvel and DC. My boys like dressing up like cookie monster or dinosaurs more than spiderman or superman anyway, so I don’t even need to buy the stuff that they do have for the boys.

    As far as the toy store, there’s definitely a pink ghetto for traditional “girl” toys, but it seems like that’s for big name brands that I grew up with (Barbies, american girls, my little pony, disney princess, strawberry shortcake etc.) and their imitators (Bratz, Monster High, etc.). They’re all doing the girly thing, but there are a lot of great toys and brands that are gender neutral or girl positive. Same with TV shows. Blue’s Clues, Dinosaur Train, the Backyardigans, Leap Frog toys (not always the videos), Magic School Bus, Alex toys, Melissa and Doug Toys, Dora the Explorer, Animal Planet, Discovery, etc. are all great.

    The only problem I have is with merchandising. If they like Blue’s Clues and Dinosaur Train and Priscilla the Great, I want to be able to buy Blues Clues t-shirts and Dinosaur Train room decorations and Priscilla pencils. But since most of these are not big enough brands, they don’t do the merchandising. So I’m either stuck with generic stuff (which the kids sometimes find OK, but they always lust after items where they can recognize the characters) or with the really gendered disney/mattel brands for things like nightgowns and bicycle helmets. Dora is the only one that’s really made it big enough to be supported by the merchandising, and I don’t want to do all the kids’ stuff in Dora and Diego.

    In any case, I feel like Wonder Woman being minimized is more a problem for us women. I want my over-the-top, big-budget, super heroine action flick that gets restarted with a new actress every decade for myself, because I grew up with wonderwoman as my superhero.

    My daughter’s fine. When she’s old enough to see PG-13 movies, she can watch whatever the successor of Hunger Games is. That’s her generation’s story and brand obsession. In the meantime, she has large enough choice in toys and media that she can find be surrounded by positive and empowering images without picking through the meager leavings of the big comic brands. Since we have Netflix and Amazon Prime, we don’t have to worry about them being as influenced by the ads and exposure anymore. It kind of evens the playing field a little so that, for my daughter, Priscilla is just a big a superhero as superman.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it.

    BTW, I’ve enjoyed your blog.

    • One thing I (Joanna) would like to add is that, your daughter probably has more access to empowering media because you seek it out. Many children grow up without parents who would specifically try to find them books and movies that feature female role models. I don’t think Bat Cat meant that there’s nothing out there for girls, but that unless a child has the good fortune to grow up in a household like yours, they only get exposure to the mainstream media that completely fails girls and women.

      In any case, thanks for the input. It’s always nice to get feedback from readers. 🙂

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