Girls Need Superheroines Now More Than Ever

By Lauren Dydiw, University of Pittsburgh student and 1,000 Dreams Fund Student Ambassador

Two years ago, I had an internship at a local Head Start preschool program. One day, I complimented a boy on his Iron Man backpack and told him that Iron Man was one of my favorite superheroes. His response: "But girls can't like superheroes." There still exists the schism I discovered in middle school where girls are not seen as fans of superheroes, let alone superheroes themselves. Now this line of thinking is getting younger and younger thanks to the proliferation of superhero (not superheroine) films and media.

Girls need superheroes as much as boys do. They validate our sense of justice and give hope through all of the darkness and chaos that can be in the world. Superheroes promote the idea that anyone can do good deeds, that hidden talents lie in us all, and that one person can make a difference.

Not every girl wants to be a princess. I'm thrilled to see that female superheroes are on the rise, with the first female-led films from DC Comics (Wonder Woman) and Marvel Comics (Captain Marvel) coming to theaters in the next couple of years, not to mention Supergirl on the small screen.

I first got into superheroes through television cartoons and action figures. I grew up in the age of Power Rangers, X-Men, Batman, Sailor Moon, Justice League, and Power Puff Girls. I did not realize girls were not seen as superheroes until I got into middle school, when the backlash against female comic book fans began. Ironically, this backlash strengthened my need for superheroines, as they dealt with bullies and injustices.

Here are a few of the amazing superheroines taking over the comic book world and beyond.

1. Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince
The woman who started it all, Wonder Woman has been around since 1941. A princess from the all-female Amazon tribe, Wonder Woman shows that girls can accomplish amazing feats all on their own. Her main weapon is the lasso of truth, and the importance of honesty in the Wonder Woman tales helped me admit in my junior year of college that I was severely depressed and needed to seek help. Wonder Woman helped me stay hopeful through the darkest time of my life, and I will always be grateful. Wonder Woman can next be seen on film in Wonder Woman premiering June 2017 and in the multimedia line DC Super Hero Girls.

2. Ms. Marvel, aka Kamala Khan
Kamala Khan's Ms. Marvel is the newest superheroine in this lineup, but she has made a big impact. Growing up wanting to be the beautiful, blonde Carol Danvers, Kamala takes on her mantle of Ms. Marvel when she discovers her own mysterious superpowers. I am glad this series exists today because I know the impact it will have on today's youth. Ms. Marvel is the kind of superhero comic book I needed as an adolescent: it tells young girls that they should be who they are, not how they are idealized.

3. Storm, aka Ororo Munroe
Storm was my personal favorite superheroine growing up. She was the first African American female character in Marvel Comics history and is most known today through the portrayal of Halle Berry in the X-Men film franchise. Having the ability to control weather and being a strong leader and protector, Storm is a force to be reckoned with. In a world of Mary Janes and Lois Lanes whose only use is to be rescued, Storm was a welcome and needed relief. Storm inspired me to become a teacher, a path that I am still on today. A teenage Storm will be seen in this May's X-Men: Apocalypse.

4. Supergirl, aka Kara Zor-El
Spunky, peppy, and always optimistic, Supergirl shows young women how to rise from the shadow of a beloved family member and make their own mark on the world. In high school I experienced devastating health issues, but I would read Supergirl comics and remain positive despite my struggles. I missed about one year of school, but remained optimistic and persevered to graduate on time. Supergirl can be seen on Supergirl on CBS and in DC Super Hero Girls.

5. Katana, aka Tatsu Yamashiro
Katana will make her film debut as a villain in this August's Suicide Squad, but in the comics she is an antihero with a tragic past. A regular human who utilizes her smarts and muscles to take down her foes, Katana wields her namesake weapon that has the power to take souls. I wish I had Katana as a role model earlier in my life so that I would not have been so afraid of not being cute, perky, and bubbly all the time, that I could be me. Katana will gain even more popularity and autonomy thanks to Arrow, Suicide Squad, and DC Super Hero Girls.

Girls have the same right to view themselves as incredible, mighty, valiant heroes that can accomplish anything that they set their mind to. We need more equality, showcasing all types of people as heroes so that every child can look to the skies and see hope. I needed superheroes in my life, and I know that girls need them with the same vitality. I just hope that writers and filmmakers understand that same need.

Do you agree? Who are the real female superheroes that inspire YOU? Celebrities like Taylor Swift? Business leaders like Sheryl Sandberg? Share who your #RealSuperheroes are!