I’m watching a documentary on the evolution of “Wonder Woman” in the comics and on screen. One question that keeps being raised is why there are so few “super” heroines – women who have extraordinary powers beyond just being strong and adept at fighting. Yet we have dozens if not hundreds of superheroes.
Here’s my thought on that. Most men are the “principle actors” of their own lives. They are – as much as anyone can be that is – in charge of what they do and what they can accomplish. No one else is controlling them. So, for a man to be larger than life, to be a hero, he has to do more than most men can do. He has to be “super” in some way.
But until recently, women were hardly ever the principle actors of their own lives. Instead, their lives were dictated by their parents and then their husband. This is still true for many women. So, for a woman to be extraordinary, all she has to do is become the principle actor of her own life!
That is a huge leap for most women, especially in the eyes of those who think women should not be extraordinary. To be a superheroine is to take another, even more extreme step. For most women and for society as a whole, stepping up two levels at once is not yet easily imagined.
The equivalent for a man would be to become a god. We’re seeing that start to happen in the Marvel franchise with the Asgardian gods Odin, Thor, and Loki.
Yet we’re beginning to imagine more superhuman women. In addition to Supergirl and Wonder Woman, we’ve now got all the mutant women of the X-Men franchise. The most powerful mutant of all, in fact, is a woman: Jean Grey. Jean is also a scientist in her “human” form. She’s the principle actor of her own life already. So to be “super” is the next step for her.
I predict that as more and more women take on the role of principle actor of their own lives, we’ll see more and more superheroines in the culture. And, I hope, goddesses too.