Neil Humphreys – Superheroes are for Girls, Too

From "Picking up a Penguin’s Egg Really Got Me into Trouble" Used with permission.

From “Picking up a Penguin’s Egg Really Got Me into Trouble”
Used with permission.

As is often the case when there’s an accident involving my daughter, it was my fault. She flipped off our bed, landed on our hardwood floor and bashed her knees so badly we thought we’d be accused of child abuse.

She was trying to be Wonder Woman and eager to prove that she, too, could perform a back flip off a king-sized bed whilst dodging make-believe bullets. It turned out she couldn’t.

She collapsed in a heap on the floor and bravely fought back the tears – Wonder Woman doesn’t cry – and blamed me for not catching her fall. Then Mummy entered the fray, soothed our shell-shocked little girl and then berated me for playing Wonder Woman again. And then I fought back the tears.

In my defence, my part in my daughter’s downfall was due to my sense of feminism being outraged. That’s right. That really was my defence. No, my wife wasn’t convinced either.

But it’s true. Men rule the world of comic book heroes and villains and it’s wrong. Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the Green Hornet, the Green Lantern, Batman and Robin, they are all men (or mostly men. I’ve always believed that Robin was half male superhero and half hermaphrodite.)

My daughter came home from school recently and said that she’d been playing Batman in the playground. No, no, no, no, I replied. This will not do. And before anyone intervenes at this juncture, this isn’t an archaic, sexist belief that Batman is for boys and dolls are for girls.

I spent many a happy childhood summer allowing Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to share Barbie’s hot tub in my sister’s dollhouse and it never did me any harm. (But I always drew the line at the hirsute Chewbacca joining them in the Jacuzzi. That just felt weird. )

There was no issue with my daughter being Superman, or Batman, or even the Joker. But she didn’t actually want to be any of these characters. She wanted – to borrow her words – to portray a “girl superhero like Batman … You know, Daddy, like Batman, but a girl inside.”

The imagery alone was a month on the therapist’s couch so I came up with a much simpler solution, via a 1970s flashback … Wonder Woman. With childlike glee, I immediately ordered the first season of the retro TV season online.

Wonder Woman provided my girl with a noble, resilient female role model. The TV series offered her a chance to see a woman win the day; to remind her that women could be tougher than men and reinforce the sense of gender equality that is sadly neglected in superhero franchises.

Most of all, the 1970s show gave me a chance to watch Lynda Carter in gold hotpants all over again.

There are drawbacks of course. Most children today are not overly familiar with the Seventies’ milieu. My daughter now expects all “bad guys” to come equipped with guns, bushy black moustaches and flared trousers.

I dread to think what will happen if she attends a birthday party and the clownish children’s entertainer is wearing flared trousers. She may wrestle him the ground whilst shouting: “Wonder Woman!”

The other concern is Wonder Woman’s powers were – and I’ll try to be diplomatic – rubbish. Superman had x-ray vision. Batman had the Batmobile. Woman Woman had a couple of gold bracelets.

In truth, the gold bracelets were bulletproof and my daughter derives much pleasure from shouting, “you can’t shoot me” before crossing her arms to deflect pretend bullets away from her body.

Her bullet-stopping routine is proving quite the hit in the playground. The other kids, particularly the boys playing “the bad guys”, have never seen anything quite like it.

But at some point, they’re going to shoot her in the feet and she’s finished.

Wonder Woman is fast, but she can’t deflect bullets aimed at her feet. She might be the definitive female superhero, but she’s no good to anyone if she’s hobbling around on a pair of bloody stumps.

Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t fully considered her superhero’s flaw yet. When I take aim at her feet, she attempts a backflip and falls off the bed instead.

But I’m rather chuffed that she’s the only girl in her school with a female superhero as a role model. She loves being a woman who takes on corrupt and cruel men. She might be five-years-old, but she believe that women can rule in a male-dominated universe.

She can aspire to be anything she wants – as long as she doesn’t get shot in the feet.

About the Author: Neil Humphreys is one of Singapore’s best-selling authors. His works include Notes from an Even Smaller Island (2001), Scribbles from the Same Island (2003), and Final Notes from a Great Island: A Farewell Tour of Singapore (2006). Be My Baby (2008) chronicled his journey to parenthood and was his first international best-seller. His latest Singapore book, Return to a Sexy Island, is a No.1 national best-seller. Humphreys has written extensively for The Straits Times, TODAY, The New Paper, Men’s Health and Young Parents in Singapore. He currently lives in Bedok with his family and hopes his daughter will learn conversational Mandarin so she can teach her Dad.


Categories: Dad's Journey, Neil Humphreys

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1 reply

  1. Have you ever considered that the reason that most superheroes are male is because most men consider themselves inadequate? If you think Wonder woman is so great why is she pining after Superman in “Injustice gods among us”? If you really want a super heroine, read Empowered.

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