The great power of the female superhero

Becca McAusland as Wonder Woman
Becca McAusland as Wonder Woman

For the staff Halloween party in 2014 I went dressed as Thor.

Thor is one of my personal favourite superheroes so I made my Asgardian armour out of cardboard, bought a red cape and borrowed my partner’s Mjolnir toy (Thor’s hammer.) I looked awesome. BUT when making my costume someone said to me “You can’t go as Thor as he’s a man.”

WHAT?! It’s fancy dress! Why is gender an issue with fancy dress? Fancy dress, and cosplay, allows you to become anyone you want to be; boy, girl, alien, animal, monster. If you can imagine it, you can be it.

That’s one of the things I LOVE about the Superhero Weekends we have at Eureka! (the next one is on 23 and 24 September), I see boys and girls (and parents) dressed as their favourite heroes, with girls dressed as their favourite male superheroes; Spiderman and Captain America. Last year I talked to a young boy wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt, and his mum told me that Wonder Woman is his favourite hero.

Wonder Woman is one of the heroes who immediately comes to mind when anyone mentions superheroes. Which superheroes come to your mind whilst reading this? How many females are on that list? (I bet Wonder Woman is on it) Inspired by feminist icons she has become a feminist icon herself over the years, with merchandising, a regular team member of the Justice League, a Lego character and a stint as a UN Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women.

There have always been female heroes in the comics, but usually they are a diminutive of their male counterparts; Super Girl, Bat Girl, She-Hulk, similar powers, similar name but secondary. The release of X-Men (2000) brought a new age of modern superhero films, but from Iron Man 2 (2010) and the introduction of Black Widow to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the female superhero in films have grown from additional team member to pivotal character. Unfortunately Catwoman in 2004 and Elektra in 2005 - both female led superhero films - were poorly received. Wonder Woman released earlier this year is the first female led film since Elektra.

DC released Wonder Woman this summer, smashing box office takings and is now officially the highest grossing film by a female director; Patty Jenkins, getting rave reviews and whole lotta love from fans all over the world. With a combined 80 superhero films from Marvel and DC this is the first to be directed by a female (Jenkins walked away from directing Thor 2 over creative differences). With a Wonder Woman sequel already announced, and the female led Ms Marvel due in 2018, the future looks bright for the female superhero film.

Gal Gadot, the actor depicting Diana Prince in the 2017 film, champions the importance of strong female figures in boys' lives: "We need to educate boys, show boys strong women in powerful positions". I’d really recommend following the ‘A Mighty Girl’ blog for strong empowering females, both real and fictional.

Thor is now a woman in the reboot of the comics but Thor has not been renamed; ‘She-Thor, or Thor Girl.’ No diminutive, same as the male equivalent; Thor.