Move Over Wonder Woman, There’s a New Heroine In Town

On Tuesday I participated in #GenderPop, a TweetChat hosted by an organization called Have Art Will Travel, also known as HAWT. Hot. HAWT uses art as a vehicle to inspire people to fearlessly live out their genders.Photo by Cartoonist Malcom EvansThe topic of the TweetChat was the new Pakistani cartoon show, Burka Avenger.This school teacher by day justice seeker by night is not your ordinary hero. Thank god. How do I love thee Burka Avenger? Let me count the ways:

  1. She fights for girl’s education. Tell me the last time that we had a hero or heroine who did that? Oh wait, that would be never. Finally something relevant that makes sense to fight for. I mean, I know you all want yet another story of a steroid enhanced men in tights sweeping up the half-clad woman with long “feminine” flowing hair who, of course, got herself into this whole mess because she is clearly helpless and conveniently lacking a brain. But instead, you get a role reversal of a heroine who fights for civil rights. Sorry I’m not sorry.
  2. She wears a Burka to hide her secret identity. This not only expands the conversation on more inclusive forms of feminism and women’s empowerment, it also challenges this westernized version of sexualized heroines. “The idea is to show that a burka-clad woman can be tough, too.”
  3. She sends a positive message to youth. Because it is a cartoon aimed at children, the possibilities to influence a mindset shift are endless. If we can plant the seeds of gender equality from an early age, and give girls AND boys strong women to look up to, then they will view women’s leadership as the norm.
  4. She fights with books, pens, and advanced acrobatics. She doesn’t fight with patriarchal guns, weapons, tanks, or the furry of her fists – oh no, the Lady in Black fights with knowledge. Oh yea, and she fights against the forces of tyranny and ignorance. Awesome.

Highlights from the #GenderPop TweetChat:

One of the more active participants in the chat, Emaan Majed, a writer at Muslimah Media Watch, pointed out that “We also need to consider how imperialist narratives of ‘oppressed muslim women’ play into the idea that burqas rob women of agency.” To which another participant, Carrie Baker, responded with “I think the obsession with the burka in the commentary might be fueled by this…” Carrie, I think you may be onto something.I also enjoyed the fact that SLC Feminist pointed out how “Many Muslim women describe modesty as a form of self-empowerment. It’s problematic to make that judgment as white women IMO (in my opinion)” Again, this speaks to expanding feminism away from a one size fits all model. Isn’t it about time we came to terms with the fact that YES there are strong women who wear hijabs and burkas and NO that doesn’t mean they are not feminists.We must open up the conversation and truly embrace intersectionality. I’m tired of all these divides within feminism. We do not all have to agree on one single approach in order to advance gender equity. Maybe if we spent a little less time telling each other how to be feminists “the right way” and a little more time on celebrating one another’s differences, then we would be further along in the battle for gender equality.Be sure to catch the first episode of the Burka Avenger on YouTube. And remember, don’t mess with the Lady in Black. 

Kaitlin writes about current events, pop culture, and innovative ways to promote gender equality through online advocacy. Read more of Kaitlin’s posts here.