Today on App.net I noticed that a lot of people were changing their avatars to super hero characters. I thought it looked like fun, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do the same.
I got called out by another user for following the hive mind and doing the same thing everyone else was doing.
There is a certain amount of validity to this point, but I had a few really good reasons for picking the avatar I chose.
I chose Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon. For those who are not in the know, Barbara Gordon was the first Batgirl. Her father is Commissioner Gordon. In 1988 The Joker came to Commissioner Gordon’s house and shot
Barbara, not because he knew her secret identity, but to send a message to her father. She did not die, but she was paralyzed from the waist down. She was confined to a wheelchair.
She did not want to give up on her calling of being a crime fighter, so she learned computer programming. She became a super hacker and put together a female team of super heroes called The Birds of Prey.
I am a red-headed woman programmer. I admire her tenacity in not allowing that event to prevent her from doing what she wanted to do. She worked around her constraints and did not let a setback keep her from kicking butt.
I am a very literary person. My handle and my blog are named after a character from Alice Through the Looking Glass. I believe that characters from literature can speak to our better natures. They can allow us to walk in another person’s shoes and see qualities in them that we would like to have in ourselves.
This speaks to the dearth of female characters in popular culture. We get enthralled with characters in various medias and we like to see characters that represent ourselves. When women go to a movie and only see women as girlfriends or mothers, it is very discouraging. We want to see smart, brave, capable women. We want to see people who look and think like us. Men get to, why can’t we??
Whoopi Goldberg spoke about the pivotal moment in her childhood when she saw Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek and ran around the house screaming, “Mom! There is a black woman on the TV and she isn’t a maid!” Nichols said that she was planning to leave the show when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told her what an inspiration she was to the black community.
There is every flavor of white man on movies and TV. We have handsome charismatic people (James Bond), slacker stoner guys who inexplicably have hot girlfriends (Seth Rogan), violent anti-heroes who murder people and do bad things (Walter White). You name it, it exists. Why are these stories more important or identifiable than ours are?
You can argue that stories are flaky or unimportant, but they are vital to the formation of identity. By refusing to have more characters like Barbara Gordon in mainstream media we are saying that those people’s perspective doesn’t matter. That is tragic.