When young girls watch superhero Wonder Woman fight off villains and seek out justice in a movie, they may be following more than an entertaining plot —they may be internalizing lessons for their future, a new study by the Women’s Media Center and BBC America suggests. The research is a reminder of the importance of being represented on screen, suggesting that female superheroes help young girls feel more confident and brave.
“If you can’t see her, you can’t be her,” BBC America President Sarah Barnett said in a statement. “It’s time to expand what gets seen.”
Female superheroes superpower confidence of girls
In its survey of over 2,000 participants ages 10-19, the report found a confidence gap existed between genders. Young women ages 15 to 19 were significantly less likely to describe themselves as “confident,” “brave,” and “heard,” compared to teenaged boys. More than half of young adult women said that they were “not listened to,” compared to 38 % of teenaged boys who felt the same.
But having a female role model, even if the hero was fictional, made a difference. Girls in the survey said their favorite female superheroes and science fiction characters helped them identify as “strong,” “brave,” “confident” and “motivated.” They left a more lasting positive impact than a male superhero did. Girls were more likely to think female superheroes were more “powerful” and “smarter,” than a male action figure.
From Wonder Woman to the character Storm Reid from “A Wrinkle in Time,” there are more female heroes going onscreen for young women to look up to, but there is still much work to be done. The majority of girls and young women surveyed said there were not enough “female role models,” “strong female characters” or “relatable female characters.”