Who’s your favorite superhero, the one you relate to the most?

Chances are you thought of Superman or Spiderman, the classically most beloved superheroes.

Or maybe Aquaman, Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, The Flash, Batman, or Black Adam who were all on the list of the most popular comic characters in 2023, according to Google searches.

What do all these superheroes have in common? Well, they’re all men—just like the heroes of most comics, movies, and TV shows.

However, there are some promising signs for the world of female superheroes.

For instance, Wonder Woman found herself in male company, taking the 10th place on the ten most popular list. Moreover, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and Harley Quinn got their movie installments. Outside the Marvel/DC realm, Doctor Who had a female lead, the first in the series’ 55-year history.

And there are plenty more amazing and inspiring superheroines—Scarlet Witch, Catwoman, Mera, Wasp, Gamora—but they are rarely the front and center of heroic stories of saving the world and defeating villains.

But with so many amazing women comics characters, the world needs to see more prominent roles for women in the superhero realm.

Superhero Representation & Self Image

A few years ago, BBC America and the Women’s Media Center carried out a study to understand how onscreen gender representation affects self-image. The study, titled “SuperPowering Girls,” revealed that better onscreen representation can help bridge the confidence gap for girls, enabling them to see themselves as leaders and heroes.

The study found that teenage girls are less likely than boys to describe themselves as confident, brave, and listened to.

In addition, almost two-thirds of girls aged 10-19 feel that there aren’t enough role models or relatable female characters on screen.

Additionally, the study showed that three-fourths of girls aged 10-19 said their favorite female superheroes make them feel strong, brave, or inspired. More so, watching female heroes makes nearly six in 10 girls believe they can do anything.

Sarah Barnett, the general manager and president of BBC America, highlighted that the study confirms that “if you don’t see it, you can’t be it.”

“If there isn’t representation of women in these roles, young girls and young boys don’t see the opportunity, and boys don’t see women as naturally in these positions of the hero or the one with power,” says Barnett. “I think ultimately the role of a superhero is an expression of power that is very important in shaping boys’ and girls’ ideas of who gets to inhabit the power situation and how.”

The results of the study emphasize that if women don’t see role models or strong and relatable female characters on screen, their self-image can be drastically affected.

Where Are Women in the World of Superheroes

The women in superhero comics or movies are the superhero’s love interest, sidekicks, or the damsel in distress.

This kind of female representation in superhero movies can give girls the impression that they are not capable of being the hero in their own lives. Instead of instilling confidence and bravery, this lack of representation of women in the superhero genre sends a message that they are not capable of being superheroes.


But it’s not like there aren’t female superheroes whose stories can be told.

For instance, Marvel Comics has a diverse set of female characters. However, many of them have not been introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

For instance, there’s Gwen Stacy, also known as Spider-Gwen or Spider-Woman. Her character has appeared in previous Spider-Man movies; yet, she is not featured in the MCU as a standalone hero.

So, the problem actually boils down to the fact that many female characters within the Marvel universe go unacknowledged and fail to receive the recognition they merit.

And when superhero roles are more inclusive, the women who get the chance to play the hero are often objectified and sexualized. Unlike their male counterparts, female superheroes often have revealing costumes or are advertised using their bodies.

Wonder Woman is a prime example of this. Her appearance was revamped in the 1990s to align it with the contemporary concept of femininity. Wonder Woman’s new, hyper-sexualized look included large breasts and long flowing hair. Thus, although Wonder Woman is a superhero who saves the world and boasts many powers and qualities, her male gaze-inspired looks still make her attainable to a typical, next-door young girl.

Therefore, even though women get to be the hero of their story, the focus still isn’t exclusively on their talent and abilities, but rather on their appearance as well.

To Sum Up

Having a female role model is crucial. Girls need to see a character on a TV screen who can lift heavy objects or save the world. Creating more of these roles for young girls worldwide is essential.


Hopefully, the future will bring more prominent roles for women in the superhero realm, and help send an empowering message to girls and women everywhere—that they’re courageous, strong, and able to do anything.