Study: Female superheroes empower little girls
The study also found that kids - regardless of gender - and their parents both wanted to see more female superheroes in media.
What is it about superheroes and kids? Children idolise their favourite superheroes, making us wonder if these fictional characters have a greater impact on our little ones than we thought. This is exactly what a group of researchers wanted to find out in a study on superheroes impact on society, particularly related to female superheroes and little girls.
The results are surprising and inspiring.
Female superheroes impact on society, especially girls
Recent research conducted by BBC America and the Women’s Media Center (WMC) discovered that fictional female superheroes and leading characters in movies play a big role in empowering women.
Young girls, in particular, became more confident by watching female superheroes. By putting themselves in the shoes of these heroines, the boost in confidence helped them to visualise themselves in a leading role in the future.
— Women’s Media Center (@womensmediacntr) October 9, 2018
WMC analyses the portrayal of women in media. Their study with BBC America showed that girls weren’t as confident in comparison to boys.
However, viewing females starring in leading roles might help girls “believe they can achieve anything they put their mind to”, say the authors.
In addition, these heroines become “impactful sources of inspiration” for girls much more than for boys liking male characters, the authors claim.
What the study found
The study included roughly 2,500 girls and boys. Among this group of kids, the study discovered that:
- most girls and boys wished to watch more female superheroes.
- roughly two-thirds of 10 to 19-year-old girls remarked that there aren’t enough “female role models,” “strong female characters” or “relatable female characters” in popular media.
- in contrast to their male peers, 15 to 19-year-old girls aren’t as likely to consider themselves as “confident” and “brave”.
- 57% of girls felt that they’re usually “not listened to,” in contrast to 38% of boys.
- kids, regardless of their gender and their parents, desired to watch female characters with leading roles in popular media. This was especially so for girls of colour.
- nine out of 10 girls felt that female superheroes serve as an inspirational exemplar. They also argue that these female characters with leading roles are more clever and stronger than their male counterparts.
- Approximately half of the girls preferred Wonder Woman, whereas boys favoured Batman.
The importance of female leaders in fiction
Putting themselves into the shoes of a female superhero boosts the self-esteem of many young women. Most of the girls who participated stated that these leading female idols helped them relate to being “strong,” “brave,” “confident” and “motivated.”
The study’s authors argued that digital representation of women in the media is very important. The main reason, they argue, is that inspiring female characters could propel young women to be involved in science and technology, where women aren’t represented adequately.
Superheroes impact on society a lot – even if they’re not real. Instead of choosing princesses or damsels in distress, perhaps you should consider raising your daughters with stronger, more confident idols, parents!
Tips to boost your daughter’s confidence
Teach her to be independent and brave. In particular, dads shouldn’t treat their daughters like damsels in distress. Instead, provide her with opportunities and resources to go beyond her comfort zone and to always do something new everyday. Encourage but do not stigmatise failure, rather teach her to brush herself off and get back up.
Instill social confidence and encourage friendships. Teach your daughter how important it is to find friends who will support her and maintaining quality relationships. Friendship is only second to family when it comes to boosting confidence and self-esteem when you are down. Encourage her to take part in team sports because studies have shown that girls who play on teams have higher self-esteem.
- Praise her for her efforts than her performance. Focus less on the outcome and more on efforts and the developing new skills. Involve her in activities that build a sense of confidence instead of focusing on looking good and acquiring things. Creative activities like sports, theater, music and art are good places to start with, allowing girls to express themselves and bring out their hidden talents.
- Compliment her on something other than her looks. Your daughter she’s much more than just ‘pretty face’ – but you need to show it. Focus more on who she is, than what she looks like. When giving compliments, try to praise her about things other than her appearance, such as her efforts, determination, or character.