By: Julie Ma, Communication and Development Officer at The MATCH Fund
Lately, superhero movies seem to be hitting the box office every month. People just can’t get enough of them: Deadpool, Batman VS. Superman, Captain America, and X-Men.
I believe in superheroes. They are everywhere: in every country, every city, and every town. But I believe in the kind of superheroes that’ve got nothing on Marvel. They’re the kind you won’t see in Hollywood but, trust me, superheroes do actually exist. (Spoiler alert: they’re women.) Here’s why:
1. Superheroes are put in dangerous situations, but they get the job done anyway.
Fighting off villains is no picnic. Magneto, Joker, Lex Luther, Bane—facing them requires a certain amount of bravado. But fighting for women’s human rights can be just as dangerous. Women human rights defenders go to work, every day, without fail—and that sometimes means putting themselves in danger. Some women are up against their governments, their legal systems, and even their own communities. They risk imprisonment, torture, and even death to defend women’s rights. Take Berta Caceres—a Honduran women human rights defender who was murdered this year because of her work. And then there are the daredevils: the illegal ballet dancers in Iran, the women motorcycling across Pakistan, the hip hop artists rapping about child brides, the skateboarders in hijabs–they all show up to get the job done, and literally make people stop and take notice–despite the danger it puts them in.
2. Superheroes protect the public.
And so do the millions of people tenaciously working at the grassroots day by day. Look at FEM Alliance (FEMA) in Uganda. They open underground networks for LGBT folks who face violence because of their gender identity and sexual orientation. They also literally go out and sit with people in their homes when they think they’re in danger. Not even Captain America did that.
3. Superheroes stand up for those who feel like they don’t have a voice.
In the real world, if anyone stands up for those who feel voiceless, it’s women’s organizations. They stand up for marginalized populations all over the world. They give voice to the Mayan women in Guatemala who have been shunned by society for years, the Nepali women who stand between child brides and their much older suitors, and the women in India who (while braving trash mafias) want to add their voice to the global conversation around climate change. They are the catalysts, they are the ones who are amplifying their voices, and they are the ones who believe that these women are the key in making lasting change.
4. In times of disaster, superheroes step it up.
The Avengers are a great team–they come together during disasters that no one single superhero can withstand. Well, when there’s a disaster in the real world (an earthquake, a flood, or a hurricane, to name a few), it’s the women that come together. Let me tell you about the women of Tamil Nadu. In a region prone to tsunamis, these women are well-equipped. When disasters strike, they’re on the front-line: creating shelters, finding food and other essential items, caring for the young, the sick, and the injured, running safety workshops for girls, and leading reconstruction efforts. These women have proven that they know how to step it up when their community needs them.
5. Superheroes are persistent and they never give up.
When Superman lost all his powers, did he give up after? (No.) Did Batman turn his back on Gotham City when everyone thought he was the bad guy? (Nope.) Did the X-men stop being X-men when people tried to force them to take a “Mutant Cure”? (Only a couple!) But in all seriousness, the thing we know about superheroes is they won’t give up and will continue fighting for the cause, even when things get tough. Much like the brave activists in the women’s movement. We need to celebrate the wins and the tenacity of women’s movements around the world but also take stock and come together when there are losses. Women all over the world are doing just that—holding their heads up high and continuing the fight. These women might not have capes or masks, but they are the real heroes in the world. (And in my opinion, I think they would certainly give Superman or Batman a run for their money.)
Speaking of Batman VS Superman, this recent film netted close to $425,000,000 USD in its opening weekend. Compare that to the $20,000 USD average annual budget of a grassroots women’s organization. That’s over 21,000 organizations that could have been funded for an entire year just from that opening weekend. If we support these superheroes on screen with our dollars, our time, and our attention (and let’s be honest: I do), why wouldn’t we be just as generous with the world’s real life superheroes?
So see the latest superhero movie, but when you do, also support the real superheroes working on the ground. And if we do that – well, that’s a world that I want to live in.