As lovely as Aphrodite, as wise as Athena… and as banned as toy guns.
Wonder Woman and her invisible jet are on the no-fly list at one school that has a blanket ban on all superhero characters because they “solve problems with violence,” as one little girl named Laura learned the hard way after being sent home with a warning letter over her offending Wonder Woman lunchbox. It’s pretty sad when one of the few non-princess positive role models available to girls is shown the door, let alone when it happens over a gross misunderstanding of the character.
The lunchbox in question has a picture of Wonder Woman’s face on one side and a picture of her in mid-run on the other, so any violence involved is purely theoretical. And concerns about violence are pretty wildly misplaced, considering the character’s devotion to seeking peace and justice. As The Mary Sue points out, the character is known to resort to violence only as a last resort — that sounds like exactly the sort of character I want my kids looking up to. I’m not sure what kind of characters the school was hoping to see on lunchboxes this fall. Gandhi, maybe?
The sad fact is that there just isn’t the same quantity of engaging female characters for young girls that there are for their male counterparts, especially for kids (and parents) who want to break out of the princess mold. (Yes, I know, Wonder Woman is technically a princess too, but that’s not really her defining characteristic.) And Wonder Woman is a great role model: kind, fair, tireless in pursuit of justice. Also, she has great hair. We all want to be Wonder Woman when we grow up. And her “weapons”? A boomerang tiara, bulletproof bracelets and a lasso that makes people tell the truth. There’s a real cost to depriving girls of role models over tenuous connections to “violence” like these.
If you’re looking for more great role models for girls (and if your school has more reasonable attitudes about what constitutes a “violent” character), comics are a great place to look. One current favorite, Ms. Marvel, is an ongoing series that handles real issues of adolescence right alongside cackling mad scientist villains. Princeless — note the L in there — is an utterly charming take on subverting princess stereotypes for those with kids who aren’t quite ready to make the jump from Elsa and Anna straight over to Black Widow and Gamora just yet. For those who are more into contemporary reading than superheroes or fantasy, Roller Girl is a great window into middle-grade life. And then there’s Lumberjanes, an all-ages ongoing that (we are not making this up) takes places at a summer camp called Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types and which we have nothing else to add except that you should buy it immediately.
There are great female characters out there! Some of them have invisible airplanes, and some are wearing dresses, and some are wearing roller skates, and some do turn to violence if they have to. And they’re all worth treasuring… on and off lunchboxes.