The inquiry is finally complete on Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women, it’s pride month, abortions are being banned in the US and it is the hundredth anniversary of Winnipeg’s General Strike, these things may seem random and unrelated but to me they are threads that weave together to tell the story of a growing problem in our country and our world. In my head these events equate to one thing, one thing that every conversation I have and every news story I read seems to reenforce: we need new fucking superheros.
I’m tired of handsome, hetero, chiseled, white men who can leap buildings in a single bound. What is the use of that? What good has ever come from leaping a tall building? I want a superhero who holds the government, police and justice system accountable for all of its actions and promises. I want a superhero who can rebuild the child welfare system into something that has to do with the welfare of children and I want a superhero who will fight tirelessly until every single person in this country is earning a liveable wage. A superhero dedicated to the fight for gender equality. Those would be powers worth flaunting. The power to bring justice for all people, not just in the moment when they are facing a random crime or a super bad guy, but in every moment of every day when they are facing continuous and unrelenting oppression.
Where are the superheroes who will swoop in to help all voices to be heard in the face of mansplaining and whitesplaining. Where is the superhero who is going to liberate all the boys and let them love rainbows, flowers and kittens. Tina Turner may have sang, “We don’t need another hero,” but I disagree, right now I think we do need heros, we just need the right ones. We need heroes, not to save us from Magneto or the Joker and their evil plots, but to save us from ourselves and our slow spiral deeper and deeper into wanting and apathy.
How did we get here? Did we just imagine that we were moving forward in hopes that we could fake it until we made it? Guess what, it didn’t work. Canada signed the Canadian Declaration of Human Rights in 1977, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 why are there still so many people whose basic rights are not being protected. Here we are in a country that is sitting aside and watching a genocide unfold. These missing and murdered indigenous girls and women are not statistics, they are people. These are my students, they are your neighbours, they are mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, cousins, grand daughters, and grandmothers. People who are loved, who matter. How many countries turn a blind eye so repeatedly to the disappearances, suffering and murders of part of their population that there needs to be an inquiry to tell them that there is a problem?
This is where we need some new superheroes. In fact, we need to break the mould that was used to come up with the idea of what a superhero is and start all over again. No capes, masks or tights required this time, instead lets focus on what it means to be a hero. Let's start by looking around at the amazing women who are and have been ignored in their fight for equality for the past hundred years or so. I don’t think we need to search for alien life or radioactive spider bites to find our heroes, we just need to start with people who show a genuine love, compassion and commitment to all people in their community, let’s look to those who are working to bring our world together instead of tear it apart.
Now I’m not saying that men cannot be superheroes, I am just saying that the archetype of the super violent white man hero is more detrimental than useful in our current world. I would like to start by nominating Leah Gazan as a superhero here in Winnipeg. She is the first politician in about twenty years who helped me to feel hopeful about the future of this country. She brings together compassion, understanding and a desire to bring people together in a place of equality. If that isn’t a superhero, then I’m not sure what is.
If we want to travel back in time, then why isn’t there a superhero modeled after Helen Armstrong? It would take only a small stretch to imagine that this woman nicknamed the Wild Woman of the West could have had powers beyond the average person. She worked tirelessly for the rights of workers and women in both the US and Canada in the early to mid 1900s. She believed that all people should have the right to vote and to work for a fair wage. She worked to bridge the gap between locals and immigrants, championed the rights of sex trade workers and saw the inside of a jail cell many times for her efforts.
Mary Ann Shadd is another fierce, powerful, hardworking and forgotten superhero of our past. She was our country’s first black female newspaper publisher, one of the first black women to get a law degree and also somehow found the time to run a racially integrated school in the mid 1850s, when this was considered a dangerous and radical idea. Who knows, she may have leapt tall buildings in a single bound just for fun in her spare time and not bothered to brag about it!
Forget about superman, spiderman, batman and any other man who hides behind a mask and needs violence to solve his problems. The time is now for us all to move away from these limited and limiting images of what it means to be a hero and to start to embrace the real people who are bringing tenderness, courage and morality into the world around us. You get to design your own idea of what it takes to be a superhero, it is time to take the power back from hollywood and marvel. It is time for you to decide what you value. It is time for you to make your own mould and maybe to find that if you look into the mirror at just the right angle, you will see the next great superhero waiting there.