Grrrl Power: Why Female Superheroes Matter

DC Women
Illustration by Felipe Massafera (

The mainstream action genre in film and TV tends to be a man’s genre. Whether it’s Die Hard or 007, you get to witness male heroes save the day and exert power and strength while the female counterparts wait to be saved and rescued because their power alone is not enough.

However, within superhero mythology there exists room for women to exhibit just as much power as men and be celebrated as well. Whether it’s Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Raven from Teen Titans, female superheroes are able to hold their own against powerful male (and female) super villains that threaten the world they vow to protect.

Any number of them could illustrate this point but here are a few of my favorites.

Sailor Moon: Growth and Power

Sailor Moon
From superbrat to superhero. (© Kodansha Comics)

A pretty soldier of love and justice, Sailor Moon is one of the many female superheroes to be presented to the world as a force to be reckoned with. She is also a character that is shown to grow considerably, first presented as a “crybaby” and later shown as a warrior, powerful enough to shatter worlds and take down anyone who gets in her way.

She is able to stand up to any powerful force that threatens to destroy the very reality she vows to protect and she’s able to do it alone, even when her team is destroyed and the man who vows to protect her is killed, she is able to stand alone and show the world that no matter what she is just as capable, dependable and powerful as any male superhero.

Raven: Balancing the Good and Evil Within

Raven Teen Titans
Raven shows girls that if she can do it, they can do it. (© Warner Bros. / DC Entertainment)

Everyone has to deal with conflicting emotions, whether it is to do the right or wrong thing or pick between which university to go to. However, Raven, from the superhero team the Teen Titans, has to deal with a lot more than that every single day of her life. The daughter of a demon and a mortal, Raven has a constant inner conflict of good versus evil brewing inside her. She has to keep her own inner war in check while she serves as a crucial member of the Titans.

Raven shows everyone that no matter how good a superhero may be, they are still susceptible to the same flaws and faults as everybody else. No one is perfect, but it is the individual who decides the higher path to take who is the superhero. And the higher path usually means the more difficult path and so the hero overcomes the challenges that lay in that path, just as Raven does.

Buffy: Feminine Doesn’t Mean Weak

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy demonstrates how “feminine” and “strong” don’t contradict each other (© 20th Century Fox)

One of the most relatable female superheroes is Buffy from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A high school student, Buffy doesn’t have any magical powers like Sailor Moon and Raven, relying only on her ability of super strength, her intelligence and her courage.

She is shown to have the same dreams and desires of any high school girl: she dreams of being homecoming queen, retaining the right fashion sense, and finding a “dreamy” guy to date. Buffy is able to hold on to the popular and expected “feminine” traits, and yet is also able to exhibit the power and strength surpassing any male she comes in contact with.

Coming face to face with countless male villains, Buffy is able to hold on to her femininity while being able to defeat any male force that comes up against her. She proves that just because she is able to embrace her femininity, it doesn’t make her weaker than the male adversary that raises up to challenge her.

Looking Past the Spandex and Boobs

Marvel Women
Yes, their bodies are unrealistic but that’s to make the boys buy the comics. The girls pick up on the inner qualities these heroes represent. (© Marvel Comics)

The female superheroes that exist continue to give women a loud and strong voice. Like the horror genre that I often write about, the superhero genre has given women room to prove that they are equal and as strong as their male counterparts. They are given a fair stage to prove their ability without being subjected to the typical stereotyping that the action genre forces upon its female characters.

Superheroes in general show that no matter who you are, what gender or sexuality, you are powerful, strong and capable. But let’s take a moment to celebrate the female superheroes in particular for giving girls and female viewers heroes that they can relate to (symbolically if not physically) and for showing girls that they don’t need a strong male hero to lean on, that it’s possible to stand strong on their own.[subscribe2]

About Anthony Comella

Anthony Comella
Welding feminist theory with horror film criticism, Anthony seeks to help empower women's voices... all the better to scream louder with!


  1. Great job and I love how you pulled women characters from different genres. I think comic book heroes get passed over so often, there is a huge number of fantastic comic book characters who are strong independant woman. The only thing I would change is that Buffy isn't just a teen bad ass, she spent 4 years on that show as an adult, raising her little sister and paying the mortgage after Joyce dies. She shows her volnurability so clearly at these times when she has to choose her path as an adult with extreme responsibilities and how even when she messes up and lets it get to her, makes terrible choices, she finds her strength to keep going. She also shows it is ok to ask for help. It is part of her strength that she knows when to reliy on those around her to get the mission done, even when the mission is helping Dawn get through High School, and stop being a little klepto.

    • Krista, thank you so much for leaving a thoughtful comment. I myself have not, much to my chagrin, seen the Buffy TV series (only the old movie with Pee Wee Herman) but it is one of my long overdue assignments and I know Anthony was certainly aghast when he found out that I hadn't seen it. But I've seen and know just enough about the character to agree with what Anthony has written in his post here and your additional points about her transition into full adulthood with all the difficult choices and responsibilities that brings. Thanks for visiting our site and hope you'll subscribe and keep coming back!

  2. Anthony Comella

    Kris, my love!! While I agree that there is a lot more to Buffy to comment than I have, I choose to focus on a condensed topic. Obviously, as you have noted here and in my other post, there is so much more to the character, I just decided to focus on the earlier incarnation for the point of this article! Thanks so much for your insightful input, we’ll need to collaborate on something

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