There was not an empty chair in Kennedy Union ballroom last month during a presentation on female superheroes, in honor of Women’s History Month.
The presentation “Super She-roes and Faith Traditions: Judith, Wonder Woman and Kamala Khan,” was given by English professor Elizabeth Mackay who spoke about female superheroes in early modern literature and throughout popular culture history.
Mackay spoke about the “historical representation of gender,” beginning with the character Judith, of the Book of Judith in the biblical cannon of the Old Testament.
“As a feminist and as a scholar, I believe in the importance of paying attention to women (generally), women’s writing and female characters, because they give us a bigger picture of history, literature and culture than what we are typically used to studying,” stated Mackay. “Not only a bigger picture, but by paying attention to women, in this case, female superheroes, we see a more nuanced and complex version of the superhero in today’s culture.”
Mackay connected her content to UD’s mission when she mentioned the importance of building community for women, as “90 percent of the violence in the world is against women,” Mackay said.
“It matters that women and girls see superheroes that look like them and that reflect their lives and how complicated and rich they are,” said Mackay.
One first-year student who attended, Kendra Zonca, was inspired by what she learned.
“Comic characters, like the women discussed in the lecture, empower girls to push boundaries of gender by speaking out for what they believe is important,” said Zonca, a communication major. “By learning from modern she-roes, young women can be daring, brave, confident, and stand up for themselves without giving up.”
Zonca received Mackay’s message, which was to see the connection and importance of superheroes and faith traditions in a variety of literatures.
“I learned it’s impossible to look at our popular culture without seeing echoes of medieval muses,” said Zonca. “The lecture allowed me to recognize the presence of faith with comic[book] characters.”