As a mother of two young girls, I never thought I’d find myself in the boys section of Target picking out Spider-Man underwear.
My older daughter, Austin, is four years old and loves all things Super Heroes. I am not exactly sure when it all started, but when she was born my husband and I decided not to force gender norms on our children. We wanted to let her decide what she was into, whether it was Disney princesses or dinosaurs, or in her case, both.
Her particular love for Spider-Man started late last year. You see, she was really into other Super Heroes at first but at Christmastime the stores were sold out of her favorite action figures, so I grabbed a Spider-Man one instead. It ended up being her favorite Christmas gift and so started the obsession.
So, here I am in the little boys section, picking out Spider-Man underwear with my four year old girl. I find myself in this scenario a lot now, considering how she now demands to have every Super Hero shirt, toy or accessory she sees. She can spot an Avenger from a mile away. It’s a gift.
After picking out her favorite pack of undies, I tell her to pick one more that she liked and then we would go home. That’s when she leads me to the girls section where she later chooses a pack of Moana panties. I don’t think anything sums up my daughter more than her two opposite choices of underwear.
While she loves Super Heroes, she also almost equally loves Disney princesses. I say “almost equally” because I feel like the heroes still take a front seat most of the time. Her favorite princesses include Moana, Ariel and Tiana.
Some mothers may be disappointed or upset not to be able to dress their daughters in princess gowns and costume jewelry, but I embrace the spidey shirts and action figures. There are so many reasons why Super Heroes are incredible role models to all children, but being specific, here are my personal reasons as to why Spider-Man is a shining example for our kids.
- His good attitude and morals. Peter Parker is a normal high-schooler. He is not popular or well-liked at school. Many of his classmates bully him and make fun of him, yet he doesn’t let it bother him. Peter does not care whatsoever about the way he is viewed at school. He comes home every day and knows in his heart that family is what matters most. He is not a disrespectful teenager, he does not talk back to his aunt and uncle and he genuinely wants to be a good person.
- His modesty. Spider-Man is a superhero. He saves the world when it’s in crisis. He has awesome superpowers that are incredibly rare and totally impressive. In our day and age, everyone wants credit for the great things that they do. The fact that Spider-Man will fight crime while wearing a mask, not wanting his true identity shown, tells a lot about his character. I feel like this teaches our kids about modesty and that you don’t always need to get credit when it’s due to feel good about yourself.
His humor. Let’s admit it, Spider-Man is funny! His personality is infectious. He knows how important it is to fight the bad guys, yet he cracks jokes and laughs while doing so. In a way, he doesn’t take things too seriously, which I feel is a great thing to instill in our kids. When times are hard, sometimes we just need a good laugh to feel better. People these days have become so serious, maybe the next generation will bring back some humor.
Tiffany Mink, the winner of Spider-Man’s recent DIY costume contest, couldn’t agree more about Peter Parker’s relatability. “He’s just a normal kid in school, living in a real city, and dealing with things we all have dealt with in our lives. Themes like not fitting in, loss, and responsibility are global themes that impact all of us. We’re living in a time where we don’t need to pigeon hole the newest generation of what they are ‘supposed’ to like and not like.”
You read that right, the winner of the custom Spidey suit design challenge was a woman! We love that Tiffany used her crafty style senses, and DIY’d her costume entirely out of items from Goodwill. It turns out, however, there are still people out there who disagree.
“I didn’t expect the backlash of being chosen as a winner because I was a girl. I actually thought the opposite would happen, especially with the social climate and girls finally getting a place in traditionally male-dominated pop culture fandoms. There were multiple comments about how it was ‘Spider-Man not Spider-WOMAN.’”
Thankfully, Tiffany’s detractors only served to make her point for her. It was clear, scrolling through their comments, how important it is for fangirls like Tiffany to continue to shake up the Super Hero space. Just think: without the diverse perspectives that women can bring to the Marvel universe, we wouldn’t have these awesome images of Spider-Man in a skirt!
My daughter, Austin, has yet to see any of the Spider-Man or other Super Hero movies, despite her eagerness to watch them. I still think she is slightly too young for the fighting scenes, so we will wait a little bit longer for that. For now, we read to her about the Avengers and their great adventures.
So, I will happily continue to embrace my daughter’s love for Spider-Man and also her newfound love for Rocket and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Super Heroes teach our children (boys AND girls!) to care about others, stand up for themselves, and make loyal lifelong friends along the way.