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Brianna Johnson

English 115
Jon Beadle
October 14, 2015
The Transgression
Ms. Marvel is about Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim girl who lives with
her strict family in Jersey City. Everything was normal for Kamala until she gains the powers of
her favorite superhero, Captain Marvel. She then has to learn how to juggle her social life, school
work, and her duties at home all while fighting organized crime in her city. I believe, Kamala
gaining superpowers gave her the confidence to surpass gender roles. She realized she had the
power within her and it did not matter if she was a girl or boy, proving that she could be anyone
or anything she wanted to be.
Kamala gets to the Circle Q in the middle of a stick up and she panics and tries to call the
police but her phone was dead. She calms down and utters “I am 911!” She remembered that she
just saved someone the day before that so she could do it. Kamala bursts through the door
disguised as Captain Marvel and fights off the robber (Wilson 59). According to Aaron Devors
article, “Becoming Members of Society: The Social Meanings of Gender”, being feminine means
to be warm, sensitive, emotional, weak, and dependent while being masculine means to be tough,
confident, self-reliant, violent, and daring. Kamala could not have found some random person to
solve her problems for her, she had to do things herself and she realized that. She had to be selfreliant and independent because she was doing most of the missions alone and she had to be

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strong and confident to fight her enemies. She did not try to talk things out as most women
expected to do, she uses brute force to immobilize him and makes him say that he would not
come back again.
Kamala’s initial thought was that she needed to be blonde, skinny, and in knee high heels
like all other super powered heroines to be popular and awesome. She thought that by doing so, it
would help make things less complicated. When she starts morphing into Captain Marvel she
was upset because her hair was always in her face, her boots pinch, her costume gave her a
wedgie, and she felt out of control. Instead of feeling strong and confident, she just felt
uncomfortable. After she got shot trying to save Bruno in the Circle Q, she discovered she
couldn’t morph back into Ms. Marvel and decided she was going to need to save the city as
herself, and all she needed was a comfortable costume. (Wilson 33). In “Night to His Day”,
Lorber mentions that when women first recruited into the US Marine Corps they thought they
could be tomboyish but in actuality they still had to distinguish themselves by wearing makeup
(Lorber 23). This ties into the expectations Kamala put herself on regarding how a female
superhero should look. “Rethinking Women’s Biology” by Ruth Hubbard also touches on the
subject because dressing and behaving like a woman/superhero in this case is “a socially
constructed one that little girls (or boys) try to fit as we grow up” (Hubbard 46).
When Bruno and Kamala first figured out Vick was in trouble, they were both set out to
save him. Kamala was not going to sit back and be the stereotypical helpless girl just because
Bruno thought it would be “too dangerous.” “When female characters were present, they were
likely to be the damsels in distress” (Dill and Thill 1). “When female characters did appear, they
needed to be rescued. Female characters appearing in “continuing adventure” series were

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stereotypical and had a tendency to fall in love at first sight” (Thompson 3). Not Kamala, she
told him that she was going anyway and that she was the one with the newfound powers and
strength. She also reversed their roles by her going in and doing the fighting while he was left
waiting at the gate concerned about her and making sure she was prepared by asking her
questions like if she “had her cell phone” and if she remembered the “panic code” (Wilson 97). It
used to be that women could not act out a certain way or they would be called certain names or
be doomed to be single forever because they were not acting like a lady typically should, but
times have changed. Our society has always given someone like Batman a pass as a superhero.
Regardless of how dark and brutal his methods, we excuse his actions due to his character tropes
as a tragic hero. It is no longer unacceptable but almost a requirement for anyone to be just as
independent as the next.
Some may argue that Kamala did not change and that she still tried to fulfill her duties at
home but even the tiniest actions convince me otherwise. She still continued to show up for
lecture at the mosque with her brother, even insisting to being punctual. What further supports
her as a strong character is that even as a young girl, she openly speaks her mind about the
separation between men and women (Wilson 46-47). Even though she continuously snuck out
and disobeyed her parents, her actions always felt justified. While her family thinks she is out
running the streets and partying with boys in actuality, she is saving lives. To her best friends,
Kamala should have shared her secret with them but she kept it to herself for as long as possible.
Her parents insisted she be home at a certain time to focus on her studies but instead she has kept
herself preoccupied with other things.

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Kamala tries to stay dutiful as a daughter and a friend by keeping up appearances. When
she starts to disappear at random times and do strange things without an explanation, her parents
try to figure out what the cause of her weird behavior is so they can put an end to it to return
things can get back to normal. Even her brother would rather her stay inside to be protected by
him and his friends from the mosque. “When children behave in ways that run counter to
traditional roles, their activities are often discouraged by parents, teachers and peers” (Martin 2).
There is that time where Bruno tried to convince her to go home after she snuck out to go to her
first party with Bruno, Josh, and Zoe (Wilson 13) and every time she got caught after sneaking
out. During every talk they wanted to make sure that she did not succumb to “the pressures of
being a teenage girl” and that she was handling herself right and not putting herself into danger.
Kamala is the superhero amongst her friends which puts her at the top of the list, meaning
she is now more superior than all of them. In “Hegemonic Masculinity and Black Gender
Ideology” by Patricia Collins, she explains the social organization of ideology when it comes to
power, a concept that promotes the dominant social position of men and the lower ranking
positions of women. This list is sorted according to gender, age, class, sexuality, and race. The
top of the list usually consists of rich white men and their subordinates directly beneath them at
the very bottom, the “devalued other”, all of the women (Collins 224-225). Kamala is far from
being or belonging on that subordinate list and by that being so, it changes. She would appear to
be on top while her friend Bruno is now below her as inferior and the sidekick. Some of the male
superheroes will still be above Kamala because even though she has her powers and she has
saved people, she will always be physically smaller than the rest because heroes like Superman
and Batman. They do not lead just because of their convictions, deep voices, or violent behavior,
but because their bodies physically tower over the rest.
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Overall, this whole comic about Kamala showed that there was no need for any gender
role boundaries in order for anyone to be a superhero. She is the complete opposite of what
audiences are used to. More readers are able to connect with this character because Kamala, her
struggles, and life felt more realistic than the origins of her male counterparts. We see her in her
traditional clothing, the Shalwar Kameez, at her mosque, her families’ prayers, and they even use
Urdu in the story. Kamala reacted and adjusted as she went throughout her journey only
reflecting after she had finished her task that day and was home safe. At first she was scared and
disappointed but soon got over it and decided she needed to use these powers for good. Every
day, win or lose, she learned from her experiences and developed from them. Bruno adjusted
after he figured out that she was also Ms. Marvel. Her parents are still wary of their daughter’s
actions, her brother did not seem all that bothered by Kamala’s sudden act of rebellion and
Sheikh Abdullah was surprisingly very empathetic and encouraged her to keep doing what she
was doing so long as it was the right thing to do. All of Kamala’s actions after she received her
superpowers reflect her nonconformity. She refuses to conform to the prevailing customs and
ideas in her life, most of the rules she had to follow were thrown out of the window. Kamala
surpassed each obstacle because she knew that even though she was just a 16-year-old Pakistani
girl living in Jersey City, she could do anything she wanted because her powers were the key to
help push her past her old limits. She proved that she did not have to be a tall blonde with blue
eyes to save the world, but that she could be herself and that she could do anything.

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Works Cited

Collins, Patricia Hill. "Hegemonic Masculinity and Black Gender Ideology." Composing
Gender: A Bedford Spotlight Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 222-40. Print.
Devor, Aaron. "Becoming Members of Society." Composing Gender: A Bedford
Spotlight Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F.O'Hara.Boston:Bedford/St.Martin's,
2014. N. pag. Print.
Dill, Karen E., and Kathryn P. Thill. "Video game characters and the socialization of gender
roles: Young people’s perceptions mirror sexist media depictions." Sex roles 57.11-12
(2007): 851-864.
Hubbard, Ruth. "Rethinking Women's Biology." Composing Gender: A Bedford Spotlight
Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 4652. Print.
Lorber, Judith. ""Night to His Day": The Social Construction of Gender." Composing Gender: A
Bedford Spotlight Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2014. 19-34. Print.
Martin, Carol Lynn. "Attitudes and expectations about children with nontraditional and
traditional gender roles." Sex roles 22.3-4 (1990): 151-166.
Thompson, Teresa L., and Eugenia Zerbinos. "Gender roles in animated cartoons: Has the picture
changed in 20 years?." Sex roles 32.9-10 (1995): 651-673.
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