You are on page 1of 6

Tajonar 1

Saul Tajonar
Professor Jon Beadle
English 115
8 October 2015
The Power of Powers
Superpowers can make someone feel like they can accomplish anything, even if all of the
odds arent in their favor. That is the case in the graphic novel Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
where Kamala Khan, the main protagonist, is able to exceed her gender expectations with the
amazing new super powers she receives. Gender expectations set limitations to what an
individual is able to perform; these expectations have led to the idea that feminine behavior is
inferior to masculine behavior. These ideas have been around for so long, but it is possible for an
individual to have the ability to transgress these prescribed gender expectations. Although there
are instances in the story line that may suggest that Kamala is still trapped within her
expectations, this is incorrect because Kamala really did change the set view that everyone had
on her. The fact that Kamala is not only a female superhero but also a Muslim superhero
indicates that all odds are against her, however she finds a way to prove everyone wrong and go
beyond what not only society expects of her, but her family as well.
Kamala is a good representation of the restrictions that society has imposed on females
through the variety of roles she performs. As a daughter she is expected to follow the norms and
regulations that her family imposes on her. Since she is a female, her father is very protective of
her, because he believes that she is fragile and cant take care of herself. This perception that the

Tajonar 2
father has of her is clearly shown when Kamala asks him if she can go to a party and he replies
with But its not safe for a young girl to be out late at night with strange boys, drinking God
knows what and thinking God knows what (Wilson 8). Abu, the father, has different
expectations for both of his children. Devors article in Composing Gender states that
masculinity is usually characterized by dominance and aggression, and femininity by passivity
and submission (Devor 39). The father apparently agrees with this because he expects his son to
get a job and be more dominant to fulfill his duty as a man, and he expects Kamala to be an
obedient daughter and stay away from mischievous activities such as going to parties. This
proves the bias that is imposed on Kamala in her role as a daughter. The art style in this
particular scene supports the idea that Kamala is trapped and is being suppressed by the
expectations of her family. Beginning with page 6 the colors drastically change when she is at
the dinner table with her family. A variety of boring colors like browns and yellows appear in the
scene with her family, it evens seems like Kamala blends in with the background. The colors are
an excellent representation of the boring life Kamala lives due to the restrictions and
expectations that her father has.
In Kamalas friendship with Bruno, the grocery store clerk, she faces many gender
expectations as well. Bruno is very protective of Kamala because he believes he has that duty of
taking care of her because she is a girl, and he believes that shes defenseless and cant do it
herself. On page 12 Kamala exclaims Youre embarrassing me, I dont need your help. Im not
some child (Wilson) after Bruno defends her from the Jocks at the party. Kamala obviously
feels offended because she believes she is strong enough to take care of herself even though
Bruno thinks otherwise. Another instance with Bruno where Kamala feels suppressed by her

Tajonar 3
gender expectations is when Bruno is worried sick and calls her parents to inform them that she
snuck out. Bruno has built an image of Kamala based on her gender and the expectations he has
of her.
If that isnt enough, Kamala is also expected to conform to her gender in her Muslim
religion. The illustration on page 47 depicts the separation of men and women when attending
the mosque, a building in which Muslims worship. They are separated by what seems to be a
wall, with males on one side and females on the others. Females must enter from the side
entrance because they are not allowed to see the males during the worship ceremony. Kamala is
obligated to follow these rules because according to Sheikh Abdullah The partition and the side
entrance for women are there to preserve their modesty and dignity (Wilson 48). In the Muslim
religion, women are expected to wear hijabs, a veil that covers the head and chest, as a symbol of
modesty and privacy. Kamala and her friend Naikia are seen wearing these hijabs during the
ceremony on page 47. The term hijab in Arabic literally means screen or curtain. Muslim
women are expected to be very reserved and must cover themselves when they are in the
presence of men who are not a part of their immediate family. This also explains why there must
be an obvious separation between the men and the women seen in the mosque. Men on the other
hand do not have the same strict regulations that women have. Many of the expectations women
have are for the sheer benefit of the men. This is a clear representation of the unfair gender
expectations that not only Kamala faces, but all women of the Muslim religion as well. So how is
Kamala going to transgress prescribed gender expectations considering everything that is going
against her?

Tajonar 4
When Kamalas superpowers kick in, after receiving them in a mysterious fog, everything
seems to be going right. These powers gave Kamala the ability to kick butt and go far beyond
what anyone expected of her as well. One of the perks her superpowers granted her was the
ability to look as stunning as Ms. Marvel. Kamala was able to have long blonde hair, a tall,
skinny body, clear white skin, and a killer costume as a result of these incredible powers. This
image of Kamala is considered to be an ideal image of women in society today. Collins article
supports this by stating that historically, in the American context, young women with milky
white skin, long blond hair, and slim figures were deemed to be the most beautiful and therefore
the most feminine women. (Collins 232). This is the concept of hierarchy that is well explained
in Collins article. White women are superior to the rest and are the most beautiful according to
societys expectations. This describes Kamalas image when she is in the Ms. Marvel state but
Kamala disregards her appearance and transgresses the gender boundaries by being comfortable
in her own skin. Even though society expects women to look a certain way, Kamala was able to
look past that and embrace her appearance. She even embraced her Pakistani background by
wearing a costume that consisted of a burkini, a swimsuit that is intended to comply with the
Quranic admonition for Muslim women to dress modestly. Whats ironic is that she strays away
from what her religions expects from her by wearing this new costume everywhere she goes. The
Muslim religion expects women to cover up and be hidden, but Ms. Marvel is well known now,
and appears all over the news. With these new powers and this new role as a superhero she has
taken, she overpasses the regulations her religion has due to her gender.
Bruno believed that Kamala could not look after herself, but that wasnt the case after
Kamala was granted the ability to stretch her body in almost any way imaginable. Instead of

Tajonar 5
Bruno looking after Kampala, it was her who had to look after him when Brunos store was
being robbed. After seeing Bruno in danger, Kamala quickly turned into Ms. Marvel and jumped
in to protect him. Although she ended up getting shot, it was her courage and initiative that made
her exceed the expectations society has of women. Bruno would have never imagined that the
girl he once saw as defenseless was now defending him from an armed robber. A woman is
expected to be dependent of a man, but Kamala stands her ground and pushes the gender
boundaries in this scene. Brunos view of her changes because he realizes that she has
superpowers and is no longer weaker than him. He even agrees to let her rescue his brother Vick,
who was being held captive at a house by a villain named The Inventor. After some trail and
error, Kamala successfully rescues Vick from The Inventor and his crew members. Not only does
Kamala surpass gender expectations but she also flips the gender roles. Instead of a man coming
to rescue the damsel in distress Its Ms. Marvel who saves the day by rescuing a Vick who is of
the opposite gender.
Although it may seem that there are instances in the comic where Kamala is still
restrained by her gender expectations that is not the case because her new powers granted her the
strength and courage to finally break those boundaries and exceed expectations. Even though
some people may point out that Bruno still sees her as defenseless and weak, that is incorrect
because Bruno realized that she was stronger than him, and if he didnt have that realization, then
he would have gone in to save his brother by himself. He agreed in letting Kamala face the
dangers presented to her when saving Vick , therefore Bruno knew that Kamala had the strength
to overcome these dangers on her own. This also proves her father wrong , who believed that its
not safe for a young girl to be out late at night with strange boys, drinking God knows what and

Tajonar 6
thinking God knows what (Wilson 8) because instead of drinking with strange boys, she was
out there saving them. Kamala is an excellent example of an individual troubled by gender
expectations who finds a way to break the social norms. The superpowers she received not only
helped her prove everyone wrong but they also instilled in her the confidence she needed to go
beyond what she expects of herself. An individual doesnt really need superpowers to exceed
expectations; one just needs the heart and courage to look beyond societies regulations in order
to achieve self-acceptance. Kamalas superpowers gave her advantages in surpassing her
expectations, but in reality anyone can exceed gender expectations, it is just a matter of who is
brave enough to do so.