Proud Dad Of Two Geek Girls Talks Superheroes, Disney Princesses, And Barbie

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By John Marcotte – There has been a lot of stuff going around the Internet about “fake geek girls,” very attractive women who only pretend to like nerdy pastimes in order to prey upon the better natures of hapless men. As a father of eight- and six-year-old girls who have picked up my love of comic books and video games, I have some opinions on that.

There is a segment of the geek community that is actively hostile towards women. Lonely men who – because of their own socialization issues – have an emotionally regressed idea of who women are as people. While they believe in dragons and superheroes, a woman who is also into comics or games with her own point of view and interests is unimaginable to them — so they believe such women must be frauds.

Anya Rose (age 8) as Squirrel GirlI can only speak from experience. My daughters want to be like Diana, warrior princess of the Amazons. They spend hours creating avatars to represent themselves as they explore lands they’ve created in the video game Little Big Planet. They argue over who gets to be Amy Pond and who has to play as The Doctor. Their love of these things comes from a place far more pure and honest than any fanboy I have met.

And yet I know, that as they get older and attend a con or two, there will be men there who will treat them rudely. Men who see them as less than people because of their gender. They don’t even need to go to the cons for that. It’s started already.

In first grade, Anya came home crying because some boys at school made fun of her for wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt. Superheroes were for boys. If the boys had listened, she could have told them that the Spider-Man on her shirt was actually drawn by original artist Steve Ditko from an issue written by his creator Stan Lee — but she was never given that chance. She got over it, but she never wore that shirt to school again. That made me sad.

As she has gotten older, Anya has become more confident in her geekdom. We’ve talked about how heroes are not just for boys and she proudly wears her superhero t-shirts to school. She dressed as The Huntress last Halloween. Her sister was Power Girl. They hold strong opinions on whether Wonder Woman could beat Captain Marvel in a fight.

Anya and Stella as Huntress and Power Girl

Tom Bancroft, the lead animator from Pocohantas and Mulan, saw Anya and Stella’s Huntress/Power Girl photo online and thought they were cute. He drew them as Disney girls and sent them his original drawing.

At this point, Anya is far more knowledgeable about comic book heroes than any of the boys in her class, and I like it that way. It beats the crap out of that toxic blend of Barbie dolls and Disney Princesses that mainstream society has determined are what she is supposed to like.

It’s not that I care if the girls like Disney Princesses, but I think it is important for them to be able to articulate why they like them.

Belle is smart and loves books. Merida is brave and daring. Tiana is building a business through hard work and determination. Those are qualities I admire and I want my girls to admire and emulate those traits.

But once the movie is done, Disney sells girls a concept of a “princess” that is little more than a tiara and pretty clothes. All of the wonderful characteristics that made the princesses into characters worth emulating — that made them into heroes for young girls — are purged in favor of generic beauty and a blandly passive persona.

Stella Grace (age 6) as Captain MarvelFlattening the wonderful character of Merida from Brave so that all that matters is that she looks pretty and wears a tiara is like reducing a conversation about Hillary Clinton to her hairstyle and pantsuits. It’s insulting to the woman being discussed.

My girls have tiaras and gowns in their dress-up box right next to their capes and masks. They have a drawer full of Barbie dolls that live in peaceful coexistence with their action figures. But I think it is important for them to know that looking pretty is not the only option they have in life, nor is it the only metric by which they should judge themselves or other girls.

Too often the concept of a princess is not used as a way to empower girls, but instead to limit their choices, to enforce upon them a very narrow definition of femininity and to keep them in their place — a gilded pink cage made from rhinestone tiaras and plastic high heels.

My girl is no princess. She doesn’t need to be rescued. She is the hero of her story. And no one better forget it.

About This Guest Contributor:

Holding the esteemed title of “First Male Contributor To Women You Should Know” is John Marcotte, a web designer, writer, “Award-Winning Author,” and occasional political satirist living in Sacramento, CA with two superheroic daughters and a wife who he says, “could likely could do a lot better for herself if she tried”. You can read more of what this “hip nerd”, comics and pop-culture junkie has to say about all sorts of good stuff on his Off-Duty Hero Tumblr page.

For the record, John has another WYSK title… “One Of The Coolest Dads We Know” and it goes without saying that his daughters, the spirited, and creative Anya and Stella, are Women You Should Know in the making.

Our very special thanks to Patti Marcotte, John’s wife, who took these amazing photos of her superheroic family – in full costume, no less – to share with us.

YOU SHOULD KNOW… The girls’ costumes are always MADE BY HAND. This year’s Squirrel Girl and Captain Marvel get-ups were a collective effort by the fab Marcotte foursome and their dear friend, Adrienne Hebb, who is one badass seamstress… guess you’d need to be to get through all that fur.

John Marcotte with Anya_Stella

  • Marge

    Here’s a father that should be applauded. I like his style.

  • Patti Marcotte

    So proud to call him my husband.

    • MelissaWardy

      Patti –
      You have such a lovely family! Thank you for doing such a great job Redefining Girly! My Spiderman-Star Wars loving 7yo girl will love this when I show her this afternoon 🙂

      • JohnMarcotte

        Make sure your daughter watches the “Spectacular Spider-Man” cartoon. It’s off the air now, but available on Netflix, I believe. It’s the best version of the character and has a really good theme song.

  • Katie McManners

    I love my Daddy for the same reasons. You’re epic, man.

  • QueerJock2

    I’m really happy to see this! I am repeatedly sad to see how little representation there is for little girls of color though. you have your Supergirls and Wonder Womans but if you’re a little black or Latina or Asian girl there’s almost no well-known heroines who look like you.

    Except Storm maybe.

    • Miriam Breslauer

      Although not as well known, there are several interesting People of Color Superheros on the X-men teams over the years. It isn’t just Storm. A good place to start is looking through old X-men and New Mutant trades.

  • Brian Clark

    As the dad of an Anya who loves comic books (as does her sister Eva), I have to say I totally loved this. My girls have become proud of their quirks and wave their nerd/geek flags high. I know there may be challenges ahead, but they have the role models to get them through.

  • Lollyfist

    I am a 41 year old ‘Geek girl’. Back when I was just a kid into comics and films and RPGs there were so few of us that shops would literally fall silent and all these pairs of wide-eyes would swivel in my direction, assistants would raise an eyebrow and make comments about having taste EVEN THOUGH I WAS A GIRL, boys would cat-call and pinch my bum in crowds at marts, take the micky mercilessly and push in front of me in queues. It was intimidating, they were bullys, I hate that it has never stopped even though there are far more girls geeking out now, but I hope it will get better, it can only get better because there will be more and more of us, with dads like you they’ll be unstoppable. I hope the boys dads are out there telling their sons how to treat a geek girl and I hope they are as awesome as you. I never once stopped being a geek or a girl. I met my wonderful fanboygeek husband at UK Comic convention. Totes emosh here. Keep on keeping on. x

  • Sebastian Villegas

    Go dude!

  • Mrs. Moe

    I think I would like a t-shirt with THEM on it. They are amazingly awesome.

  • gargouille

    Rock on, geekgirls and Super Dad!

  • spinnyspace

    My 2 year old Granddaughter loves her dolls and teddy’s, just as long as they sit on her car with her or travelling in the bucket of her digger truck. My son and daughter in law are doing a fantastic job of giving her the confidence early to grow as is natural to her. I applaud both these girls and their father for daring to be themselves.

  • Miriam Breslauer

    I love the feeling being these statements. I love the perfect costumes (I wish the adult versions were even half as classy). I love the Squirrel Costume so much that I would want an adult version.

    I am an adult geekette that was a geek from my earliest memories. I don’t remember a time before I dreamed of Superheros and Supervillains or played Board Games until my parents dropped.

    I eventually became an Engineer, avid Gamer, and enjoy Comic Books. Imagination is a valuable tool that should be experimented with as young as possible.

  • Kristin Michelle Ongeri

    I love this! My daughter is 2 and loves princesses, fairies, Doctor Who, cars, and dinosaurs. My 10 year old son is obsessed with My Little Pony. He also loves superheroes and sci-fi.

  • WitlessExposition

    I saw your daughter as Powergirl, and it inspired me to make a PG costume for my two year old. We joke that our little one has no chanceb of escaping the nerdiness!

  • scubaprincess

    Seriously Dad! Love you! As a geek myself, I’ve been to the local cons and have been treated horribly. I’m so thrilled to see my daughter sport a sword tucked in her TinkerBell costume. I’m thrilled to see her older brother insist she climb across the rocks herself at cubscout events, and I’m thrilled to see her wear her princess dresses cuz she likes to make them twirl! I appreciate you being able to put to words what I’ve felt and taught. Rock on!

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  • AMW Done

    You may want to check out “Goldie Blox’, a new company/product for girls designed to encourage exploration in physics.

  • You go, geek girls! From one geek girl to another, NEVER give up fighting for that equality to enjoy the things you love!

  • Ambermist

    My daughter faced exactly the same thing in school. She almost didn’t wear her Star Wars shirt to school ever again because someone told her “that’s a boy shirt.” (She’s also been accused of wearing “boy shoes” because she had blue sandals with light up bottoms).

    She’s been told that video games are for boys and cheerleading is for girls and that it’s a fact, so I appealed to my Twitter friends to show my daughter just how many women play video games.

    She’s only in 3rd grade. I have a feeling we’ve only begun these discussions. However, I have hope–she recently made friends with a boy in her class who likes video games and Iron Man. Unfortunately, the two of them are “secret friends,” because they were afraid the other kids in the class would tease them about it. Still, it’s a start, and she’s got someone to discuss geek stuff with when no one is looking–they’re NINJA GEEKS.

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  • katibee

    This is just the best thing ever. Your daughters are going to be awesome, whole, capable, interesting women. Bien fait for supporting all of their interests!

  • Seanny B

    This reminded me of the painful day we talked about the women we emulated in my 5th grade class. Everyone had something generic or wrote about their mothers. I wrote about Xena Warrior Princess.

    If and when I have daughters, I plan to bring them up in this fashion. Thanks for writing such a badass piece.

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  • Sarah

    I love this. My 8 year old despises anything princess and has been that way since she was a toddler. She has always loved super heroes and “boy toys”. I remember when she was 4, we were invited to a princess b-day party and the girls were encouraged to dress up. She said… “mom, do I have to dress like a princess? Why can’t I just be me?”. I know that I intentiionally went out of my way to NOT do/have everything in pink. If she were going to play with a baseball bat, i made sure it was a normal wooden color baseball bat. I she wanted to play with a fire truck, I made sure it was a normal red fire truck etc. I did this for much of the same reason you mention… because I feel the traditional princess role is limiting. Recently there have been stronger characters like Merida from Brave, but then they totally “sexed her up” when they put her on store shelves which recieved alot of pushback. It’s funny, but I remember when she took ballet class, they had one day a month where the kids could “dress crazy”. Most little girls showed up in princess outfits or with wedding veils. My daughter was dancing her little heart out in her spiderman pj’s.

    I also remember the first time, she realized that her love for super heroes was considered a “boy thing”. She was 4, and we were in the drive thru at Mcdonald’s. I usually would have asked for the happy meal character by name. But before I could say it, they asked me… “girl toy or boy toy”. When I said boy toy, she shouted from the back…”HEY, why is that a BOY TOY? I like it and I’m NOT a boy!!!” And that is when I had the discussion with my 4 year old about how marketing works and how they try to keep little boys and little girls in specific boxes. I told her she was amazing just the way she is and not to ever let anyone put her in a box.

    Flash forward 4 years… she has her ears pierced but hates dresses. She plays on an organized flag football league and loves to paint her nails. She is uniquely herself. And at week’s parent teacher conference. Her teacher told me she has half of the 2nd grade girls, learning how to play football at recess.

  • TheCatCameBack

    Great article. We should inspire our girls to be more!

    But what about the highly sexualized and inhuman depictions of women’s bodies in superhero comics? Do you not worry that they compare themselves to impossible proportions and revealing outfits? Huntress, who your daughter dressed as, was voted “Sexiest Superhero” at the most recent Con in my town. And it’s a culture with its fair share of misogyny. I find how women are depicted in comics FAR more disturbing than Barbie in a lot of ways.

    • JohnMarcotte

      Those highly-sexualized and inhuman depictions of women’s bodies in comics do exist — but not in comics I read, and certainly not in the material I share with my kids.

      Some men (and boys) may have voted The Huntress as the “sexiest superhero,” but that is not what my girls see when she has appeared in the Justice League cartoons. They see a powerful woman who is a female analogue of Batman — capable and feared by bad guys.

      Comics have long been dominated by the tastes of 12-year-old boys. But as more and more women have entered the medium both as consumers and creators, that is slowly changing.

      Captain Marvel, Batwoman, Batgirl, the current all-female team of X-Men: they are all strong female heroes without a hint of exploitation. The larger issue at this point is finding comics that are age appropriate for kids.

      Those comics are all “adult” — not in a purient or sexual way, just in the fact that they explore adult relationships and themes and are not really designed to hold the interest of little kids.

      There are very few comics that are aimed at small children, and fewer still that feature female protagonists.

      • TheCatCameBack

        Glad to hear you are finding some good sources for them. They are far and few between it seems, so hopefully more people will buy them and increase market share!

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  • Kris

    Love your post, it linked to another site that your girls have been captured on. Thanks for sharing.

  • brendan

    This is wonderful! I’m going to make a sign for my daughter’s wall that says “She is the hero of her story”. Its a wonderful message. We talk about the good qualities of the characters in Disney movies, but then they are boiled down to paper thing caricatures of the same damsel in distress in so many other ways. Somehow I need to get her into a Captain Marvel costume like that jumpsuit!

  • saradujour

    Parenting: doing it oh-so right. And to his wife – good choice, ma’am.

  • David Bales de Graaff

    Here’s hoping this attitude towards what it means to be female catches on in our society!

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  • joames

    Cute kids.

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  • Jen Kingsley

    Absolutely fantastic article! Thank you for articulating exactly how I feel!