As most of y'all know, I am a huge Justice League fan (circa 2000; the animated series of course). Because of this, everyone who was a part of the main squad had my respect for one reason or another. Batman. Wonder Woman. Martian Manhunter. Green Lantern (John Stewart). The Flash (Wally West). Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol). Hell, even Superman and I used to haaaaaaaate Superman (that "World Made of Cardboard" speech changed my mind though). Yet, my absolute favorites always came down to The Flash and Hawkgirl.
Eventually, I'd come to declare Hawkgirl as my ultimate favorite.
Why is this?
Well, it's simple, really: Hawkgirl liked to smash things.
Granted, that's a rather simplistic way to put it; so let me explain. What I mean to say is that Hawkgirl liked to smash and punch her way through things. These things were usually problems and as someone who wishes they could simply smash their problems to go away, that really resonated with me.
But still, there's another reason why Hawkgirl's policy of “smash and asking questions later” was so refreshing to me. Said reason has to do with the fact that not many female superheroes do that and she was one of the more visible ones that had no qualms doing it.
To explain, it's no secret that female superheroes, on average, don't get to work with a lot of punchy/forceful/physical powers (having to do with strength). Usually, they will instead be assigned a power (or no power) that has to do with the mind, has to do with touch or maybe lack of touch (re: touchy-feely powers), has to do with feelings/emotions (re: touch-feely powers again), has to do with nature and/or animals in some capacity, or something else that requires a great amount concentration.
Of course, not all female superheroes are stuck with powers like that and there are even a couple of female superheroes that I can name that don't fall into those power-set categories (Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Wonder Woman, etc, etc). Still, that's still a very small amount as compared to the rest of their female compatriots.
And, you know, I've always been curious as to why this is. Part of me just wants to dismiss it as (not so) casual sexism and the fact that people still reduce women/female-identifying people as the “fairer” and “weaker” sex. So, of course, they'd have powers that are not as forceful, right?
On the flip side, part of me wants to once again experience delusions of optimism and assume that maybe this trend has something to do with the fact that these powers often require a great amount of concentration and discipline. Counterexamples to this obviously exist (re: Jean Grey, but I'll talk about her some other day), but still. I wonder. Is this is some sort of haphazard compliment to women and their sheer tenacity and intelligence?
I don't entirely know about all that.
While it could be taken as such, I'm not exactly willing to give it a pass like that. I say this because even if I were to assume as such, I would be co-signing what has essentially become a stereotype or maybe even a trope. That men are the only ones that are allowed to exercise their full extent of their anger and rage and go “me angry so me punch you now”. That women have to exercise restraint, patience, and humility, or whatever bullshit to prevent their anger from getting that far.
It's kind of insulting really. Because it pigeonholes both groups and doesn't allow them—women especially—to be nuanced people.
Which is why I'll always have love for Hawkgirl. Part of the reason that I loved her and her “punchy-ness” was that she not only exercised it at any and all times, but there were also times that, yes, she did exercise patience and restraint, and was slow to anger…before deciding to say f*ck it and punch the problem after all.
These were often some of her best moments, especially if they happened in the vicinity of her usually cool-headed boo thing John Stewart.
While that probably doesn't seem like a big deal to most, it was just another early example to me that people are in fact complicated. That women are in fact complicated and should receive more opportunities to be portrayed as such, just like their male counterparts.
So, here's to you Hawkgirl and all the other punchy heroines like you.