Written by Rios de la Luz
It really is this simple: REPRESENTATION MATTERS.
Reading Kamala Khan’s story for the first time hit me hard at certain points. As a kid of color, it hurts to have to choose. We have to choose what parts of ourselves we want to assimilate in order to be deemed normal-ish. We have to negotiate internally. What parts of our roots do we keep. What parts of our culture do we let go. Kamala is a teenager of color trying to figure out who she is within a patriarchal white supremacist social structure (comics fit into this because art is never in a vacuum) while also dealing with the responsibility of superpowers.
I am a fan of Ms. Marvel because she is relatable, kickass and she is really funny. Kamala Khan is a second generation Pakistani-American gamer geek from New Jersey being raised in a Muslim household. In a burst of rebellion, Kamala sneaks out of her house to go to a party where all the other high school kids will be. At this party, a mysterious gas (Terrigen Mist) takes over the atmosphere and Kamala hallucinates a meeting with Captain marvel, Iron Man, and Captain America. She wakes up and realizes she has the ability to shapeshift (polymorph powers).
She is a teenager trying to figure out how her multiple intersections can coexist. Just like everybody else, she wants to know who she really is. If she was born in the U.S. and this is supposed to be a unifier for people, why do her classmates treat her as though she is so different? Why can’t there be compromise between what her parents want for her and what she wants? Why does she have to make the choice as to which identity she is “good enough” for? On top of all of these questions, she now has polymorph powers that she has to learn to control.
Why is Kamala my feminist idol? She has a drive to do the best she can and she is not afraid to fail. She understands that failure is inevitable. This does not make her afraid to continue growing as Ms. Marvel.
Kamala asks questions. She understands having a superpower does not mean a simple kind of life. She will make enemies, people will get hurt, but she is also becoming an inspirational figure for young girls. She is a wonderful, nerdy Avenger fangirl who geeks out as hard as she can when she feels likes it. She is independent, intelligent and observant of her environment. She is not afraid to be vulnerable, and although, her heart ends up breaking because of this, I have a feeling she will pick herself back up and continue to fight to protect her city and the people she loves.
Kamala is also important because she is fleshed out character. She is multifaceted and complicated. Her existence shows other storytellers, whether it be via books, comics, or movies that “Muslim” does not equate to the stereotypes of “extremism” or “terror.” Kamala is so much more than the one-dimensional bullshit people try to place on Muslim folks. Outside of her powers, she is susceptible to the words and stereotypes from those who side with ignorance. Like every other human on this planet she lives in this (at times) frightening world where humans hurt each other on purpose. These are not situations that would deter her from growth and these experiences would not define her, but these are the realities of kids who have to endure the bullshit white supremacy spits at them. We endure and we move on, even through exhaustion, because that is the best way to rebel. We embrace ourselves because this is what causes a white supremacist social structure to tremble.
Kamala is a rebel.
Kamala is the meddling kid who wants to help her community.
Kamala is a light and it makes me so happy that she exists for young people to look up to.
My Feminist Idol is a series that deals with powerful women, legends, fictional beings, anyone who I connect with in pop culture in whatever form I am consuming it. Note: I am forever a Ms. Marvel fan and you can’t stop me.