Artist Creates Sensitive Superhero Cartoon Series To Show Her Son Gender Stereotypes Are Wrong

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Gender stereotypes hurt women, and they hurt men. It starts from when they are children, because studies show a child’s identity is formed well before middle school age and by then they already have firm ideas of gender roles.

We are now living in an age where the traditional gender roles many of us have grown up with and that our parents and grandparents grew up with, are being challenged like never before now that gender equality is one of the biggest fights for this generation.

A mom and blogger from Sweden, a region of the world which happens to rank as the most gender equal according to World Economic Forum, has witnessed how damaging stereotyped gender roles can be after an incident with her son. So she set about to rectify this and her efforts are being seen around the world.

Linnea Johansson, 29, told ABC news that one day her toddler son vowed he was going to stop crying because none of his superhero role models every cry. Shocked at this decision based on intelligent observation from her young child, Linnea wanted to set a more realistic example for him and created a series of cartoons on her blog to give some alternatives to the dominant macho narrative in many of the superheroes we see.

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The series is called ‘Super Soft Heroes’ and idea was to is her illustrations like pages out of a coloring book that parents can print out for their kids.

“I don’t know why but being sensitive as a boy is equivalent to being a girl, and that is actually an insult in society today, which to me is absolutely wrong,” she told ABC news. “Boys need sensitive heroes to identify with, I just think a three year old shouldn’t have to think about these things. They should climb trees and be kids.”

Some of the superheroes depicted include Spiderman, Batman, and Supermen, but in scenarios that we don’t normally see in films, comics and cartoons. They are taking their kids to the beach, they are dancing, they are crying, they are seen as family men with softer sides and it is not to poke fun at them, but to say “why can’t super hero men cry and show emotions other than anger?”

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“Boys learn from their role models to act tough and aggressive and that showing vulnerability or emotion is equivalent to being weak” said Linnea.

“They are taught through these role models to ‘man up’ and that ‘boys don’t cry.’ Girls on the other hand learn early on that their greatest assets is to be beautiful.”

Her cartoons have had such a massive response in Scandinavia they are now being used in Kindergartens in Sweden. Some of the kids have been so inspired they draw their own versions of sensitive superheroes and send them to her, such as this one drawn by a boy who drew a cyborg taking his baby for a walk in the stroller:

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She plans to expand the series further, and the next one will be about princesses who are less concerned about their looks and more interested in being strong independent women. We can’t wait for that one! This idea was inspired by a 5 year-old girl suffering with leukemia, who asked Linnea to create a bald princess who wears a series of wigs.

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“When my three years old son stopped crying because none of his heroes do, I had to take action because i think this is (excuse me) bullshit. I decided to draw ten soft super heroes and then strong princesses, just to give the kids some alternatives,” wrote Linnea on her blog.

Anyone can download the full size drawings for free by clicking on this link, but Linnea is asking for donations to fund her future projects via paypal (linneita@gmail.com).

If we ever hope the next generation of children will inherit and change the world to be even more gender equal and more prosperous than it is today, we have to influence them from a young age to be able to distinguish the damaging effects of stereotypes. Bravo Linnea! We can’t wait to see your next series of drawings.

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