Ms Marvel (and a little bit of philosophy)

In reading Ms Marvel and particularly in our discussion on Monday, two things became abundantly clear. First, I could really connect a lot of the content to feminist theory and critical studies in philosophy. Second, I may have taken a few too many philosophy courses if that’s the first thing my brain went to. There were two core concepts that stood out to me the most: Internalized oppression and Intersectionality.

Internalized oppression occurs when an individual does not live up to a perceived norm so they internalize the prejudices that others have and that effects their self-image. This theory or concept is often used in Critical Race theory (e.g. internalized racism) and Queer theory (e.g. internalized homophobia). I didn’t really see this connection until our discussion in class on Monday (the 15th) when we talked about how Kamala just wants to be seen as normal, she wants to live up to the unachievable standards that norms set. However, the way she sees it is that whatever is normal is not her and this causes some bitterness, frustration, and a lower self-esteem as a result. When I saw that I kind of went “Ahh! Internalized Oppression!” and that was that story.

Intersectionality is a term first popularized by feminist philosopher Kimberlé Crenshaw. It came about because many of the theorizing that went down in both feminist theory and critical race theory were not valuing the lived experiences of people who fit into multiple minority categories (e.g. a black woman) because having people with complex world views apparently made theorizing about humans in general too  difficult. Long story short, intersectionality values complex world views through examining the lived experiences of people who fit into multiple minority categories and not weighing one over the other. The portrayal of Kamala in Ms Marvel is wonderful for showing off intersectionality at its finest. Kamala is a Muslim, Pakistani-American Female, but first and foremost she is a person. All of the minority categories make up a part of her identity and they cannot be examined separately because they work together along with other traits like her geeky love of superheroes to make up who she is and how she sees and interacts with the world around her.

Now this is definitely not an extensive look into how one could do a feminist reading (i.e. feminist philosophy) of Ms. Marvel, but it was where my thoughts took me this week so…that’s all for now, I guess.

2 thoughts on “Ms Marvel (and a little bit of philosophy)”

  1. I agree with your points here. I think the comic did such a good job as portraying the feelings and thoughts of internalized oppression while showing off intersectionality in a very thought out manner. It did not feel stereotyped but genuine and true to the realities of many people who fall into these categories.

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  2. I will continue to opine that your philosophy classes have kind of been sociology classes, assuming this kind of material is the bulk of what they covered.
    “The portrayal of Kamala in Ms Marvel is wonderful for showing off intersectionality at its finest. Kamala is a Muslim, Pakistani-American Female, but first and foremost she is a person. All of the minority categories make up a part of her identity and they cannot be examined separately because they work together along with other traits like her geeky love of superheroes to make up who she is and how she sees and interacts with the world around her.”
    Okay, I’m very tired and the notes I had for this are on a different laptop, but that bit of your post made me think about something we covered in SOC 101 last term–master statuses. You’ll have to pardon me if I’m not remembering this very accurately, but from what I do recall, a master status is basically the label we assign a person at the foremost. A person may fall into many categories and thus have many applicable labels, but their master status is what we frequently use to define them, and is conducive to a very reductive view of people–a black man, for instance, may have “black” as his master status, and thus be primarily defined by that label, despite the fact that he is also a man, and has many other equally valid things we could use to describe him (his job, perhaps, or his interests). It would be very easy to pigeonhole Kamala–push her into a one-dimensional form created for the sake of having a token character, one who exists solely to diversify Marvel’s lineup as Muslim, or as Pakistani-American, but Wilson tactfully avoids doing so by painting a very–for lack of a better word–*entire* person. Kamala is undeniably Muslim, and undeniably Pakistani-American, but is not only those things; they form a part of her, but are not *her.*

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