Vander Graaff: Next time you get catcalled, think of Captain Marvel

Abby Vander

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Author James Clear says that if you stand in a power stance for two minutes, your levels of self-confidence will increase. Watching “Captain Marvel” was like doing that for a full two hours.


Captain Marvel is a female character who is undeniably powerful and good without having to act like a cisgender man to get there. We can all learn a lot from her.

Watching “Captain Marvel” was like looking in a mirror, even down to the haircut. For the first time in my life I felt the same way I imagine men do every time they watch a superhero movie. The genre’s popularity finally made sense.

Spoiler alert: Captain Marvel has no love interest, no plunging neckline and no apologies.

We watch the protagonist get catcalled, asked for a smile and then called a freak. The scene goes as swiftly as her reaction. When the man leaves, she steals his motorcycle and some clothes off of a nearby mannequin and drives away, leaving them both with tits to the wind.

It is sobering to see that even a hero who just survived a fall from space and can shoot literal fire out of her bare palms is vulnerable to something as degrading as a catcall. But this is also promising. She shows us what we already know: The sexist comments of a stranger do not have the power to compromise us.

“We all need heroes. But they need to be heroes we can relate to. Because if we can relate to them, it increases our belief in the idea that one day, maybe, we can be them.”

We learn how to ignore bullies in elementary school, but sometimes it takes a while for the lesson to sink in.

When a complete stranger assumes ownership of you or your behavior, it leaves you feeling powerless. It can ruin your day and crush your confidence.

Captain Marvel does not give the strange man an iota of interest or attention. She sees the futility in his effort to hold power over her, and because she is a hero, we see this too.

In this moment, she isn’t shooting fire or fighting enemies. She’s struggling with a giant paper map after she couldn’t figure out how to operate a computer. She is vulnerable and still reacts with absolute confidence.

Young women experience vulnerability on college campuses every day. Between classes and other adult responsibilities, the world can seem scary, especially when others make you feel unsafe.


Captain Marvel shows us that you don’t have to have everything figured out, and you certainly don’t have to be a hero, to take small-minded words against you and strip them naked like a mannequin.

The movie is high quality. The plot and casting are done well enough that everyone should see it, regardless of their stance on feminism. We don’t love Captain Marvel because she’s a woman, we love her because she is Captain Marvel, and clearly refuses to be anyone else.

Comic books are for nerds. Stan Lee said that Marvel channels “An insolent desire to spit in the eye of the dragon.” This makes me imagine a quiet 13-year-old boy sitting in a corner with a comic book, dreaming his revenge after his pockets were pulled inside out by a bully.

Superheroes were marketed to the underdogs, yet how do women relate when they are continuously portrayed by straight, white men?

Captain Marvel expanded the audience that gets to feel powerful after watching a superhero movie. We can only hope that in media and in life this expansion continues until everyone is included.

We all need heroes, but they need to be heroes we can relate to. Because if we can relate to them, it increases our belief in the idea that one day, maybe, we can be them. And that’s the magic of the genre.

So for now, next time you get catcalled, think of Captain Marvel and know that you, too, can become something extraordinary in the face of adversity.

Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at or Twitter at @abbym_vg