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Pop Culture and Feminism

Items shown are part of Johns Hopkins University Special Collections

Arusa Malik loves fictional superheroine She-Ra and prefers comics to novels. As a First-Year Fellow with the Sheridan Libraries, she combed through comics, postcards, political cartoons, and even soap to understand feminism and women’s movements in the United States. Malik, majoring in political science and international studies, enjoyed identifying feminist symbols in her research. She found the same cats, big hats, flowers, and hyper-feminine items in 1920s suffragette postcards that she did in 1970s liberation comics about Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. 

“Now I understand why this is a research university,” she says. “You can research literally anything here.” Malik plans to continue researching pop culture and feminism as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. 

The 1970s “It Ain’t Me Babe Comix” (taken from a Bob Dylan song) focused on stories of multiple female superheroes from a new angle. “It was fascinating and combined a lot of the superheroes I read about as a kid,” Malik says. “It also inspired my final project.”