Top to Bottom:  1. Enayet and Rahman (right and left) in NO EXIT 2. The man whom history has recorded as the first Muslim missionary to America, Dr. Mufti Muhammad  Sadiq; an Ahmadiyya believer from India, he boarded a ship from England on  January 24, 1920 to the U.S.; while traveling, he converted six Chinese fellow  passsengers to Ahmadiyya Islam. 

Lesson Plan

Rationale: In the long tradition of superhero comics, many of the most prominent representations of females have been stereotypical in nature—characterized by exaggerated sexuality, victimhood and subordinate status. Such traits have been particularly associated with the media image of Asian women, and the comics are no exception to this rule. The stories in the “Girl Power” section attempt to redefine the role of comic book girls and women away from this standard, making it a particularly appropriate platform for the discussion of the intersection between gender roles and racial stereotypes.

Grade Levels: Middle school and above

Objective: The student will be able to demonstrate an awareness of how the media perpetuates gender and racial stereotypes of Asian women; identify how young boys and girls respond to these stereotypes; appreciate how gender representation in comics has changed over the past few decades; compare the roles of the female heroes in "Secret Identities" to those of prominent Asian/Asian American women characters in mainstream superhero comics. 

Make the Connection: Women characters have always been a part of the comic book medium, though their depictions have often not been central, and rarely without controversy. Indeed, the portrayal of women in comics has frequently been constrained to such questionable roles as “damsel in distress,” “love interest, "scantily clad bombshell" or "exotic 'bad girl'"—not entirely surprising given the male-dominated demographics of the comic book medium. The images of Asian women in comics have been particularly problematic, when they have been included at all.

Direct Teaching: On the board or overhead, list the names and images of popular Asian women heroes and characters from mainstream American comics. This may require some research on your part. Some characters to include are Batgirl (the second to wear the costume), Shi, Lady Shiva, Kabuki, Psylocke, Jubilee, Katana, etc.   After listing and showing these characters, have students discuss whether these images reinforce or redefine common stereotypes of Asian women. Give examples.   

Assign one of the stories from the “Girl Power” section of Secret Identities. Before reading, ask the students to jot down traits that are associated with the Asian female heroes you listed on the board. What characteristics do most of these heroines have in common? After reading, have students compare and contrast the characters from the book to the Asian women characters you discussed earlier. Your discussion can also include stories from other sections of Secret Identities. Other stories to consider include female characters as depicted in “The Hibakusha” (page 45), “Flight” (page 131), “Jia” (page 133), “Parallel Penny” (page 136), “Twilight” (page 143), and “Meet Joe” (page 155).

After they read these selections from the book, ask the students the following questions: 

1.  Did any of the women in Secret Identities perpetuate stereotypes of how Asian women are portrayed in mainstream media? If so, how? If not, why not?  Which ones ran counter to such stereotypes, and why?

2.  What stands out (appearance, background, attitude, etc.) about female heroes in Secret Identities versus those in mainstream superhero comics?

3.  Stereotypes of Asian men tend to be different from stereotypes of Asian women. Describe how.

4.  How do racial stereotypes change the way people of different ethnic backgrounds are perceived? How about of different sexes?

6.  How might these two stereotypes work together to create particular distortions of perception?