I had the great fortune of being raised by a progressive, feminist mother. Growing up, my Barbie dolls rode hot wheels, and my Cabbage Patch Kids played with Legos. My favorite color was blue, not pink, and I would pick a book over a baby doll any day. From a very early age, my mother taught me that there was nothing I could not do, be, or like simply because I was a girl. Which is why it must have come as such a surprise when, upon being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my three-year-old self responded, very simply, “A boy.”

You see, even at three years old, despite my mother’s best efforts, I had already reached a big conclusion about gender roles—if I wanted to make decisions and have adventures, I needed to be a boy. I had come to this conclusion by watching cartoons where, over and over, if female characters were lucky enough to even be present, they were always just sidekicks, tagging along on the heroes’ adventures. I didn’t want to be a sidekick; I wanted to be the hero—the lead character in my own life, and it seemed very clear to me that, if I wanted to do that, I needed to be a boy.

It’s been 25 years since I first had that conversation with my mother, and, thankfully, our world has come a long way since then. Girls today have more examples of strong, powerful women than ever before. Still, one only need look at the relatively recent controversy over Marvel’s Avengers-inspired t-shirts, which sold “Be a Hero” shirts for boys and “I need a hero shirts” for girls, a controversy which was followed by another kerfuffle over their “Training to be Batman’s wife” shirts, to know that we still have a long way to go. We are, as the saying goes, teaching our girls that they need to become somebody’s instead of somebodies, and that has to change.

That’s why I work at the Heroine Collective. I want women everywhere to know that we stand on the shoulders of giants. That, even if we didn’t see it reflected in our TV shows or textbooks, there are, and have always been, extraordinary women out there fighting for the right to not be defined by their gender. Women who were, and are, having adventures and changing the world—women who are anything but sidekicks.

It’s also why I’m writing The Heroine Collective’s first children’s book, which is currently in development. I want to introduce children, as well as adults, to these exceptional women. I am inspired every day by the heroines I get to write about; they push me to be better and to strive to do more.

It’s my great hope that the stories we tell and the articles we write will inspire others the way they have inspired me.

©The Heroine Collective 2015 – Present, All Rights Reserved.

Amber Karlins

Written by Amber Karlins

Amber Karlins works as a professor in Florida, teaching writing, literature, and theatre. Her first book, a work of creative non-fiction, was published in 2011. She also enjoys academic writing and has published papers in such places as the African American National Biography and the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies.

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Amber Karlins