Qahera: Real Woman, Real Hero, Real Life
So I have this pet peeve with comics, which is them being in digital format. I also have a weird book smelling obsession, so that could contribute to my disdain of books that are not in book form. If it’s not a tangible copy, I don’t like it. If you can’t smell the ink and paper, I don’t like it. If I can’t take a bite out of it and get awkward stares in the middle of the comic book shop, I don’t like it. It just doesn’t feel right, and I know there are good points to both sides of this argument. However, this is the digital age. I hope there never comes a day where the world completely switches to digital format, because that would be simply atrocious. In the midst of my book smelling fetish, however, there are exceptions to be made. I am not a huge follower of webcomics, but I recently stumbled upon one so great that I spit out that aforementioned piece of book I was munching on.
It’s called Qahera, and it’s bad ass (you can find it at http://qaherathesuperhero.com/). It’s about a female Muslim superhero who goes around fighting sexism, islamophobia, and other real-world issues in the most awesome and original way. What caught my eye is the opening panel, in which Qahera -whom the series is named after- cries in disgust, “I can hear it! The sound of…misogynistic trash!” I mean, after an opening like that, you just HAVE to read more. The next few panels show a man speaking to a group of men about how “a good wife is an obedient wife” and how it is their Islamic duty to keep their women in check and in home. Qahera has super hearing, and is in all-out rage mode at this point. So, she agrees with him that laundry is women’s work. And by agree with him, I mean she hangs that sexist idiot to a clothesline. Wow, this a bbaaaaddd chick, certifiably so.
The rest of the series is in similar fashion, touching quite a bit on feminism, REAL feminism. I say real feminism in this manner because it has been a notion for quite some time that Muslim women in traditional dress are oppressed, and are forced to wear certain things. In one issue, Qahera turns her sword on a group of topless females protestors who are preaching just this when they ask her to join their group and free herself from said oppression. Qahera tells them, clearly frustrated, that the women whom they are preaching to do not need their help.
Qahera herself dons a hijab, and kicks ass doing it. There is no rulebook on feminism, there is only the underlying message of equality. This applies to a series like this because it further shows that what may be comfortable for one person may not be comfortable for another as far as appearance, and that is alright. If a man or woman wants to go around head to toe covered in My Little Pony garb, that’s cool. If you prefer jeans and a T-shirt, that’s cool too. Hell, wear a jacket made of spoons, because that would be some abstract-art type of cool to me, and damnit, I want one! It doesn’t make you any less of a person, just like what Qahera chooses to wear doesn’t make her any less of a downright fantastic superhero. The writer even specifically put a panel where Qahera is being catcalled by a man in the street wearing her hijab, showing that no matter what a women wears, she is still catcalled and disrespected at times. This is a problem that needs to stop. What’s even better about this series is that it is written by a Muslim women who has taken inspiration from her own life and situations that have personally happened to her.
The creator, Deena, is also an extremely intelligent woman, and if I knew more about her, I would probably do a whole article on her. Damn foreshadowing monster, get outta here! She was asked why Qahera doesn’t cause more physical harm to oppressors, and why she doesn’t use her weapons as much. Because come on, the girl DOES have a sword and all. Deena responded by saving that Qahera obviously already has above-average abilities, and though she could certainly hack up a sexist piece of trash on the street, it simply does not send the right message. This is especially admirable, because the creator has the power to make something where this amazing woman can fly around and just beat sexist people into a puddle of human juice (sick, but I’m proud of that one). But she doesn’t because real life oppressors are getting away with awful things every day, and real life women are too scared to report them. Because of the medium she has chosen to express this story, she has to keep the entertaining comic book thing and the serious message behind it balanced. I have read a lot of series in which the writer gets power-crazy and runs rampant with some insane idea, but has absolutely no substance behind it. Yet another reason why this series is so beautiful: balance. Middle of the tee totter balance.
The messages in this series are so damn important, because they happen every day, all around each one of us. A woman is assaulted in the street, and when she goes to the police for help, he tells her that she was dressed provocatively, and to get the man who harassed her in trouble would mean she was responsible for ruining a man’s life. Slut shaming and victim blaming is a very real and extremely backwards, not to mention dangerous phenomena going on in our world right now. This is illustrated when the woman is walking down the street, turns on the men harassing her to tell them to back off, and they become aggressive and pull a knife on her. Thankfully Qahera flies in to save the woman, and takes the men to the police, telling the woman she will testify against them in court with her. Now this is a satisfying end to a great issue, but we don’t all have a superhero to fly in and save us, we only have each other.
Now I don’t want to make Qahera sound like it’s so serious that it’s not entertaining, because if I did, I would be a liar. And nobody likes a liar, especially one with purple hair who eats comic books. All I’m saying is that this series caught me by surprise, in the best possible way, possibly because it is so strong and really cuts into the thinking parts in a person’s head. And truly, here are some pretty funny parts that are so ingeniously clever. Usually when I recommend something, I’ll go through the list: Do you like bloody stuff? Do you like stuff with cute cuddly puppies? Do you like stuff with homicidal maniacs (I’ve had a crush on Jhonen Vasquez since I was 12, don’t hate)? Do you like stuff that makes you think? Qahera, I recommend to EVERYBODY. You don’t have to be into a specific genre or type of book, and that in itself is something incredibly powerful, especially in this medium.