You Say You Want a Gender Revolution? This Comic Is Leading the Way
In a dystopian future, a heroine rises against the status quo to lead a revolution against an unjust ruler. No, it’s not Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy. Her name is Latifa, and she is busting stereotypes of Arab women.
In early October, Latifa and her talking sword, Al Faisal, debuted in Latifa—I Am Not Latifa, the first comic from NA3AM, or New Arab Media. Latifa is the first of seven heroines from the company’s Saudi Girls Revolution comic and video game universe to be revealed.
“Latifa is a lone vigilante patrolling the war-torn wasteland, slaughtering invading mutant hordes. She was orphaned during a mutant invasion, left with no family and no friends. Latifa cares only for one thing: Revenge,” reads the comic’s website.
The comics present female-led stories with the hope of depicting and promoting the empowerment of girls and women, not only in Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations but internationally. Along with hunting mutants, Latifa and the other women in the Saudi Girls Revolution universe are shaking up perceptions of women of Arab descent.
The characters symbolize a “new female identity, changing how they are seen and how they see themselves within the universe,” according to the company. Because Saudi Arabia still struggles with gender equality, this is critical ground on which to base a comic series.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia ranked 134th out of 145 nations on the Global Gender Gap Index. In December, the country held its first election in which women were able to vote and run for office.
Gender equality activists also continue to fight against the Saudi tradition of male guardianship, which requires women to get permission from a male guardian to work, travel, get married, or even go to the doctor. Although activists say limited, incremental steps have been taken to reform guardianship over women in Saudi Arabia, in July a report from Human Rights Watch called the tradition “the most significant impediment to women’s rights in the country.” The practice has also been called out in the Universal Periodic Review, a review of the human rights records of United Nations member states.
Taking all this into consideration, NA3AM’s purpose with the Saudi Girls Revolution comics and game is to “address some of the world’s highly charged topics in a safe and artistic environment.” Rewriting the narrative to include the many Saudi Arabian women who have shared their stories or advocated for government reform gives marginalized voices a new superhero stature.