Four-year-old Ellie Evangelista from New York City just may be Spider-Man's biggest fan. But recently, Ellie was upset because boys in her Pre-K class told her she can't be or like Spider-Man because she's a girl, her mom said.
"She loves him so much," Ellie's mother Margaret Ryan told ABC News today. "She has a Spider-Man costume, Spider-Man pajamas, a Spider-Man shirt and Spider- Man toys. We've been watching superhero cartoons together, and she really wants to be him."
But her enthusiasm died down after boys at YM & YWHA Washington Heights and Inwood Nursery School told Ellie Spider-Man was "only for boys," her mom said.
"She started coming home and saying things like, 'I don't want to be a girl anymore because Spider-Man's a boy, and I can't be him if I'm a girl,'" Ryan explained. "So my husband and I started to navigate through that a little bit."
Ryan added she found out Ellie's teachers explained to the boys that what they told Ellie was wrong. But Ryan said she wanted to do more to help her daughter's self-confidence and self-image.
"I reached out to some local parents on an email listserv and proposed my conundrum, and it just blew up," she said. "Parents just got fired up about the issue in a positive way, and wanted to empower our girls -- and girls who love superheros."
Someone in the group then suggested having an "Uptown Superhero March" parade sending the message that girls can do whatever boys can and vice versa, and Ryan said she thought it was a great idea.
"Kids can dress up as their favorite superhero regardless of whether or not that superhero is the same gender as them, and kids can also carry signs with inspirational messages such as 'I can be a superhero too,'" she said. "One parent said she's going to bring an iPod and speakers and have superhero theme song music."
The "Uptown Superhero March" will start at Bennett Park in Washington Heights at 11:00 a.m. this Sunday.
"I'm really excited because even if only a few kids show up, Ellie is going to get to see different kids marching and having a good time while being dressed the way they want to regardless of what anyone else says," Ryan said. "I can now say, 'Hey! Look, that girl is Superman, and she can be whoever she wants to be, too!"