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June 15, 2017

wonder woman



Hard days. Sad days. My heart aches for London, and for people all around the world who are suffering, just as people have suffered in so many ways for centuries. What is the solution? Well, it resides right alongside the pain : kindness, compassion, love and care for each other.

I watched the Wonder Women movie today. I almost never go to the movies, but had heard so many positive things about this one, I felt I ought to see it. I emerged with many thoughts.

Firstly, the cinematography was magnificent! Special effects woven through with genuine sentiment made my heart rise and my throat swell more than once. Secondly, I like very much what director Patty Jenkins has said about the importance of sincerity and beauty in storytelling, and I could see the effort that was made to bring morality to this movie, although I personally found those moments rather garbled. I also found that, for a feminist movie, there was an awful lot of emphasis on what women looked like : the heroine was staggeringly beautiful; the comic relief was short, stout, and overdressed; the villain was facially deformed.

But what stayed with me most was less the movie itself than the thought that this is what so many people recently have celebrated their small daughters watching, admiring, emulating. This violence, this determination to solve problems by bashing them through stone walls. And at the same time there is a general horror that girls should adore princesses who care for woodland creatures, and who try to see the good in everyone, and who inspire other people to acts of nobility and courage. I utterly fail to understand why those princesses are poor role models - except if it is contemptible to fall in love, and to need help from someone else at times rather than doing everything relentlessly for yourself.




There seems in certain quarters to be a backlash against love. Look how it was twisted in Frozen, so that a generation of girls might now grow up believing they can not trust themselves, for their love of their own power is dangerous and the prince they adore could be corrupt.

But the truth is, love is what saves us all. It's what gives us strength against the negative voices in our society and our own heads. It makes tragedies bearable. It keeps us going when we're achingly exhausted, pushing us over mountains in winter to take our children to safety, allowing us to read bedtime stories when we have the flu. Love ... compassion, empathy for others on a national scale ... is also why the politics of the actress playing Wonder Woman matter, even if only as an invitation to further discussion on the subject.

I grew up reading Wonder Woman comics and watching the tv series. I vaguely recall that I even had a Wonder Woman doll. I'm not saying we shouldn't enjoy female warrior characters. I'm only disappointed that we use "feminism" as an opportunity merely to match men in violence, rather than aiming for something higher, deeper, more interesting, more complex, and ineffably more true to the wondrous spirit of women heroines everywhere.


I enjoyed this critical discussion of the movie, it shows me perspectives I don't have clearly myself as I'm not a woman of colour.

10 comments:

  1. I always enjoy our differing perspectives-it gives me so much to think about.
    I didn't see the film through the same lens. What you recant as violence, I see as capable defense of self and others. THe Amazons did not seek war, but rather moved out of the world to avoid it. The key difference in their empowerment message is that they never denied themselves the opportunity to recognize that violence is ever present and may come, literally, to their shores. They were strong and ready and confident. They trained and made preparations. The were not passively waiting for others to come to their defense or wishfully hoping that the world would miraculously change. Wonder Woman was ultimately feminist, especially when she stepped away from the mission to do her best to stop the suffering of the captive village--and the director beautifully showed how compassionate concern for others gives a feminine response to unjust violence. These women warriors did not fight for oil or power- but for love of each other and later, love of innocents, which is a positive distinction.

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    1. I wrote a reply to you last night, but it seems to have disappeared :-( in essence it said that i agreed with many of your points and thank you so much for joining the conversation with me <3

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  2. i haven't seen the "wonder woman" film, so i can't speak to that, but i know what you mean about simply replacing male characters with female characters and that somehow being empowering...of course, in a sense, it is; in as far as it increases the visible possibilities for women and men. but it is not quite all the needs to be done, is it?

    i personally loathe disney, and find most of their princesses pretty off-putting. the sole exception was "belle" in the animated "beauty and the beast", whom i rather liked for her bookishness, her lack of interest in gaston, and her compassion... and i understand the critique of many (though by no means all!) traditional princess characters for their lack of agency and their inevitable happy ending being marriage to the prince of one stripe or another. however, those old tales are deeply attractive and satisfying for a host of reasons, most importantly that they access deep cultural memories and archetypal forces. i would agree that children---and adults---need to read, hear, and see many kinds of tales and images, showcasing a wide variety of hero/heroine possibilities and endings. i also feel very strongly that surrounding children with messages that "girls are" or "boys are" this or that kind of thing (all that "pink is for girls, boys don't play with dolls" rot) is damaging and limiting to young people, and to society as a whole.

    i am a feminist, but i think that often feminism, at least as it is (minimally) represented in pop culture, has sort of thrown out the baby with the bath water. serious feminists tend to be more nuanced about things, and to recognize that real liberation and equality means valuing EVERY type of female (and male) expression, including gentleness, nurturing, and home-keeping and care-giving work... yet that breadth of valuation seems not to make it into film or magazine articles, and sadly much of the population, including the women actually doing much of the nurturing and caregiving work, do not feel it is truly of value. women who work, by choice or by necessity, are placed in opposition to women who stay at home; there is dismissive, even vitriolic commentary about women who want to have children and care for them. none of this helps any of us. what we need---what we ALL need---is a world in which the possibilities are unlimited for everyone to craft a life of their choosing, and economics that support all of those choices and needs. we need to see more gentle, caring male images too; and among female imagery, a female warrior is valuable in its way, but no more nor less so than the gentle maiden who cares for small creatures. and i, like you, resonate more strongly with the latter. there are many kinds of strength, not all of which involve swinging a sword. and i would argue that the kind of strength that allows one to nurture other living things, to provide a peaceful environment for self and others, to serve those in need, to make art that holds up a mirror to society or inspires it, and to know the value of all such work, is precisely the kind of strength our world needs more of.

    (steps off soapbox)

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, I agree with much of what you say. I wish I could respond fully but I'm typing on my tiny phone (being in bed sick with the flu) and am coming to the end of my thumb's strength, lol.

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  3. I think this is one of the most important posts you've ever written, Sarah, and my two daughters (19 and 16) agree.

    Yes, "love is what saves us all". Violence separates and divides. Love unites. I have not seen Wonder Woman, but I did see Frozen, and it is my least favorite Disney story (my girls and I love Tangled best).

    As a woman, I do not understand feminism, and so I cannot call myself a feminist. I was a little girl in the 1970's, and I remember the Enjoli perfume commercials showing a sexy woman in a business suit, bathrobe, and evening gown singing: "I can put the wash on the line, feed the kids, get dressed, pass out the kisses, and get to work by 5 of 9, 'cuz I'm a woman...Enjoli! I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let you forget you're a man, 'cuz I'm a woman...Enjoli!" As a child, I found the commercial a little scary--the actress in the add appears as if she is three different (or more) people. The message to girls was: women can (and should) be all and do all. And, what did that liberated 70s woman get for trading in her days at home caring for hearth, home, and children? MORE WORK and, quite frankly, less respect on all fronts. Feminists seem to have no awareness that women would not have been welcomed into the workforce if the patriarchy didn't see the economic benefit of it. So now, we have an economy that requires TWO incomes to run a household. Corporations pay everyone less--real wages have not increased in the US since the 70s. Women and girls are still exploited for their sexuality (singer Beyonce is considered a feminist role model, and yet I've never seen her wearing anything other than a scanty leotard; Emma Watson poses topless in Vanity Fair to promote Beauty and the Beast, and she is lauded as a feminist). 'Home' has become nothing more than a place to bathe and sleep for the majority of workers and school children. And, for others, 'home' is merely a lifestyle symbol, an immaculate place of style and decoration.

    When women gave up their seat of power--which biologically places us near children and hearth--we gave up our influence on society as a whole. And we are living the fallout: fragmentation of relationships, the "hook-up culture", divorce, epidemic drug use--prescription and recreational--, loneliness/disconnection.

    Your post about "feminising the world", led me to do a bit of reading and research over the past week. Although feminists attempt to deny it, anthropologists are in agreement that there has never been a truly matriarchal society. In every ethnograph available, even in matrilineal cultures where women are highly respected, men still hold the majority of decision making positions. This is true even if women are allowed to be chief/queen/prime minister: the majority of her advisers are male. It turns out that women in western society have the same rights as the women in societies anthropologists have identified as having the greatest gender equality. For example, mnodern western women can own property, vote on policy, hold leadership positions, do high-position tasks(jobs), and control their sexuality. Even so--even though some future ethnographer might identify us as more equal than past societies--we know that things are terrifyingly out-of-balance: violence and wars are raging, poverty is on the rise due to income disparity and corporate greed, the ideals of virtue have radically declined, and our planet is dying.

    Women--almost all of the women I know--are exhausted. They are constantly looking for ways to "find themselves" to "re-charge" to "empower" each other. What if our power--as the ancient cultures illustrated through their goddess art--lies in our breasts and wombs and arms and hearts? I'm not suggesting going backward. I'm suggesting reclaiming our feminine power and moving forward to influence the world in new, feminine ways (like the things on your list in your former post).

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    1. I agree with every single thing you have written here. I think you're really brave to have written it actually, as I'm sure many women would find the thought of women claiming their biological authority as appalling. But to me it makes sense. Perhaps we have differences biologically and temperamentally (mars and venus, etc, which I know is laughed at but infact has been proven true) in order to work in partnership with each other ... as we used to do in hunter/gatherer societies, instead of either diminishing women or turning them into men.

      I think of the ancient societies in which a goddess was the divine authority. There,women did not lead. Rather, the sexes were in partnership.

      I am typing this on my phone so it's difficult, and I'm not being very articulate, and there is so much more I'd like to say, but then again it'd mostly be just repeating your words! I thank you so very much for your comment.



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  4. Sarah, I love your final paragraph! So good and true. .... we have not yet seen the film, tho would love to! Very likely will have to wait for the DVD. .... if I have time and mental wherewithal later on (one never knows!) I will do my best to come back and leave a longer response! This is such an interesting and important discussion! Thank you for sharing your views and starting the conversation {{hugs}}

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    1. I hope you get to see it. On the big screen it really was like art.

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  5. I agree with you. I would have liked to see some more of the internal struggle of emotions and not just amazing fight scenes!

    Love does win at the end of Frozen though - sisterly love.

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  6. That is really good and informative post, you wrote it beautifully and made sure that interest of people will be there throughout. Thank you for sharing it with us and keep posting more such posts

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