The Yoga of Wonder Woman
My mom just had a meltdown. (Sorry, ma, I'm airing the laundry…)
It doesn't happen often. As a matter of fact, it is so rare that when you see it, it takes a minute to realize the reality of it. Mom just doesn't flip out. Like ever. What I learned by watching this one was that the meltdown wasn't about the catalyst. She wasn't actually pissed about what she was pissed about.
I think for most of us, that is usually true. So much shit brews down low in the gut like a toxic stew of buried emotions, resentments, and fears that when just the right thing comes along…..FA-BAM! Off the handle we go.
With mom what it boiled down to was that she was tired of being Super Woman. She had spent very nearly all of her adult life executing the feminine-power myth that we can "have it all". We can be mothers and wives and executives and we can be super fulfilled and rewarded by our families and our cultures if we perpetuate this myth. That is feminine power, right?
But what we aren't told is that "having it all" often really means "doing it all". And once you demonstrate yourself as being capable of pulling this off, that becomes your new default setting to others. You are a Super Heroine. You will handle it all. Many, many things can be landed at your feet, and on those days when you just want to take off the lasso and the boots and let somebody else deal with it, you can come off as being derelict in duty.
Which sucks. Wonder Woman never had a sidekick. And even when she wasn't wearing the star-spangled underpants, she was still a kick ass military intelligence officer who fully competed in a man's world by being a complete badass. All over the culture, this is what we are given as the feminine archetype of a powerful woman. We never saw the woman of wonder who sometimes wanted a bath and a glass of wine and a good cry while Steve Trevor rubbed her shoulders. We never got to see the days when Diana Prince just needed a hug.
Even Super Heroines need hugs. All the time as a matter of fact. We need sidekicks, big time.
So I thought, maybe Wonder Woman wasn't a great analogy, right? Maybe mom just needed to find a different super hero to identify with. As silly as that sounds, our icons are great social models that we can turn to for mythological strength when our spirit is tired. In ancient times, the pantheon of gods and goddesses provided many aspects of human spirit that we could access for strength. We could tap into that personality archetype for a boost of clarity. Today, when we need an aspect, we have Marvel and DC. That might sound silly, but it's true. Just look around.
For men, that's kinda cool. You guys get to be Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Spiderman, Iron Man, Daredevil, Blade and many, many more. A really big range of human super-ness is covered by the male superheroes. And they are all independent of other super heroes. They may work together, but they are tied to no one. To a man, they represent some of the best (and at times the darkest) aspects of the male character.
The story is a little different for women. We get Super Girl and Bat Girl. Both of whom are stuck with the descriptor "girl", which forever freezes them in a state of immaturity that tethers them to their male super hero genitors. We get Catwoman--who is technically a villain. And Elektra--who is an assassin. And the Invisible Woman--whose power is that she can't be seen; She literally conquers evil by sneaking up on it. There is always Jean Grey and her mind control--who eventually turns into the Phoenix…a superhero that cannot be trusted not to destroy the world. Oh, wait! And Rogue, whose power is sucking the life out of people just by touching them.
Wow. I'm actually flabbergasted now that I see that list in print. That's a fucked up message, y'all. Big time.
What this says to women is that by and large, we are either strong only when tethered to a man or that on some level our strength slants us towards the dark side. Our super-ness just can't be trusted. Our power is skewed. That is, of course, unless we are Wonder Woman or Xena, both of whom are so strong and isolated that they actually behave in the super hero world like men. That's the message.
But, hey, guess what? I don't actually want to be a man or be forced to act like one to get by successfully in the world. So how about we fix that?
Now, I am aware that the world of heroes is ever-changing. That is important since in our society, these stories are acting as our mythological foundation. This is what our children see as aspects of human greatness to absorb and look up to. I am ever hopeful that there is a legion of women writers out there creating female super characters that are full and complete as women and heroes. That is not a small task, especially since our culture is currently only telling the same super stories over and over again. It must be a crazy-hard field to break into.
But if we want to have a new generation of women who are true feminine feminists, we have to start changing our narrative. We have to attend to our stories and all the subtle ways in which they re-enforce the old ways. It is actually impossible to be Wonder Woman. We need strong partners who know when to put on their own super suits, and when to make us take off ours. We cannot do it all or have it all. That type of thinking, that type of storytelling, strips the myth of its power to help the individual reach higher and be better.
For in the end, that is all our Super Heroes are. They are guideposts to being the very best human we can be. They inspire us to greatness because they are both human and super. I think that is awesome.
As long as they are doing the job honestly. For all of us….women included.