Tim and I just got back from seeing Wonder Woman and I am on fire. I've heard people of color describe how much it meant to them the first time they saw someone who looks like them in the media, how that made them stand taller and feel proud of who they are. I've lived in white privilege my whole life so I heard those stories but I didn't know what that felt like, not to that extent. However, I am a woman and have always identified strongly as such. In fact, on the way home from the movie, Tim and I were discussing our most firmly held identities (between race and gender) and mine is gender. I identify as female before I identify as white. And I know that alone is evidence of my privilege (ask a black male. My assumption is he identifies as black first because that is always the first thing our culture names him). But what I mean about identifying as female first is that I feel so grounded in my gender identity. It is a huge part of who I see myself as and I see my gender as an incredible asset. Of course, not out in the world of male privilege, but I believe in, and have written as such, very strongly in the power of women. Tim enjoyed hearing all my arguments on the way home about how technically, we are the superior sex because we carry and sustain life and to me, that means, the human race begins and ends with women. Sorry, dudes. Although, not sorry. Not really. Quit underestimating us, already.
I have to tell you, as someone who in my heart knows my female-ness (I don't say femininity as that feels like a social construct to me) is a significant contributor to my personal power, it genuinely moved me to watch Wonder Woman. She is so powerful. And not as one of many, but in and of herself. She doesn't join men. She leads men. To see men follow her was healing for me, in particular because I was raised in a church that believed female leadership was rebellion against God. That male leadership was the only way to worship God rightly and to desire leadership as a female is a sign of greed, vanity and selfishness. But know this, men should follow women when they know what the hell they're doing and they're brave enough to not take no for an answer. It did my heart so, so good to see that happen, to see her stand alone in strength and truth and fight for peace. Is that not all our mission? To make sense of the wars of this world, hell, the war in my own city? She is so strong, but her strength is directed deliberately. No offense to the Hulk, but she is not a senseless rage beast (again, love you buddy). She wields her power for good, for love, for peace. Not in a Disney princess way. Dude, lady can kick some ass. And her view of pleasure is freaking hysterical (in case you missed it, she concluded that men are necessary for procreation but not pleasure). I so admire, not just power for power's sake, but discretion in the use of personal power. Above all the superheroes (the Cap comes in a very close second, but he's Marvel so we don't have to decide), she exudes the ultimate discipline, the truest north star, the deepest integrity, the utmost compassion. She is both warm and fierce. She can knock down buildings and want to help animals. This is what it means to be a woman to me. Not because those roles are placed on us, but because we know power does not have to mean might. We know when to wield it and when to show mercy. The world needs powerful women in leadership, now more than ever. And the idea that my daughters will grow up with Wonder Woman being a true hero in her own right makes me honestly excited for how that will equip young women coming after me. How would I have developed in my identity had I been exposed to this film as a young girl? I'll never know. But based on my reaction today, I think it would have mattered.
Her journey from a black and white sense of justice and worldview to embracing nuance and still choosing love (spoiler alert) so mirrored my own spiritual process. I think so many people identify with her story. Steve, her love interest, helps her come to terms with the fact that all people are good and bad, that we have a desire for war and peace within each of us. That has been one of the hardest things for me to reconcile in my adult life, to hold both of those realities and not allow them to freeze me from action. I only want the good to be true and the bad slaps me in the face every day. You can't ignore that and yet I so wish it wasn't the case. But when you can no longer ignore the reality of evil, accept that you can't kill it with a gun because it is inside the person shooting the gun and the one being shot, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO? In my life, I do exactly what she did. And I believe many people, many women, do the same. We choose love. We believe in the enduring power of love. We embrace the things that make us one, the points of commonality and we make peace.
Above all of these things - her representing me, her character, her paradigm shift, the thing that moved me the most was that she never asked for permission. That damn Steve repeatedly told her what she could and couldn't do, wear, be, everything. I know she loves him in the end and he's essentially dealing with someone from an alternate reality, but how many women picked up on the boxes he kept trying to put the wild woman into? Yes, to blend in. BUT, isn't that what they always say? This is what's appropriate. This is what's expected. Who do you think you are? Stay behind me. I got this. I know what I'm doing. Follow my lead. You stay here. It all falls under the basic assumption that women aren't capable. I don't hate Steve but I have felt many, many times the weight of his assumptions. Am I right, ladies? I was raised to follow the rules, to meet or exceed the expectations of others, starting with God himself. This is not something easy for me to shirk off, even though so often it is total and utter bullshit. I know I can do more, be more, contribute more. I KNOW I CAN.
Just because I can't save the world doesn't mean I can't do good. Do the good you can. In your life, in your corner of the world, in your generation, in your family - this is your life. Do something good with it. Don't let the liar tell you it's futile so save yourself. Release yourself from greed and do the good you can do and do it without strings attached. What a world we could live in if we all did our best to do that. To at least try. We must stop asking permission to live our lives, be ourselves, embrace our power, use our voice. Don't let someone tell you what you're about. Show them who you are based on the power you don't let them take. Show them what you're capable of by not backing down. Stand your ground. Hell, take some ground. Stop being so fucking nice. Be the warrior you already are. And follow Wonder Woman’s lead. Do it with grace. Wield your power for good. You don't need permission. So live without it if you have to.
The power of receiving permission falls away when you stop asking for it. Just do what you need to do.