So. A friend and I went to see Wonder Woman on Saturday. I had high hopes – so many folks I knew who saw it loved it. Women felt empowered and seen. Finally, we have our superhero! I was there with them, ready to buy my faux golden bracelets and appropriate t-shirt.
I thought the movie was good. The production was great, the scenes, the acting, the casting. I love her badass musical theme. I was not crazy about the high-heeled wedges she wears in her big fight scene, but whatever. If I hadn’t gone with such high expectations, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog. But I walked away wondering about women’s empowerment, and if women’s empowerment means only getting to act like men, and more specifically, if the message of the movie is that women’s empowerment means that women get to be as violent as men.
Bear with me, fans of Diana Prince, and allow me to offer some vignettes in my defense.
– A few years ago I was at an event at my daughter’s school, and (long story short) a “what would you do if” situation came up. It had to do with non-violence, which I’m usually for. Except the scenario was my daughter got pinned down or pinched or otherwise harassed by a boy. I told my conversation partner that I would teach my daughter to hit back. She was a bit aghast. “You’re teaching her to love war,” she said. No, I countered, I’m teaching her to defend herself and to let that boy know he can’t do that to her. I was thinking down the line, when she got older, and the hypothetical boy (or man) got older and the situation was worse. I want her to be ready. I hate that there’s something she has to be ready for.
-This past weekend same daughter was riding her bike with a friend. A man in a truck took their picture. My daughter remembered most of his license plate number, and she and her friend told us parents what happened. The friend’s mom let the police know. My daughter and her friend did the right thing, but I HATE that this happened. I hate that there are creepy men who take pictures of kids riding their bikes.
-I’m a little sensitive to violence. When I was 16, my family was held up at gunpoint in our home. At one point the intruder was standing behind me and cocked his gun. I thought I might die. I’ve never like real or pretend guns pointed at me since.
-I’m a little sensitive to violence. A few weeks ago, in Portland where I live, a crazy white supremacist stabbed three men in their throats, killing two, when they tried to stop his harassing two young women on a light rail train. It was sudden and vicious.
-If my daughter were threatened, I would do whatever I had to – including act with violence – to protect her. But I have learned that rarely do things work out the way they do in the movies. If someone has a gun on me, I’m going to do what they say. I’m not Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, or Wonder Woman.
I wish that women’s empowerment looked like women leading the way in non-violent resistance. Yes, I know that Wonder Woman decides she will save the world through love and not war. But that’s not what happened in the movie. Maybe there’s some character development waiting for us.
Most of the time I’m a pragmatist and not an idealist. But when my hopes for Wonder Woman were dashed, I awoke to the deep realization that I am so tired of testosterone-fueled violence. Weary to the ends of my toes. Weary to the core of my being.
Of course, I could be overacting. It was just a movie, after all. And as my wise daughter reminded me, no one would go see a movie where an empowered woman wins the day with reason and a commitment to non-violent resistance.
No one would see that movie.
What does that say about us?