Dear Wonder Woman…
Have you seen Wonder Woman yet? It’s definitely been a hot topic of conversation at my house this summer, and it’s getting rave reviews from a lot of critics.
My own impression was that this movie made sense and was extremely enjoyable even as someone who did not grow up on comic books or TV shows based on them—something previous superhero movies have utterly failed to do for me.
The name “Wonder Woman” is sometimes used to refer to those among us who somehow seem to have-do-be it all: wives and mothers who work as professionals (whether in or outside the home), raise perfect children, keep spotless homes, cook healthy meals from scratch, maintain a perfect figure, delight their in-laws, and still have time to meet the girls for drinks on a regular basis.
No pressure there. <Sarcasm font, heavy emphasis>
And no surprise, then, that Wonder Woman wrote in to Dear Prudence for advice earlier this month. (Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait.)
Hold on. Back up a sec.
Can we talk about everything that’s wrong with both the question and the response here?
Dear Wonder Woman, let’s start with your very first line: “What is your take on expectations of women these days?”
Um. I’d like to turn that around and ask, “What is your take on the expectations placed on you?”
Better yet, “Who placed these expectations on you?”
- Did you and your husband sit down and discuss this division of labor at any point before or after you got seriously involved?
- Did he announce, “This is what I expect of you?” and when did that happen?
- Or did you just assume that you were to work full time and do all the childcare and all the housework?
- Is it something you learned at your mother’s knee or from your friends?
Any way you answer that, Honey, you are not doing much to lighten the load on yourself or on the rest of us.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: I’ll bet that your friends—those you say “happily accept doing all the parenting”— feel very much as you do and just aren’t sharing it: this is a secret sisterhood that needs to get blown out of the closet. Now.
And let me ask you this: Why are you looking to anyone else, especially a total stranger, to play director of the movie of your life?
If you both work full time as professionals, why aren’t you outsourcing something—maybe your housework?
If you yearn to stay at home and raise your baby, why is that a secret?
Want to be “a kick-butt modern woman?” Be woman enough to confront this narrative you’re telling about poor you. What would change if you stopped telling your story this way? What if you (re)claimed the starring role in your own life instead of playing best supporting actress to everyone else?
And now, dear Prudence, your turn. Let’s take a look at your reply: “The problem you are having is not that you are an insufficiently empowered woman.”
Really? You’re going to tell her how she feels (or doesn’t)? You’re going to tell her the problem? To me, Wonder Woman’s very language screams lack of empowerment and a victim mentality.
“The problem you are having is that your husband is a selfish jerk.”
Wow, there’s a non-starter.
How exactly is Wonder Woman going to “seriously rehabilitate the basis of her relationship” now? “So, I wrote to Prudence, and she thinks you’re a selfish jerk. Should we spend some time unpacking that a little bit?”
And the comments on Prudence’s column? Don’t get me started.
What if everyone else resisted jumping in and playing director of Wonder Woman’s life?
What if, instead, someone led Wonder Woman back to herself to find her own answers and her own path—the ones that are right for her?
If you’ve gotten this far, you are probably pointing out that I haven’t offered a single solution to the problem. I’ve just asked a lot of questions.
You’re right—and that’s because only Wonder Woman can solve her problem: the answer to (re)claiming that starring role is inside her, and as long as we direct from the sidelines and impose our own stories on her, she won’t be looking for the answers that she knows are right for her—she’ll just feel like crap because she doesn’t measure up to someone else’s standard.
Know someone struggling with being Wonder Woman? Try lifting her up instead of dragging her.
Feel like the advice-seeking “Wonder Woman” yourself? Let’s talk.
I just saw the movie yesterday and was pondering all that she represented, the Diana-Goddess of Love figure who doesn’t listen to anybody else except her inner voice. You are quite right, we are all Dianas and so often we are clouded with voices that belong to everybody else except us.
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