I so wanted to love Wonder Woman. It caused such a big explosion of feminist emotions in the USA in the past weeks that I had to see it, in spite of promising myself I’d never watch another superhero movie again (so fed up with explosions – of any kind). What really made me want to see it was an article in LA Times by a woman who wrote a whole piece about how she cried during fight scenes. And then her female readers’ comments on the article – they all cried. I too wanted to be so inspired by the beauty and fierceness of a female superhero that tears came down my cheeks.
They didn’t. Only tears of desperation because for me, this movie was so wrong in so many ways. I expected more from a woman creating a female superhero than just copying (and punching) the men.
Let’s start with the least important - the looks. Why does Wonder Woman look like a fashion model who’d trip over the first rock in her way? Women in this country have spent decades fighting Barbie and forcing Mattel to shorten her legs and give her hips and widen her waist - and are now celebrating THIS as their feminist hero? Where are her muscles? Her strength? Her physical fierceness? Also, if she’s supposed to emancipate us, she should look like us. She looks like nothing but a male fantasy.
But then, what really disappointed me was that Wonder Woman is actually a Wonder MAN! I have absolutely no idea how to relate to her character as a woman. She is a male superhero with boobs. She stands for everything male – physical power, anger, aggression and the ability to kill. She beats the shit out of everyone. She kills. I think the director was aware of her maleness and tried to give her a feminine touch, but she’s done this by clumsily slapping a few “love” stickers on her sleeve. One of them is the very confusing “Only love can truly save the world” speech at the end of the movie, just after she killed a bunch of people, demolished a church tower, destroyed a village and murdered her nemesis. That’s love? And then even more clumsy, the scenes in which she melts over a baby and an ice cream. Really? That’s the idea of a superwoman? A cold-blooded murderer who likes ice cream and babies and preaches love?
And if we want to get Freudian about her actually being a man, how about this: At one point, our Wonder Woman is told that it isn’t her sword, it’s her who is the real “God Killer.” Wait, she is the sword?! Is there anything more charged with male symbolism than this phallic weapon? And what’s with the “killer?” Men are killers. Women are creators of life.
No, no, no. That is not my superhero. And that is not my feminism.
It feels so utterly wrong to call women who behave like (the worst form of) men “feminist.” We aren’t men and we shouldn’t be them. The world has suffered for centuries, alas millennia, under male domination. Under greed, aggression, interfering with nature, destroying it by trying to make it more “efficient,” under the idea that technology will make things better. And the murders. The millions of lives taken under male leaders.
That’s male energy. That’s yang. Shiva Linga (you know, the Hindu god Shiva, the destroyer?). It’s the hot, positive, aggressive, strict, dynamic. And it’s not necessarily bad – look how technologically advanced we got (before we turned our advancements against ourselves and our planet). But to achieve harmony, yang needs its yin, not more yang! Shiva Linga needs Shakti Yoni (the female deity which represents the cold, negative, calm, flexible, patient). Male domination needs female counterbalance. And yes, the female powers have been oppressed for too long. Women need to come out of the kitchens (or bathrooms) they’ve been locked in for all this time and save the world. But we can only do that by being what we are – female. Women can’t save the world by turning into men. That is counter productive. That is self-destruction. That is wrong. In a way it’s capitulation: we’ve been oppressed for so long that we think we can only gain power if we turn into the oppressor. But that is giving up who we really are. And that is not what the world needs.
The world needs female energy, female character. Female priorities. We need to reconnect with nature, we need to nourish and protect (people around us, the planet, ourselves), we need to understand the big picture and how strongly everything is connected. Men take things apart to understand and rule them. Women see the invisible interconnections and help them work together better. We dare to accept the power of love, feelings and emotions. Men aren’t sure what to do with them. We ARE empathy and love and connectedness. Men get rich, women feed the hungry. (That’s why one in nine people on our planet are starving, while there are 2,043 billionaires in the world.)
There’s nothing of this in Wonder Woman. But there’s violence. And destruction. And hate. And anger. So much anger. Here’s a woman whom her mom made of clay (or not?) and who grew up on an island where fierce women-men spend their time fighting each other. Because. Why actually? We were told her father Zeus sent women to the earth to spread love! There’s none of that among the Amazonians. We don’t see them cultivate, nourish, grow or love anything. Only fight.
And then there’s tit for tat. How, I wonder, can we be taken seriously if we behave like six year olds (Hello, Donald Trump!)? Here are all the things women complain about, turned around: The man is being objectified – early on, the (extremely handsome and muscular) dude stands there naked, robbed of his clothes, covering his penis with his hands while being interrogated by Wonder Woman. Then later, there’s a scene in which she tells him men are completely useless - we don’t need them for procreation or for pleasure. (Really? Because I did need my husband’s sperm to make my baby, somehow clay just wouldn’t do it!). I’m very much against treating men without respect. I know women are angry and have been wronged for so long. But we should be better then that. Feminism should be about proving we are equal (if not superior!), proving we are extremely valuable partners and that together we can make things better (and more enjoyable, because hey, most of us do get a lot of pleasure from men!) for all of us. Feminism shouldn’t be about beating men up. Because if we beat men up and put them down, they will get angry (or angrier) and fight back. And we shouldn’t be fighting. We should finally become partners. We should finally bring what we are and they aren’t to the table. Men don’t need us to kill and conquer. And we don’t need us to kill and conquer. They need us – we need each other – to create harmony and save our civilization and our poor planet.
The old ladies on my island (yes, I’m from an island and, yes, these are some fierce ladies!) tell young women that the most powerful female weapon is the ability to manipulate men into doing what we want them to do, while making them believe it was their idea in the first place. And I know women will answer we can do things ourselves. And we can. (Or can we? It hurts me but I fear we still live in a man’s world - I guess that’s why Wonder Woman is so angry). But doesn’t a clever person achieve their goals while protecting their own resources (read “energy”) and nourishing harmony? And I know it’s hard to believe in the power of yin when you have a ruling yang. But as Lao Tzu told us in Tao Te Ching: „Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield.“ And hey, water extinguishes fire!
I wonder if women celebrate a killer superhero because we still do – and we always will - feel intimidated by the male capacity to physically harm us. No matter how equal we are, the average man is able to beat up the average woman. And they do. UN statistics tell us that 1 in 3 women still experience violence by men. Is watching Wonder Woman kill men soothing these fears? Maybe. But that’s fantasy and we don’t have time for fantasizing. We still have a ton to do in order to improve our position in society. Because if a woman is protected, if it’s easier for her to leave an abusive relationship, men will think twice before being violent. Women, especially in the USA, have to fight for equal pay, for jobs, for maternity leave (it’s a mystery to me that women in the USA don’t have maternity leave). They need affordable childcare. They need health care. They need paid holidays (how can a working woman spend time with her kids with none, or in best case with two weeks of holidays a year?). They need the state to protect them better as mothers (and partners) so they can protect themselves. They don’t need to be fed a fantasy about being ruthless murderers.
As I wrote in my opinion about the idea of a female James Bond– we women should not take male superheroes and make them female. You can never win someone else’s battle. You can only win a battle if you make it your own. We have to create our own superheroes. We have to learn, and accept, what our female powers are and how we can use them to get to where we deserve to be and from where we can repair the world. Together with men. And not by trying to be – or beat – men.
What we really need is to embrace the TRUE Wonder Woman in us.
P.S. And no, I am not immune to fantasizing about kicking ass. I was so inspired by the powers of the ethereal female warriors in Ang Lee’s “Hero” that I couldn’t wait to get advanced enough in my Tai Chi practice to be allowed to start learning the art of sword. I practiced with the sword for many years and it did make me feel awesome - but unfortunately I can’t say it made me feel especially feminist.