The Call For Real Women
I remember the day I sat in the theater, watching a Disney “princess” and being thrilled.
For the first time, there on the screen, was a girl that was like me.
Well, sort of, anyway.
I mean, yeah, she was still a white girl, but she did have brown hair and brown eyes. More important than that, she loved to read, adored her father, and didn’t swoon over the hot dude every other girl in town did.
Belle might have been called a princess in the end, but to me, she was a hero.
I was 12 at the time, and in the teenage years ahead of me the TV was full of Spelling-created soaps, where everyone was impossibly good looking, drama was created by who was sleeping with who, and a “strong” woman seemed synonymous with cruel ambition.
I might have thought Belle was a fluke.
But then, there she was.
Scully was an FBI agent. And she was smart. Really smart.
She had a B.S. in Physics, wrote a senior thesis reinterpreting Einstein, and received her M.D. from Stanford. She was a woman of science, and while she was a skeptic when it came to some of Mulder’s paranormal beliefs, she was not a woman without faith. She was a voice of reason, a woman of patience. She didn’t need impossibly high stilettos, tight sweaters, perfect hair to get through her cases.
Scully was appreciated for her brains, not her boobs.
Awesome, kick-butt ladies didn’t stop at my teenage years.
In my twenties, Zoe Washburne was a woman who could be the fiercest soldier, loyal to her captain and crew, but not without an opinion. Zoe also showed that being strong didn’t mean forgoing marriage or having babies. (I know, she didn’t have any in the Firefly series, but she did make it clear that she wanted them. Maybe if the series had continued…but I digress.)
All of these women left an impression on me, because they were all strong women in my eyes, but they were all very different. A strong woman didn’t have to have a specific career. She didn’t have to be tough all the time.
A strong woman was a person, with flaws and strengths like any person.
I’m glad I had these positive images growing up (and grateful for a mom who knew to steer me away from the less positive ones). When Joss Whedon talks about internalizing what we see/read/hear in fiction, I get it.
I don’t find myself asking why there aren’t more strong women in fiction today.
I find myself asking why there aren’t more real women. Because that’s what I took from my childhood favorites – real women ARE strong women.
So for the upcoming generations, I hope that writers of the world (and the gatekeepers in particular) find it in their heart to write real women. Women that will have little girls excited about being smart and reasonable and whatever they want to be. Women who show that strength doesn’t come from something external.