Written By: Kyla M. West
I do not consider myself a 2017 Feminist.
Obscene, right? That a young female of 25 in the age of a rapidly changing, seemingly deteriorating world, who aims to establish herself in a field dominated by men, steps aside from the label which steadfast ladies brazenly display as they’ve fought for all of the privileges and rights that women have today. Trust me, I get it. I’m thankful for it, too! Our society and species has come a long way. Yet, I’ve grown to realize that flaws in human mentalities propagate no matter what shape, size, color, background, or land they come from. And it certainly knows no bounds by gender. I can remember facing numerous bouts of harassment, being stereotyped and underestimated, mistreated and disrespected–from at least the age of fifteen on. Sometimes, it came from the mouths and minds of men. Sometimes, women. Sometimes especially women!
Instead, I suppose you could call me a “How-About-We-Don’t-Treat-Each-Other-Like-Filth…ist”. Being good to one another goes a long way. Or perhaps I am more so a 20th Century-ish Feminist who believes everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities no matter what reproductive organs they carry. In all, I aim to be a woman who is both tenacious and dignified, and still make a difference. My upbringing taught me to be fair, to be kind, and to use that brilliant and mysterious organ between my ears. It also taught me how to shoot firearms and bows, to hunt and fish, to defend myself, to delve into music and the arts, to cook, create, and invest. In essence, I was raised to pursue my beating heart, and explore the possibilities that followed. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that the rest of the world would set limitations for me. Or at least, it would try.
So what the dickens does all this have to do with Wonder Woman (2017)?
Diana, princess of the Amazons, neutralizes the gaps between men, women, and races as she quests to rid the world of Ares, the God of War, and his influence over mankind. As she firmly follows her core beliefs of fighting Ares’ corruption, she opens her heart to new understandings and experiences that come from time spent amongst humans. In her introduction to human society, she is met with inhibition, disdain and doubt. Her tenacity shows us that it is neither man nor woman who is better equipped to improve the world. It is inner courage, empathy, and kindness that everyone must find for themselves.
When I sat down for this movie, my parents excited reaction to the film had me wriggling in my seat. They told me one girl in their theater was so inspired; she did somersaults in the aisle during the credits! Surely, I was in for a treat. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a story that, despite its mythic origins and superhuman outcome, was not only real, it was relatable.
I am a woman of science. I am a woman of nature. I am a woman born to speak for those who are voiceless, who are victim to the incorrigible greed and demand of mankind. Most importantly, I am a woman. This means I can be strong, stubborn, fierce, or gentle. I can be whatever I want to be, but it is not my physical form that defines me. It is my mind, my actions, and that communication between synapses that dictates how the world should perceive me (guess what, men, this could also be you!). Sound familiar? Perhaps, a little Wondrous?
It should be known that anyone is capable of having qualities that align with comic book heroes – even women can call themselves Iron Man, as the term “Female” broken down equates to Fe (the chemical symbol for Iron) + male (man) = Female = Iron Man. Yet what I saw in Wonder Woman resonated what feels like a lifetime of dissonance come to resolution.
There are many scenes I could speak to and give example of how this DC Universe story is not too farfetched from our own: for I, too, come from a high profile family and was raised with many rules, expectations, and perceived limitations. I, too, have been inspired by the peers who’ve endured countless trials by my side. I, too, completely surrender to the magical effects of ice cream. Though only a few scenes in particular stick to the forefront of my mind.
When Diana of the Amazons takes her first jaunt through London, it was as if I were watching the summation of my struggle to be a unique woman in a society full of quizzical standards and assumptions portrayed before my eyes. I was not the only one who laughed through the montage of Diana’s exposure to fashion, etiquette and overall distractions of a bustling city in the midst of war. Yet, I wondered if I was the only one who silently exclaimed, “that’s just like me!”
The moment that set this mental trigger off was actually her maternal reaction to seeing an infant in passing. “That’s just like me!” I even put my hand to my head in muted amusement, drawing the parallels. As intrepid as Diana has already proven to be without having even entered the battlefield, she still shows gentility and happiness over newly given life – a balance of virtues that I have grown to cherish in my maturity. Another parallel came to me when Diana later finds herself trying the current London fashions. I have often asked myself an awfully similar question to the one she does when buying clothes: how am I supposed to legally carry and have a sense of style with the way things are made? Preposterous…and yet, just like me, and I hope many others.
Diana’s story not only demonstrates how to overcome adversity, but it brings to life a concept that I have only fully embraced this year. A recent training in January left me with more than a refreshed set of skills. As I was bent over a critically endangered, sedated red wolf, our instructor, with 40+ years in the field as a wildlife veterinarian, encouraged a morale that I had been contemplating over the last several. The lesson was simple: Don’t be afraid to bring compassion with you, wherever you go.
Too many times in the field have I bitten my tongue because I lacked confidence in my ideas that went against the grain, afraid to be wrong or judged by the way my brain processed the situation. There were days where I should have spoken up, stood up for myself, or questioned leadership, but didn’t. Many of these instances were fueled by compassion, and my fear of its softness kept my words lingering behind closed lips. What my instructor learned in his years was to embrace that compassion, for it does not weaken, but strengthens our understanding and invigorates the purpose we use to drive ourselves to the point at which we stand.
I use my compassion to stop, and live for the subtly of life’s little moments. In these pauses we appreciate the detail, we look closer, share an experience, and so should these moments be spared. It was, after all, the power of compassion that spared the life of Doctor Poison, and revived Diana from her rage to find yet another essence of strength; her wisdom.
The major theme of sharing compassion where it isn’t given or expected filled me with surprise and hope, as Wonder Woman’s success in the box offices meant that millions across the globe were hearing this message. Although this theme is not novel, it is needed. Too often do the themes of love get overlooked, or pushed covertly aside as if it is taboo to be present alongside themes of strength and action. Now our youngest have an idol that represents all of these qualities in a time where love and wisdom are needed most. Perhaps adults of our time could learn from this as well.
This is one story, one telling, one example, of a remarkably resolute warrior who wants to save the world, but finds that enduring love and compassion can bring out the hero in all of us. This warrior just so happens to be a woman.
And she is a paradigm of what we can all be, for each other and ourselves.
She. Is. Wonderful.