Comments on Wonder Woman, Part IIb: Embracing the Feminine

Continuing the comments on the feminine themes in Wonder Woman:

c) Gender complementarity

WOMAN

The relations between the sexes is also on display, not as a struggle for supremacy, but rather as complementary. Diana is experientially innocent about men and the relations between men and women, but she is knowledgeable and confident nonetheless. She does not understand why literally sleeping with Steve Trevor, fully clothed and apart, would be a problem when they’re on a small sailing boat – the whole scene is both comedic and sobering, revealing our own impure minds in the face of her confident innocence.

This innocence also comes out in a confident docility to Steve’s lead. She knows that Steve is the one who can get her to her goal, so she lets him guide her. This does not make her passive, standing up to the weak and immoral, even when that means deriding Steve himself and breaking with him for failing her. This kind of confident docility is a hallmark of traditional femininity, destroyed in the memetic idea that “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Diana is plenty well-behaved and can be heroic because of it.

d) Martial Might and Compassion

A final point about the violence. It’s true that violence and force are usually the domains of men, but I think the movie makes a deft move by saying not only is it NOT the proper domain of men, but that violence, more properly physical force, is an extraordinary response to extraordinary sin.

This is the fundamental message of Hippolyta, Diana’s mother. She wishes to protect the young Diana from a warrior’s training, not because she is against the use of force per se – she is a warrior herself and relishes in her sister Antiope’s martial might. Rather, she hopes the conditions which require the use of force – hatred, envy, desire – will not touch her daughter. She may be wrong in overprotecting Diana, but the impulse is a good one.

It’s also one that is distinctively feminine. The masculine, even if it wishes to eschew the horrors of physical force, has a tendency to embrace it. It is by physical force we men often exercise our fortitude. The feminine exercise of fortitude is more often expressed in intense compassion. Diana embraces this wholeheartedly. Her mission to kill Ares is a desire to free men from the hatred she presumes he spreads. Her acts of physical valor are first and foremost a response of compassion to the plight of others – when a woman asks Diana for aid, the men wish to move on and stick to the plan while she wishes to care for those right in front of her. Her ultimate moment of badassdom is elevated not by her might, but her invocation of love even in the face of man’s wickedness. Even small little acts reveal this intense compassion, like running to see a baby, desiring to know what people do during peace, or comforting the PTSD-rattled Charlie.

Wonder Woman reveals a very clear picture of eternal feminine traits while not getting caught up in some universal abstraction of womanhood. It’s refreshing and will probably piss a lot of the “righthinking” sort.

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About Tomas

Catholic. Texan. Philistine. Teacher.
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