While goofing off on my computer the other day, I ran across this article by Martha Brockenbrough. As it referred to movie princesses, I could hardly resist reading it… there’s still a lot of little girl in me :-D
Normally Martha Brockenbrough’s work makes me laugh, and I got some chuckles out of this piece. So I won’t criticize it thoroughly, although it’s clear she’s either never seen The Princess Diaries (first or second) all the way through or she’s mixed it up with another storyline.
But, while the probably-innocent-but-rather-drastic misinterpretation of one of my favorite movies annoyed me mildly, the question that has haunted me ever since is one that, if spoken too loudly, could easily draw a fair share of feminist ire. I’m not normally fond of being intentionally and overtly controversial, but this one just bugs me.
Here’s the question: What’s so bad about a girl wanting to be rescued?
The obvious answer given, of course, is that a woman should be capable of taking care of herself and confidently in control of her own destiny. The problem is that reality limits the practicability of such things.
No, I’m not advocating ignorance, stupidity or inanity for women. I happen to like being sensible and educated. Part of any decent education for girls, however, is an understanding of vulnerability: feminine, as well as human, vulnerability. Every daughter should be taught keen character judgment and an eye for what sort of man is worth investing herself in, as well as which girls make good friends. She should also learn of the danger of going certain places alone; that it’s a good idea for a girl to keep her head up, her eyes open and a can of mace at close command when walking from house to car in the dark, and that it’s even better in certain situations for her to have a man walking with her.
That, however, just begins the issue of feminine vulnerability. Women are, and always have been, susceptible to attack in ways men are either not or are less so. Not simply physically, but emotionally as well: with the strength of a fine-tuned sensitivity to feeling comes the dangers of too-natural tendencies toward overdependency or tolerance of abuse.
The feminists and I agree that abuse and chronic neediness should not exist. But the feminists go wrong in propagating the idea that a woman can become whole by entirely throwing off the ‘shackles’ of patriarchy. While a woman can (and should be able to) live unshattered without the presence of husband or father or brother in some immediate form of protective role, women who choose this or do it too well usually lose something of the feminine softness and sensitivity that portrays grace to the world.
Centrally, that softness has nothing to do with the stereotypical doormat-submission or wilting-flower mentality, nor any reference to the clichéd comparison between the tree-climbing tomboy and the parlor-dweller. It is, however, an indispensable part of woman’s beauty. And real possession of that female grace depends on a girl’s acceptance of her own vulnerability.
With few exceptions, the single women I’ve known either hold out the hope for a man to come through for them (with varying degrees of realistic expectations) or bitch with the other gals about how men have let them down.
The idea that a girl should kick down every door in her path and save herself by herself is standard Hollywood idealism nowadays, marketed generally to girls old enough to have tasted some bitterness in relating to men. While most women want to show off some toughness and independence—along with stunning beauty—the whole girl-to-her-own-lonely-rescue ideal just doesn’t fit fully with the girl heart, and it doesn’t replace what a girl loses in refusing to accept the strength of masculinity that offers her protection.
Like it or not, a woman’s heart contains the desire to be fought for and rescued by a man. And without that, a woman is—quite simply—missing out.
“…Unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor!
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads…”
–Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew