As kid, I loved comic books. I remember my uncle Raymond gave me his priceless collection of over 100 comic books. I mean, he had some limited editions that would probably yield over $60,000 today. Unfortunately I lost them. Well, truthfully, I think my grandmother may have trashed them because she really didn't know their value. That's another blog article for another day. The real story here is the impression these comic books left on me. Anyhow, like many young girls (and boys), I grew up reading comics about Wonder Woman and Superwoman. I remember watching Linda Carter portray Wonder Woman on the weekly series. These female superheroes were powerful. Strong. Capable. They rivaled any man and didn't need to be saved. I idolized what they represented-girl power. Plus, Wonder Woman had an ethnically ambiguous look, so I felt like she was very identifiable to me as a woman of color. But, as an adult my perception changed. Too grew to see Wonder Woman (and Superwoman) with adult eyes, and to further discover she was created with the undertone of SBDM--enough to make Fifty Shades of Grey blush. I began to question my childhood worship of her as the ideal representation of femininity or feminine empowerment. Also, I saw the damage these images of fictional female figures did--and still do--to the psyche of women. Yeah, I don't like my new perception.
Too many women see the Wonder Woman (brave, bolden, strictly moral warrior, doesn't need a man) or Superwoman (female savior, strong, powerful, can do it all) archetypes as ideal female images to strive towards. But, really, they can make women feel inferior and guilty if we do not live up to the lore and idealized standards of these fictional females. Truthfully, Wonder Woman, even with her beauty, strength, pretty jewelry and lasso of truth, infers women don't need or even want men. Her superhero attire tells us she wants a man to find her sexy and alluring. Yet, her secret identity, Diana Prince, tells us avoid men at all costs. Superwoman, on the other hand, conveys we are supposed to carry the world on our shoulders, whiling doing it all with a smile. We must and should want to save the world. However, Superwoman has always been in Superman's shadow. While she was just as powerful as he was, could do everything Superman could, even had the same weakness to Kryptonite, she was still a woman. Both women gave us an illusion of how women should be---everything to everyone, strong and beautiful. Underneath all their powers and badassness, they were still objectified women created for a man's gaze and pleasure. Such a contradiction.
How does this translate for today's women? Listen, I fully believe that women should have choices and agency over themselves. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, you should. If you want a career, you should pursue one. I fully believe in equality and equity for women in the workforce, in the voting booth, and to have control over their own bodies. We are strong and can be beautiful and badass. I do not subscribe to the notion that women who love men are weak or powerless. However, for me, I love my husband and I WANT him in my life as my equal partner. While I can take care of myself, it is a lot easier having a someone to build with. Likewise, we do not need to do everything and be something to everyone. Men are just as capable of raising kids, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the house as we are with fixing stuff around the house. And, that's where the real crux is for me. The Wonder Woman and Superwoman concept falsely assumes that women are just as strong as men but are still less than man. They also suggest we shouldn't sleep, and that we must carry the burden of taking care of the kids, our elderly parents, our spouses, the community, and manage the home by ourselves or as dictated by men. We must appear strong even when we are worn-out and weak. We must give our all no matter how dog-tired we are. Women who exhibit Wonder Womanism or Superwomanism are praised in society because such women are considered prizes and encourage men only to work and come home--maybe fix things around the house or mow the lawn. But, being a "help-meet" or "help-mate" goes both ways and there is no law that requires women to be subservient (albeit there are some social constructs and antiquated beliefs that still dictate our behavior towards the contrary). However, Wonder Woman and Superwoman would have you believe you are less than a real woman if you can't do it all.
What really causes us an issue is that these idealized concepts impact women's health. Dr. Bhatia, M.D., discusses the term Superwoman Syndrome in her book Superwoman Rx. In psychology, Superwoman Syndrome refers to a woman who tries to juggle multiple full-time roles and trying to do it all equally well (Pam, 2013). But, the book falls slightly short, insofar as Dr. Bhatia infers we can still do everything and multitask, just based on our personality traits and making sure we eat well while working ourselves to death. What about self-care? What about "me-time?" Where do our mates and partners come into the picture as helpmates? There is no such thing as "multi-tasking" for humans. You can only do one thing at a time. When you try to do many things, your cognitive and physical resources become depleted. You become exhausted. Your thinking can get foggy. You become forgetful, short-tempered, and experience anxiety, stress, depression. Trying to be Wonder Woman or Superwoman can also lead to physical illnesses such as diabetes, weight gain or weight loss, high-blood pressure, hair loss, and migraines (Lawrence, 2017).
My final thoughts are it is not worth. It’s a myth. Wonder Woman and Superman are fictional characters. They are illusions. We need to let go of the myth and cherish our human selves as we are. Yes, you are strong. Yes, you are beautiful. No, you do not need to do it all, or be it all. There is no guilt trip if you choose you, unless you buy a first-class guilty ticket. Men can be help-mates. Its ok to love and want a man in your life. I say, let's bury this myth and stop killing ourselves trying to become an imaginary being.
Lawrence, E. (2017). The sneaky ways Superwoman Syndrome can affect your health. Retrieved from https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/what-is-superwoman-syndrome/slide/4/ .
Pam, N. (2013). Superwoman syndrome. Retrieved fromPsychologyDictionary.org, https://psychologydictionary.org/superwoman-syndrome.
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