How we see Historical or “strong” women affects how we see women today.

In historical fiction and TV women with “romantic”  backstories are often portrayed as strong, beautiful, superb and everything that a woman ought to be. She is Super Woman, the kind of girl who can fight, who can shout, and who can get away with everything -and the type of girl that every girl should dream of being. But do I want to tell my daughter -if I ever have kids- that this is the kind of girl she has to be strong? Is it wrong to assume, maybe even heretical in today’s society, that women can be strong regardless of their talents? Can I hope that my daughter can grow up being her own woman, un-influenced by the portrayals of her favorite historical women in TV and fiction? Is it naïve of me to want women -all women- to be praised for their different strengths? Because not all of us can be as outspoken as Anne Boleyn was said to be, not all of us can take the crown as Isabella I of Castile did, and not all of us can stand up against our abusive fathers or husbands like Katherine of Aragon or Mary Tudor did. Some of us try to do the best that we can. We admire these figures, but with authors and historians constantly telling us that these women were exceptional, and that they were ahead of their times, and they should have been born today when “strong” women such as these would have more advantages, it makes us -those like me who have suffered many kinds of abuse- belittled. Today might be better than the fifteenth and sixteenth century, but by no means is an ideal world. Women today have it hard too. Our reproductive rights are constantly under attack by conservatives, some of us who grow up in sexually, verbally and physically abusive patriarchal cultures, have no other means to escape, except to run away, marriage, or death. And yes, I include myself in this because I have seen and heard of many girls who have tried to commit suicide, and others who were successful because their misogynist fathers abused them sexually, verbally or physically, and some who were not accepted because they were transexual, lesbians or bisexual. So next time I hear “This woman is strong because she was outspoken, because she was not cowed, because she was one among many”. Forgive me if I throw up. And secondly, if we want to talk about women who made a difference, or women “ahead of their times” how is it that the first women who come into our minds are the WASP -White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Women, or simply put, White Western European women? Europe is not the axis-mundi. There were other women who were just as important, and did remarkable things. And I can name a few going back to the ancient times, and before you think I am going to mention Cleopatra or Kleopatra VII of the Ptolemy dynasty; no. I am going to mention those women who were rulers BEFORE her and who were just as important, if not more because of the controversy that surrounded them, as well of the important changes they brought to their kingdom. Hatshepsut, the woman King who usurped her stepson’s rule, Arsinoe, and many others. In other African kingdoms, you had many women through various periods of history taking power, not just as Regents but as sole Queen Regnants. Furthermore, the Mayan-Queens of pre-colonial America were priestesses and heads of their own cults or churches -far before Elizabeth I became the first female head of the Anglican Church. These women had as much power as Isabella I of Castile had, enjoyed more privilege and respect regardless of their gender than Elizabeth I of England ever did, and some in other non-Christian societies were not as restrained. Of course these women are forgotten, they are seen as important but not as the *ultimate* figures . We can’t all be super women. We do what we can; we work, we fight to keep lawmakers from taking away our rights, and we fight for others. Some of us are outspoken going on marches supporting pro-choice and advocating for others across the globe while others are not but that doesn’t mean they are not interested in women or humans rights. Some just choose to spread the message or fight in other ways.

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2 thoughts on “How we see Historical or “strong” women affects how we see women today.

  1. Aud January 6, 2015 / 5:14 am

    Not everyone is the same, so it doesn’t do any good to uphold these women in such ways. Yes, one can admire them, but I too tire of hearing how if Anne Boleyn was in the 21st century she would be a CEO. You know what? Anne Boleyn was fiery tempered, outspoken, and strong, but that doesn’t make her a 21st century woman. Same for other women. Would they understand our world, where women can vote and make choices they had no concept of in the 16th century? Would they understand concepts such as freedom of religion? Equality between the upper and lower classes? People need to think things through and where these women come from before running their mouths like that. And yes, European women aren’t the end of everything, my personal interest is European history, but there are interesting and admiring women from every continent (except Antartica), and from every race.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Minerva Casterly January 6, 2015 / 6:24 am

      I completely agree, it is time we appreciate every woman, from every ethnicity, with all their different strengths and backgrounds.

      Like

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