Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Useful Nostalgia

One of our friends posted a picture of Wonder Woman on Faceblech the other day. Shortly thereafter I ran across a picture of Erin Gray and Nichelle Nichols (together! squeeee!), and my Giant Nostalgia Bomb of a reaction got me to thinking about the women I admired as a kid. Here’s the short list.
—My Mom
—Wonder Woman
—Colonel Wilma Deering (in Buck Rogers)

There is a distinct pattern here. They’re all strong women. I’ve posted before about strength being a priority to me, but never realized that it always has been, and it began with my mom. 

Mom has a quiet authority and absolute confidence in her knowledge of what she’s doing (until you tick her off, then it’s not so quiet). Even before she went to school and started rocking surgery centers across the country, she had that air. Now, surgeons sit down when she tells them to. As my friend Amy said when she met her, “Your mom exudes awesomeness.” Yes, she does. My mom values learning and taught us to be open minded, empathetic, and responsible for our actions. I’m immensely proud of her and always have been. She’s a big reason I grew up to be who I am.

And now to the television heroes. To be honest, my memories of these shows are fairly sketchy. As far as my brain is concerned they were on 892 years ago. Heaven knows what I’d think if I were to watch them now, other than, “HAHA, SUCH CHEESE, HOLY FLAGNOG!” However, I do remember thinking Wonder Woman was boss, and I cannot imagine anyone but Linda Carter in that role, ever. The same goes for Colonel Deering, though I remember her a little better. Erin Gray has always been one of my favorite actresses. 

Colonel Deering
At any rate, what struck me about both of these characters is how different they were from other women I’d seen before on television. Wonder Woman and Wilma Deering seemed more real to me because they were often on both sides of the save me/save you equation, not always tied to the railroad tracks. They made decisions with consequences and ran their own lives. As an anxiety-ridden little bookworm, strength was something I didn’t normally feel, so watching them command a situation and toss dudes around like potato sacks was inspiring. They showed us that women don’t have to be weak.

That message is very important to me as I see a culture actively trying to discourage strength in half its population. “Oh, you don’t want to lift like that, having muscles will make you look mannish,” or “Oh, just get your husband to do that for you, people will think you’re freakish if you do it yourself.” That is bullroar. Strength is beautiful. These characters were strong, smart, and in control. My mom still is, and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.
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