Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Why I Do..., No. 4: Why I Admire Strong Women

I was raised by women.  After my biological father walked out on us when I was too young to even remember, and my grandfather died when I was only five years old, it was up to the women in my life--my mom, my middle sister, and my grandmother--to take charge.  Without any guys to rely on--well, for the most part, anyway--they had a tough road to travel...but, with the help of friends and other family members--many of whom were also women--they showed what they were made of, and proved they didn't need husbands to do everything for them.

It's no surprise, then, that I would admire strong women.  One look at some of my favorite female fictional characters over the past decade or so is perfect proof:
  • In Kickin' It, Kim, who was the lone female among her group of friends, proved that she was a force to be reckoned with, and wasn't afraid to use her karate skills on anyone who tried to threaten her, even a famous singer who turned out to be a jerk.
  • On Mork & Mindy, Mindy looked after Mork and put up with his constantly childish behavior, not to mention all the times she explained Earth culture to him.
  • On H2O: Just Add Water, Emma saved one of her sworn enemies from drowning using her mermaid ability, even at the risk of her big secret being found out.
There's plenty more where that came from; trust me.  I have to agree with the late author Anne McCaffrey when she said, "There is not a Cinderella theme.  Cinderella was a wimp.  My heroines are victims--strong people--who become survivors."  It's telling that, in high school, I wrote the longest piece I've written to this day: a tale of a female superhero and the guy who adored her.  It was pretty much a gender-swap of Spider-Man, except my heroine didn't shoot webs; she had a costume-matching green belt that was strong enough to knock a propane tank that someone hurled at her out of the way, not to mention the ability to teleport by simply touching her nose.  She wasn't all toughness, though; when she thought her best friend was going to die, "a tear came to her eye."  Most people didn't know, but, I actually modeled her after a real-life friend of mine who I had seen perform in my high school's production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...which also features a strong woman as its lead.

We all know that there are some traditions as to certain things women don't do, especially in relationships.  Most people will tell you that girls never ask guys out, nor do they ever propose marriage; it's up to the guy to do that.  My question is: Why? If a girl likes some guy, why should she wait around to see if he likes her back? If a couple has been together long enough--and how long is "enough" depends on the couple--why does she have to eagerly wait in anticipation for him to "pop the question"?  It's not that I'm completely against guys asking girls out or proposing marriage; I just don't see why a lady can't take charge of the situation and do the job herself.  It's one of the many things about human tradition that I don't quite understand.

One of my favorite places to read about strong women is the Bible.  Critics of God's Word say that it maligns women and puts them at a lower status, but, I staunchly disagree.  Sure, there were some wicked women--the infamous Jezebel comes to mind--but there were some wicked guys as well, such as Judas Iscariot.  However, throughout both the Old and New Testaments, you read about honorable, God-fearing women.  In the OT, you've got Deborah, the only woman among the Judges; Hannah, who never gave up in her desire for a son, and it paid off; Abigail, who was married to a jerk--seriously, the guy's name meant "fool"--but honored her king and ended up marrying him after her loser of a husband died as a result of his own anger; and Esther, the girl who became queen and saved her people.  As for the NT, a personal favorite is Mary, Jesus' mother; not only did she take on the responsibility of carrying the Savior of the world--which led to some controversy--but even caused him to perform his first miracle, proving that even Jesus needed a mother.  Christ also used other women to spread the news about Him, such as the woman at the well, who went and told others immediately after speaking with Him, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?" (John 4:29, NIV) Of course, who could forget Mary Magdalene, who went to Jesus' tomb before the others did, and was the first to discover that He had risen? Seriously, if you think the Bible lowers the status of women...you're not reading it enough.

I have two concluding points.  First off: Though strong women are usually admirable, there are times when they aren't.  Sometimes, female characters can become a Mary Sue, which, simply defined, is a lady who is unrealistically perfect, and can do absolutely everything imaginable with no help from anyone else.  A good example of that is Zoey Brooks, lead character of Nickelodeon's Zoey 101.  In the first season alone, she becomes one of the first girls to attend a formerly all-boys school, shows up the guys on the basketball team, turns random video clips into a winning commercial, and starts a backpack-making business...all with very little effort.  That's just too much.  Not only that, but, I actually find female bodybuilders rather unattractive.  I'm not against women being physically strong--these days, they need it more than ever--but, I don't like women who look like guys.  Maybe my same-gender friends feel differently, but, I have no interest in the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Second off: Many women may be strong...but that's no excuse for guys to slack on the job.  Though I agree with feminism's stance that women shouldn't be treated as second-class citizens, I also feel that men shouldn't either.  I once had a guy tell me, "We're men; we're dumb." I know what it's like to go around thinking you're an idiot or a loser; I used to feel that way all the time because of my condition.  Eventually, I realized that such feelings were wrong; I could do a lot more than I was giving myself credit for, if only I would bother to try.  The same is true of other groups of people: those of certain races, those of certain occupations...and those of either gender.  Regardless of whether you're male or female, you're doing yourself a major disservice by labeling yourself as dumb; take it from someone who did just that...for years.

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