My Dream of Being a Badass Girl Superhero

As an adult woman, I have lived through the progression from encountering sexual harassment in the workplace, to coming to understand that it happensand everyone knows about it, to now the #MeToo movements. That journey has allowed me to feel anger for the first time about things that happened more than 35 years ago, and that are still happening now far too often.

I think about the boss that raped me after my first night at work as a bartender, and how I didn’t say anything, and went back to work the next night, because I was young, and alone in a strange town, and needed the job to support my daughter. And how I made sure to stay away from my boss, who looked at me strangely for a while, like he was wondering what I would do.

I feel rage now for what happened to my 22-year-old self. At the time I felt shame — surely it was my fault somehow. And then I felt nothing for a long long time about it because I pushed it out of my mind. It happened. It couldn’t be changed. There was no sense thinking about it.

If I had been my SuperHero self then, I would have strode into that bar the following day, snatched that contemptible little man up by the front of his shirt and told him that if he even looked at me again with so much as a speck in his eye, he would face lawsuits and criminal charges and a swift kick in the important area of his Speedo underwear.


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

I don’t think we can underestimate the amount of anger women feel.

Regardless of your political leanings, watching candidate Trump stalk his female opponent Hilary Clinton in the nationally televised second debate was uncomfortable — I felt my shoulders growing tense as he walked up behind her, standing too close when she spoke. It was a tactic of intimidation, not even conscious on his part. It’s what happens all the time to men who intimidate women.

My former husband used to beat the bejesus out of me so often that I have described it humorously in the past as being like a grown-up version of the arcade game Whack-A-Mole. When a right-handed man hits you in the head often enough, you come to know the rhythm of his swing, and the time it takes for him to draw back his arm to strike again. I would bury my head between my arms and absorb the blow as much as I could, and then pop my head up to spit back my defiance in the time it took him to reload. Then I would duck my head again, turtle-like.

It makes me sick to write those words publicly now. It makes me more sick to know that my children were watching. Oh, how I wish I had been strong — both physically and emotionally — and had been able to push back against his aggression, back him away from me, and made him think twice about the wisdom of hitting a woman again.

I used to daydream about having a secret Girl Vigilante Gang that received word of a wife beater (maybe there was some kind of bat signal?) and showed up, silent and stealthy, to beat the tar out of a man like that. Worse than the beating, I knew, would be a beating at the hands of women. But I didn’t know of any badass women like that, except maybe Sara Connor. And Crossfit wasn’t a thing yet, where women could become strong and buff.


Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

Look, there is a time for ass-kicking, and we may be there.

I am not a man-hater by any means. I have sons, sons-in-law, and grandsons that I adore, as well as a good and honorable husband. I don’t believe in war per se — I think we need to do a lot more listening, and a lot more trying to find common ground in every area of life.

But there are some really rotten people afoot — Hitler-esque, even. And people like that don’t stop because you ask them to. They stop when they are made to stop. Except no one seems to be making it a priority for some of these guys to stop.

All over the world, rape has been widely used as a weapon of war more devastating than any firepower, deliberately infecting women with HIV and impregnating them, as well as stigmatizing them in their own communities. And yet, nothing of substance is done about it — no one rolls up on these “This is my weapon, this is my gun” animals and does any real disarming. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, could inflict some real damage.

Clergy from every denomination — every damn religion and every sect— are known to prey on children and women sexually. And doctors. And cops. And teachers. We arrest them when we catch them. We make it hard to prosecute them by doubting their victims when they come forward. And then we slap their little wrists, tell them that this is their last chance, and we worry about screwing up their reputations and their futures.

We’ve talked, we’ve tweeted, we’ve written and we’ve marched. In response, we’ve been called feminazi’s and harpies, immoral and unf*ckable. We create spaces for ourselves wherein we can let down our guard and feel safe, and we are challenged for being exclusionary. As if the whole world isn’t male-centered currently.


Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Women are ready to be their own superheroes.

There’s a reason why the women of Wakanda were so striking in the movie Black Panther. The women warriors are strong, skilled, and best of all, highly valued and trusted. There’s a reason why Wonder Woman was also such a hit for DC, and Marvel has plans to answer the call with Black Widow.

One of my favorite pieces on Medium is from Shannon AshleyYou Can Be Your Own Damn Hero
And quit waiting to be saved by everybody else.medium.com

I feel like women are deciding they will be responsible for their own safety since they can’t rely on it from anywhere else. Women want to be stronger, tougher and more proactive because being softer, sweeter and more pliable has gotten us raped, abused and killed.

We’re taking charge of the retirement account and the financial planning because too many of us have done the unpaid work throughout long marriages and ended up with poverty in retirement after divorce.

We would love to be equal partners in a world that values both the masculine and the feminine, but this is not that world in 2019. So we’re creating worlds for ourselves.

Like real superheroes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’ve written about women and how badass we are before if you’re interested

A World Wrapped Up in Women
I read an article this week about a village in Kenya where women are banned, and the women who live there. Umoja, the…medium.com


I miss being pretty – I miss being young.

Yesterday I was trying to write how women, as they age, start to feel invisible in the world around them — to potential employers and potential lovers. Several of the pieces I read gave defiant advice to “Embrace your age”“Stop coloring your gray!” and, best of all, “Fix your mindset and you won’t feel invisible.”

Look, I’m only 58. I’m not playing out on the last holes of the back nine yet. But I have noticed that I don’t get flirted with as often as I used to. A patient, praising my compassion when he was nervous, likened me to Mrs. Claus. Mrs. Claus!!! “You know, all jolly and warm.” And those handsome movers and shakers, those young power players? They don’t give me a second glance anymore.

The truth is that I was raised in an era where beauty was praised, sought after and — if we’re honest — used to our advantage when necessary. Any woman in sales has learned how to use the coy smile, and feminism be damned. Even science tells us that physically attractive people are more likely to be perceived as healthy, trustworthy and happy by onlookers.

I’m not pretty anymore.

I mean, my photo won’t serve as pest control, but the lines around my mouth, my Deputy Dog jowls, and that crepey stuff on my neck cannot be denied. And truly, I’m honestly not that worried about it (or I would at least have been wearing makeup when that picture was taken), but it is a little jarring — a little disorienting. After traveling through life as a young, vibrant and not-mud-fence woman, it’s weird to realize that I have to learn a whole new style of communication.

Especially with men, I’m sorry to confess, I have taken the easy way out in the past, letting them focus on my looks and holding my intelligence and my capabilities closer to the vest. I know that that’s crap, I know. It’s as wrong as it was for people to assume that, because I was cute and sassy, that I must be vapid and dumb as well. But if I’m honest, the truth is that I played that system, that game, with the only weapons I understood myself to have.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

On the flip side, my relationships have become more authentic.

Of course they have, because layers of the cosmetics of expectations have been scrubbed away . With women, I can form deep connections free of the internalized misogyny that made me consider other women to be rivals. We support each other, encourage each other and accept each other in the here and now, without embellishments.

Even with men, I am able now to lead with my confidence, my experience, and my knowledge. I am able to listen better, and to consider the other person’s thoughts, because I am seeing him as a person come to this place in this time by way of his own life story. He is not a caricature anymore — a foil against which to practice my skills. We can co-create solutions. And if we disagree, I have no aversion to telling him so, with bullet points about why.

Still, I miss feeling like the future is infinite in front of me.

When a blockage was found in one of my coronary arteries, and was replaced by a drug-eluding stent, my entire perspective shifted and I understood myself to possibly be closer, at 56, to the end of my life than I was to the beginning. What a burlap bag full of bulldogs that can be to deal with.

I’ve started to get far more picky with the way I spend my time. While I can get sucked into a good Facebook fight with the best of them, I get bored easily, and wonder how many of my precious grains of sand in the hourglass I have wasted on them. I have less patience for those people who tell me, “Have patience.” This is, after all, my life. Even if I believed in reincarnation (and I’m not sure yet about that), I know I won’t come back as me, picking up exactly where I left off. I’ll have to waste as much time as I did in this lifetime banging my head against walls trying to figure things out.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

If you want to know the truth, I’m pretty good with it all.

If there’s one thing I have become used to in almost sixty years, it’s the idea that everything changes. Wonderful days will give way to others that are not as wonderful, and even the most horrible days will soften and stretch out to be ever so slightly less painful, given enough time. So I don’t bemoan — much — my evolution from fresh faced teenager with the metabolism of a drag racer, to a ripe and fertile wife and mother, to the one left standing as those little birds took wing.

But I revisit those times in my mind sometimes, fondly, and remember what it was like when my skin was smoother, my hair shinier, and my ability to read things close at hand less arduous.

And then I slowly open my hand, and like petals in the wind, I let them drift away.

****************************************************

Thank you so much for reading. If you liked it, you may also like:

Regaining my Youthful Optimism

A World Wrapped Up by Women

I read an article this week about a village in Kenya where women are banned, and the women who live there. Umoja, the Swahili word for unity, is an intentional community formed in 1990 by 15 women who had been raped by British soldiers at a nearby base, and met with anger and blame by their families. Residents now range from 98 years old to infancy, as women have fled domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriages and even the loneliness and isolation following the death of a spouse. They pool their money, which is appropriated to each household for food and education based on numbers, rather than status.

The striking part of the article, for me, was the interview of an 18 year old woman who has lived there since she was carried on her mother’s back at the age of three. She describes how, in the surrounding patriarchal culture, a life outside of the community would have meant no education, probably genital mutilation, and marriage at a young age to an older man as his second or third wife.

I had been thinking for several days before I read this article about how I live this later part of my life in a world encircled mostly by women. I am a family nurse practitioner, which is an overwhelmingly female-dominated profession. I am surrounded daily by nurses, auxiliary health professionals, and administrative staff – also positions with heavy concentrations of female workers compared to men.

I remember, about ten years ago, a conversation with a smart, funny, and motherly nurse co-worker and friend, who heard me lamenting about how my husband didn’t listen to me. “Ohhhhh, honey,” she clucked. “That’s what you have your women friends for. Men aren’t good at things like that. Lawn care and auto maintenance – that’s what men are good at.”

Image via Pexels.com

Men, and sometimes women – in a heartbreaking display of internalized misogyny – are prone to describe female-dominated workplaces as hotbeds of emotional mayhem, back biting and cat fighting. The jokes are that hormones drip from the light fixtures, performance is skewed by timing in a menstrual cycle, and reason takes a back seat to feelings. (And by jokes, I mean actual reasons given for the glass ceilings and wage disparity still glaringly obvious in almost every occupation.)

Reading the story of Umoja, however, I thought about what it must be like growing up in a world where you felt safe from the constant underlying simmer of male violence that every woman has lived with since her first toddling steps. No stone faced response to catcalling, no learning to hold your keys in your hand, poking through the fingers as potential weapons, no knowing to walk in pairs or groups whenever possible – what must that be like? Would one take deeper breaths and exhale more completely just naturally? Would one’s limbs be more fluid, more relaxed?

There’s a reason why women plan Girls Weekends, and it’s not – as men may think – because they want to skip the traces and sample other flavors, as it were. Even the men surrounding the village of Umoja are recorded as saying, in criticism, that there is no way the women of the community aren’t sneaking out to meet with the men around the countryside. Clearly, the thought goes, the biggest goal on the women’s minds is men.

Sorry, fellas. You ain’t it.

image via Pexels.com

As I have gotten older, I have hosted a few women’s gatherings at my house, in the back yard oasis with a pool and a deck and a porch swing. You know what we do? We eat, we drink, we laugh. We lean forward in our chairs, knees touching, and listen as one woman talks about her struggle with her teenage son, offering hands to hold and tissues for falling tears, but not solutions or answers or advice. We lean back, knees over the arms of our chairs, without a care for decorum, laughing about our own foibles or those of our men. We hold hands and we hug. We discuss our work lives, our love lives, politics, spirituality, and our dreams for the future for ourselves and for those we love. We connect.

I love going to work, and the number one reason is because of my coworkers. There are a few men at my clinic, outnumbered 20:1, but the women who work with me are my sisters. They notice when I’ve lost weight and celebrate with me. They sidle up beside me and nudge me in comfort when they know my dog is dying. We have perfected a dance, intricate but efficient, where we anticipate each other’s needs and have learned each other’s routines. We are not intimidated or challenged by each other’s brilliance and accomplishments, and we don’t jockey for position in a hierarchy.

I have also worked in male-dominated workplaces, and I can tell you that is very different as a female. Men and women communicate differently, and use body language differently. I’m in my late fifties, and with a lifetime of acculturation as a woman, there is a different kind of wariness for a woman surrounded by men. Wordlessly, we accept the fact that we feel less safe – physically, emotionally, and professionally.

The idea of Umoja, the village in Kenya, continues to bob to the surface in my mind. I imagine what it would be like to live there, relaxing at the end of the day in front of tiny homes, chatting with other women, with children playing nearby. I think about Western women, and how we gather together in occupations and church groups, for girls weekends and women’s retreats. I get it. I understand and I celebrate the Kenyans’ strength and courage and grit, their recognition of their own worth and the way they protect and elevate each other.

Do you have a space where you are wrapped up by other women?