On my sixth birthday she gave me a book that included the first 13 comics with an introductory essay by Gloria Steinam. The comics were within my reading skill level and, despite not knowing a thing about Greek mythology or World War II, I loved them, reading them over and over, as children do. I tried mightily with the Steinam essay, but it wasn’t until my pre-teen years that I had the vocabulary (“gynocratic”) and context to understand what she was saying about the importance of a powerful female superhero in the psyche of a girl growing up in America.
Steinam’s essay, written in 1972 says, “Wonder Woman symbolizes many of the values of the women’s culture that feminists are now trying to introduce into the mainstream: strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peacefulness and esteem for human life; a diminishment both of “masculine” aggression and of the belief that violence is the only way of solving conflicts.
These are the values my mother taught me, both through her direct instruction (“Never depend on a man. Always be prepared to support yourself and any children you create.”), and her model. Wonder Woman herself says this in the 1943 comic, “Battle for Womanhood.” She rescues a young woman named Marva who asks her, “What can a weak girl do?” Wonder Woman responds, “Get Strong! Earn your own living! Remember the better you can fight, the less you’ll have to.”
These early lessons of empowerment fueled my childhood, and I absorbed all that I could about Princess Diana. I have cleared rooms boring people with trivia about the Amazons, costuming changes and what those bracelets symbolize.
Oh, I can’t help myself. The Amazons are descendants of Aphrodite. The early skirt was too hard for William Marston to draw. The bracelets are worn by all Amazons as a reminder of their enslavement by Hercules and his men. If you want to know more, I warn you, I can go on for hours.
So seeing the new movie starring Gal Gadot made me nervous. I was doubtful that the creation myth would be left intact. I worried that Gadot would not fully embody the warrior princess. I was nervous that she be portrayed as yet another object for the pleasure of the men – sexy and strong, but also demure and subordinate.
I was wrong on all accounts. The creation myth is pure and accurate. Gadot is all that Wonder Woman should be – strong, kind, good, peaceful by nature but willing to battle and kill to protect those weaker than herself. And never once does she or any other character view her as lesser. She (and all the Amazons) also speaks over 200 languages, which is not in the original comics, and also my most-desired super power. Her conclusion is that the only thing that can end the world and save humanity is not some super-weapon, but love. I couldn’t agree more.
I may have spent a good part of my childhood hungry for actual food, but never did I hunger for the knowledge of my own power. I was raised to know that I can accomplish anything, that I don’t need to rely on anyone, and that it is my duty to help others. I know that I myself am a wonder woman. My mother told me so.