Quick – When you think of a hero, what does that hero look like? A fireman? Superman? Did a man come to mind? Did Luke Skywalker come to mind? Did Odysseus come to mind? How about Harry Potter?
I am not dismissive of any of these characters or people, but I want to change how we think of heroes. They are women and girls, too. I use the word “hero;” I don’t like the word “heroine.” It makes me think of a woman tied to the train tracks waiting for man to rescue her. Who will rescue her? Why, the hero, of course! A man, of course.
Like most literature students in college I read about the ‘monomyth’ or the Hero’s Journey through the work of Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Now I’ve come to find out not one of those thousand faces had two XX chromosomes.
Maureen Murdock, who wrote The Heroine’s Journey – Woman’s Quest for Wholeness interviewed Campbell and wrote about it in the foreword of her book. I had started reading the paragraph excited and finished it crying. Murdock wrote, “I was surprised when he responded that women don’t need to make the journey.” She is kinder than I would have been when she said, “This answer stunned me; I found it deeply unsatisfying.” Me? I wanted to reach back through time and clock him; I was so hurt.
Over time, I softened (somewhat) and saw him for the age he was (born in 1900) and the beliefs of his age that influenced him. I’m still sad when I think about it, though, since he basically negated the purpose and quests of half the planet’s population.
Our culture still teaches men they have to be emotionally strong, physically strong, big, and brave. And women — our culture wants women to be the opposite: small, thin, pretty and quiet.
We can change that, though. I know a lot of women on a hero’s journey, myself, and probably you, included. Tell me about the hero’s journey you’re on.