Both the Damsel and the Hero
I have a lot of contradictions in my head. One of the contradictions that bothers me the most is the damsel in distress trope. I’m aggravated when I realize that a women is going to be saved in a movie by a man, but at the same time, my heart flutters when, spurred by his sudden realization of love, the hero bursts through the door to rescue her, sweeps her into his arms, and kisses her passionately as the evil withers on the ground, foiled by its own greed.
The feminist blood in me boils at my own betrayal. How could I possibly quiver with desire at the idea of being rescued by a man? The anthropologist in me, however, understands that there is an underlying cause and that I should look at the culture I was raised in to fully comprehend my desires. I know that we are enculturated as women to want a man who is strong and capable of solving all of our problems. We’re meant to marry and stay at home, perfectly content that the man has to contend with the world, dark and scary as it is.
But we women, no matter what we do with our lives, are always handling the world and its problems. They come to our door, endanger our families, and we are the shields that block out everything despite how much money we make at it, if any at all. And I think that sometimes we just want to be taken care of, to be swept off our feet and told that we don’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s that secret desire to just lift our heavy burden off of us and hand it over, to live happily ever after as the evil is dispatched by someone else.
That’s the fantasy. And we know its a fantasy. I know its a fantasy. And yet my heart screamed for it so loudly a few years ago. I was embroiled in a relationship that was abusive. I was trapped. There were so many people around me that I just wanted to take me out of the situation, save me. So many opportunities for cameos from other men.
But in the end, I cut the ropes myself. I sat in that room alone with the man who had hit me, burned me, imprisoned me, raped me, forced me to have a miscarriage, and I said that I wouldn’t do it anymore. I stared blankly as he cried, as he promised to be better, to never hurt me again. And I said no, and I left.
It’s not to say I didn’t have supporters in my life. My current husband was my rock at the time. He and my friends encouraged me and offered places to stay. But I had to face the evil alone. I couldn’t be swept off my feet by another man. I had to handle my world and protect myself.
You might wonder how I came to have that kind of courage. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t have that courage when I went. I apologized profusely to him and his family for leaving, despite what he had done. For some reason, even in the end, it was my fault that all of this had happened. But I didn’t do it for me. I did it for that baby.
No, I never saw my baby. But I had visions of her even as I cramped over, devastated from the blow to my stomach. She was so very real to me. And I swore that I wouldn’t let him destroy another piece of me. It still took weeks from me to finally leave, but I didn’t let him have another piece.
The fantasy of being rescued never happened for me. I wished for it, over and over again. I saw it in movies and shivered from the thrill. I still do. There’s something fantastic about the idea of giving over responsibility and still being rewarded for it. But we have to count on our own strength in the end to make life worth living. We have to obtain our own rewards and grow to be our own hero. After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the door get smashed in, and seeing yourself on the other side.