Heroine Chic: The SHEro's Journey
By Renee Reeser Zelnick
I wanted a pony for my twelfth birthday. Dad gave me a .22 rifle and an NRA membership.
It has been said (or argued) that there are seven, or eleven comedies and dramas, depending which school of thought you subscribe to. Unless we're talking about a game of craps or a convenience store, I don't agree with those numbers. I contend there is but one story - The Hero's Journey.
I feel it is a mistake however, not to discuss the female hero, or the shero, as I prefer to call her. Let's give the ladies some equal billing in this cosmic play. From Eden's Eve to Dorothy in Oz to Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth, we gals have answered many Calls to Adventure, Initiation and Return. Writer Ursula la Guin said in SAGA: Best New Writings on Mythology - "It's sticky, because language is so male-centered that it excludes much of the feminine experience."
The word "Heroine", is created by the traditional English suffix "ine" transforming the word Hero from the masculine, into the feminine form. It seems somewhat diminutive by definition, and therefore somewhat inappropriate. But when we take a look at the "hero," three letters, h-e-r, spell her, making up seventy-five percent of the word! And if we want to get chromosonal, I'll point out that we all start out as double xx in the womb.
Don't get me wrong. These days I consider myself to be more humanist than feminist. And j'adore Joseph Campbell. He made Bill Moyers tolerable. However, no matter how modern the mythmakers, the popular use of language limitations with innate boundaries of gender specific words, bind and constrict us like linguistic lingerie left on as uncomfortably long as this sentence.
Long past the June Cleaver era, women have tossed off the girdle, burned bras, begun wearing the pants and bringing home the bacon. So we could afford new bras. This socially acceptable change in fashion and economy in contemporary culture has moved women beyond the roles of mother, nurse and nun. Entering realms previously dominated by men, we vote, attend university, join the military, explore space, run corporations and/or households. Or we can marry rich in Silicone Valley. It's easy if you come with your silicones.
As far as style goes, no one really blinks an eye when a woman dresses "masculine." And it seems acceptable for a guy to wear a dress in an Eddie Murphy/Eddie Izzard/Hasty Pudding/Monty Python/Rocky Horror sort of way (okay - maybe the last one is kinda iffy for some), but beyond that, it is cause for calling a man's "metrosexual" preference into question. But in actuality, every man has a feminine component in his psyche; and every woman has a masculine component in hers. Carl Jung, biological father of depth psychology, referred to these traits as the anima and animus respectively.
Maybe it's subconscious fear of the female mysteries that hold society and some men back. Neglect of the inner feminine has had serious cultural consequences resulting in imbalance on both conscious and subconscious levels. HIS-torically (are you picking up on a pattern here?), while "The Man" has repressed women socially and culturally, attempting to keep them subordinate and powerless, he has also suppressed the useful feminine power within himself.
Stephan Larsen points out on page 132 in his book The Mythic Imagination, the suppression of women's natural magic by the male priesthood. Even the very self-actualized Joseph Campbell once remarked to Maureen Murdock, author of "The Heroine's Journey" - "But, Maureen, women do not need to go on any journey. They're already in touch with the Feminine."
Yes, Professor Campbell, we are in touch with the feminine. But I promised myself I wouldn't do that again after college. We women do seek our animus and a few boons as we cross the threshold into the shero's journey. A maiden, mother or crone can easily slay a dragon or two. Especially if she's well armed. I guess Joseph Campbell never met Sarah Connor or Lara Croft.