I’m [Not] Batman by Sara Frykenberg


A little tongue-in-cheek, somewhat punchy, somewhat angry reflection for your consideration. Thank you for reading.

Ever have trouble speaking your mind? I do. I do, particularly in situations where I was taught (in all sorts of ways, violent and nonviolent alike, religious, patriarchal) to be “a good girl.” The “good girl” training I received is so deeply ingrained in me that I often don’t realize when I’m doing it. I catch myself being agreeable with people when I want to be arguing. I use extra exclamation points in communications with my online classes to appear more likable, friendly or non-threatening. I also have a peculiar habit of, unconsciously, changing my clothes repeatedly until I ‘match’ someone around me, usually in color. I honestly don’t mean to do this, and only became aware of the habit in the last decade because my husband started pointing it out to me ALL THE TIME.

But I’m working on it. “Be authentic, Sara.” “Be yourself.” That’s got to be different than being good, right? I probe my habits and relationships for the tell-tale signs of this “good girl.”

Recently, I have taken concrete steps to address the short-circuiting of my tongue in a particular “good girl” relationship by creating comment and encouragement cards I can keep in my purse should I need them.
Please don’t laugh at me.
I feel like this is a good step. My cards read roughly, like this:

Comment Cards:

  • “When you discuss your large role in my daughter’s life, I feel grateful for your support; but I also feel (mad, sad, hurt) because I feel unfairly judged as a mother.”
  • “I would prefer that we no longer discuss dieting at all because I feel this is unhealthy (for our relationship).”
  • “When you say ____________ about my body, I feel demeaned.”

As you can probably tell by these cards, there are a few unresolved issues in this relationship. But onto more positive things! (Note the non-depressive or defeatist exclamation point!)

Encouragement Cards:
Disclaimer—these are more silly, and were written while listening to The Dark Knight Rises movie soundtrack and a song I find particularly encouraging:

Pusheen BatmanI read the cards to a friend of mine and she laughed, “I wish the encouragement cards were also comment cards.” This sounds good to me.  Encounter drive-by passive aggressive criticism, declare “I AM BATMAN,” and walk away. This sounds really good—not necessarily helpful, but very funny.

But the problem is: I am most probably not Batman.

First of all, Batman is a rich, brooding, male.

Brooding? Maybe. Male? Nope. Rich? Nope; though definitely middle class.
Batman jumps in the Bat-plane, -boat, -mobile, and uses military grade tech (because, you know, he also sells this tech to the military as Bruce Wane) to thwart the “bad guys:” the Penguin (Jews), the Riddler, Joker and Two-Face (disabled people), and the League of Shadows and Bane (revolutionaries). I jump in my Honda, speed to a holiday meal, and go quiet when she says: “I looked everywhere, just everywhere for that camisole but not a single store [she lists the stores she’s been to] sells an extra-large!”

Second, Batman has split himself into two people in order to exact vengeance and restore order to crime-ridden Gotham city.

I am not consumed with thoughts of revenge. Though certainly, I have split myself into two: a traditional side and feminist side, a pleaser and punisher, an agnostic and not-Christian, good and angry. But I am not consumed with vengeance—just rage, and then, no rage, rage and the absence of rage. Perhaps Batman and I have more in common than I thought. I also can’t seem to get my two sides to work together. My personal politic works well in certain spaces and fails me in others.
Do I fight ‘crime’?
Well, I would scream more if I could find my voice more. And incidentally, Batman and I seem to define ‘crime’ very differently (see above).
Do I restore order?
Ha!—I already mentioned that I am a good girl right? I will do what I am supposed to do, right after I scratch this reminder into the skin of my arms: I was here. I was here… She was right here… just a minute ago.
(See: brooding.)

Third, Batman is a superhero (well, sort of).

Batman/ Superman

Image sourced from here, accessed Feb. 2019

And this is where it gets kind of complicated for me. If you’ve read my work before, you know that I am a big fan of Superman. This is an interesting opportunity for some feminist self-analysis: I LOVE Superman. I think we need Wonder Wom[en]. But “I am [not] Batman?”

White supremacist, ableist, hetero-patriarchy is a real mind f*** isn’t it?

  1. I cannot possibly be a superhero, though I love them. I don’t have that kind of body. No superhuman god body. No penis (I read an article once, by the way, that suggest that Superman basically is a penis: the ultimate erect phallus). I also have a FUPA. I just learned that word! I have a FUPA: a “Fat Upper Public Area!” Thanks, Awilda Gonzalez and The Body is Not an Apology, who also tell me I can and should love it. I have never seen a superhero with a FUPA, though I can love mine.
  2. I am enamored with the super-hera (thanks again for the word Barbara)—but though I have admitted to having superpowers, I do not yet see myself as one. Maybe I should make myself a reminder about that…

And finally,

  1. Maybe I’m [not] a bad boy vigilante who falls and falls, but gets up again? I certainly fall down and get up again. But am I a ‘bad boy?’ Well, isn’t that what made me a “good girl” in the first place? I had to be a good girl because ‘I was bad.’ Batman is secretly good, but pretends to be bad. The patriarchy says you are (not so) secretly bad if you are a woman, so pretend to be good. And what does feminism say?

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” I f******* hate that quote, prooftexted as it often is. It’s like saying,: “’Good girls’ can’t really be good.” Go ahead. Someone else tell me that I am bad, please.

“Strong is the new Pretty.” F******* shove it.

well-behaved-women-seldom-make-history-quote

Image sourced from here, accessed Feb. 2019

Loving me has to mean loving the good girl in me, and the bad. Loving me is trying to create embracing in the midst of dualistic splitting. Loving me is to make me un-secret: to support not deny the short-circuited tongue, to protect and declare my big body, to try again when I cannot speak. So, no, I am not Batman; but this post isn’t really about Batman.

Comment Card:

  • “When I (me) obscures or erases the ‘good girl’ inside of me, I feel like half of myself.”
  • “I am [not] Batman.”
  • And for Carol: “I am here. I am whole. I am Sara.”

Comment Card:

  • “Why do we fall?”

 

Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D.: Graduate of the women studies in religion program at Claremont Graduate University, Sara’s research considers the way in which process feminist theo/alogies reveal a kind transitory violence present in the liminal space between abusive paradigms and new non-abusive creations: a counter-necessary violence.  In addition to her feminist, theo/alogical and pedagogical pursuits, Sara is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, and a level one Kundalini yoga teacher.



Categories: Gender and Power, General, Herstory, Patriarchy, Relationships, Women's Voices

Tags: ,

7 replies

  1. LOL Sara, well thank you for sharing your rambling. I enjoyed. As a fellow FUPA, I can relate. I just went on a lovely weekend trip with some incredible women, and one of them posted a picture with me in it on Facebook for the entire world to see where one of my, ahem, breasts appear to be somewhat more in my stomach area than anywhere near the upper part of my chest. I had to stare at it for a good while and ‘come to terms’. I also have suffered from ‘good girl’ syndrome, because I, well, I like people in general, tend to see the good and do not care to make waves if I do not have to. BUT, I have that ‘bad girl’ going on as well and have always been attracted to the bit risque, cool and ‘bad boy/girls’. Ahh, we’re complicated creatures, aren’t we. Luckily, through my quickly approaching ‘Hagitude’ (I’m almost 50) AND through meeting wonderful women such as yourself, I have accepted my ‘complications’ much more readily. I can still be gorgeous even if gravity and extra pounds have shifted the continents, because as I tell my young girls, I’m beautiful where it counts. And I can sit fine with the ‘XL’, infact, I have graduated to the XXL, but I’m also extra extra large smart, extra extra large caring and extra extra large awesome in general. ;) … and as for ‘speaking my mind’, I do so now when and how I feel like it, and a lot of things, I just let go without regret … too much going on in my extra extra Large Life. Sending much love, Karen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your reply Karen! I love that you are “xxl, extra large smart, extra large caring, and extra larger awesome in general!” Yes!
      And in regards to pictures, I am reading a good book called “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls,” written by the author of the popular blog “The Militant Baker” right now; and in the book, she advocates for taking ‘all the pictures,’ as a way of reclaiming self. I am thinking about that– about taking up as much space as I am, instead of being the ‘less’ so many want women, POC, people with disabilities, etc. to be (another point she emphasizes over and over again in her book).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely loved this, Sara. I related it to in so many ways. It took me decades to find and unleash my tongue/truth, but I’m still addicted to exclamation marks. Power on, Hera.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am also a FUPA and happy to “own” it. Or them. I think that the two “x”s in my xxl come from this defining feature.
    Comment cards don’t work for me. When I’m aroused my mouth takes a path of it’s own and forgets what “nice” girls “should” say. This usually takes place around male clergy and “man-splainers”. So if the cards don’t work, just be yourself. God has made us to grow and mature in love, not perfection according to other’s opinion or even our own. But to grow in love, in compassion, in the Presence within us, just as we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your comments. I was raised to be a good girl. In the last year or so I’ve tried to really let more of “the me” out. I still essentially good, but I’m showing more dimensions. In that way, I think all “good girls” are batman in the secret identity sense. We were raised to show the world one side and keep the other side hidden or only show our most trusted sidekicks. I think we could all do with taking off the mask, but it takes a lot of encouragement to show what has been suppressed for long.

    Liked by 1 person

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