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:
- “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!)
Disclaimer—these are more silly, and were written while listening to The Dark Knight Rises movie soundtrack and a song I find particularly encouraging:
- “Why do we fall?” (A quote from the movie, and the title of the song); and,
- “I am batman.”
I 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.
Third, Batman is a superhero (well, sort of).
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?
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
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.
- “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.”
- “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.