Wonder Woman and Biblical Womanhood
Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Marilette’s website. Thanks for sharing Marilette!
Based on all the hype surrounding Wonder Woman, which comes out on DVD Sept. 19, I expected to feel empowered and inspired as a woman while watching. That, I did. I never expected, however, to be glued to my seat for over two hours, witnessing one biblical truth after another being portrayed flawlessly on screen. Here are three truths I gleaned that speak, appropriately, to biblical womanhood.
1. God views women as strong warriors, not sidekicks or afterthoughts.
The creator of the Wonder Woman comic, William Marston, once wrote: “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. … The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is not your typical one-dimensional action heroine. Yes, she spins mid-air, dives off cliffs, and slashes enemies as efficiently as any other superhero. No, she isn’t thoughtlessly murdering people in her leather lingerie and stilettos (I’m looking at you,Atomic Blonde). Wonder Woman is the first superhero to be fully equipped in combat skill, yet purely motivated by love and not vengeance (or some other version of a complicated, bitter backstory).
God views women as strong warriors, not sidekicks or afterthoughts.
I will never forget a talk by my Cru colleague, Suzy Silk, in which she highlighted how military language was consistently used in key biblical passages describing the identity of women. In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The Hebrew words used for “helper suitable” are “ezer kenegdo.” The word “ezer” is a military term used 21 times in the Old Testament—twice to describe Eve and three times to describe Israel in her alliances with other nations. The remaining 16 times that the word appears in the Old Testament, God uses the word “ezer” to describe himself. (For my fellow Bible nerds, here are all the verse references where you can find the word “ezer.”) God describes himself as “ezer” during the times in war when Israel is about to lose. The Psalmist refers to God as “ezer” when he says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Did you catch that? God names Eve “ezer” and then he consistently applies the same name to himself. God is the aid, the strong help in desperate situations, and we women were created to follow suit.
The same theme is picked up in Proverbs 31, which describes a “noble woman.” This passage is the only time in the Old Testament in which the Hebrew word “chayil” is translated “noble” because it refers to a woman. Every other time that the word appears, it has to do with soldiers and is closer to the word “valiant.” David’s mighty men? They were “men of valor.”
As Suzy Silk points out, however, military language permeates Proverbs 31: “The word for the ‘buying’ means ‘she hunts out prey and she brings it back.' It’s a hunting term. And when it says that ‘she puts on clothes,’ it’s actually, ‘she girds her loins with strength.’ There’s so much military language in that passage.” Say it with me everyone, #MINDBLOWN.
I shocked myself when I started to bawl like a baby during a key battle scene in Wonder Woman. After years of studying the word “ezer,” I couldn’t help but get emotional at the sight of a woman actually embodying it on screen. Note that it wasn’t that Wonder Woman had some heartfelt speech before the battle. It was literally the act of her fighting that turned on the waterworks.
2. Our emotional vulnerability as women is our strength, not our weakness.
Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has said, “The greatest thing about Wonder Woman is how good and kind and loving she is, yet none of that negates any of her power.”
As a woman in general, and an artist in particular, I am very much in touch with my emotions. It helps in terms of putting myself in others’ shoes and being sensitive to those around me. But there are times when I can get carried away by my emotions and feel hurt or disappointment more deeply, than, say, my husband Moses would. And it is not uncommon that I will start to resent my emotions altogether.
There are several moments in the film in which Diana is hopeful and emotional to the point of being naive. But Wonder Woman’s compassion is arguably her greatest superpower. She genuinely loves people and enjoys life (ice cream, anyone?). She is an optimist, and her supreme values are hope and love, despite the evil she witnesses. This tenderness is definitely a quality lacking in most of her other Marvel and DC comics counterparts (except maybe Captain America).
In The Privilege of Being a Woman, Christian philosopher Alice von Hildebrand writes, “Tears are the proper response to brutality, injustice, cruelty, blasphemy, hatred. Christ wept when he saw Jerusalem, and when he came to Lazarus’s tomb.” There is no shame in our sensitivity if even Jesus wept.
As von Hildebrand writes, women are called to “purify [our] God-given sensitivity and to direct it into the proper channels. [We] should fight against maudlin tears and pray for holy tears—tears of love, of gratitude, of contrition.”
Diana is never paralyzed by her emotions, nor does she resent them. Instead, she uses them as a catalyst to take action and to defend the weak and innocent. What a reminder for me that my sensitivity enables me to glean more insight about the human condition, enabling me to become a better writer. Not to mention, without my emotions, I wouldn’t be able to empathize as easily with others, nor could I pray on behalf of others as deeply and specifically as I currently do.
3. When we women stand firm in our God-given identity and calling, instead of heeding others’ artificial labels, we can change the world.
As soon as Diana leaves her utopian home of Themyscira, she collides with the hard-hitting reality of the bleakness of the real world, especially World War I. Her idealism seems out of place here, and everywhere she goes, she hears “No.” Back home, her mother, motivated by fear, tells her she is not ready. On the way to the front lines, every man she meets tells her “no.” No, you cannot enter the war room. No, you can’t fight Ares. No, you can’t carry your sword on the street.
During the turning point of the movie, she is ready and willing to help, but once again hears “no.” Far from dimming the light in her eyes, this final “no” only succeeds in kindling a fire. Here, her mission becomes her own and she is no longer bound by others’ limitations or expectations. She can be exactly who she was created to be.
I am so guilty of letting others dictate who I will be, instead of listening to the one opinion that matters: God’s. To make matters worse, all the voices competing for my attention contradict each other. As a first-generation Asian immigrant, I’m told to follow my career and take advantage of all the opportunities here in America. (“But don’t forget to do all the housework.”) As a woman steeped in American Christian culture, I need to be my husband’s helpmate and have a Pinterest-worthy menu plan and home decor. And, “Remember, being a mom is your highest calling.”
I don't necessarily disagree with any of these things, but I’ve learned the hard way that it is impossible to do all these things well at the same time. So, the only thing I can do is to be sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit to discern what I am called to do moment by moment.
In the midst of my confusion, this is what I am sure of: 1) God’s call to use my writing to make plain biblical truths, especially to young women. 2) God’s call for me to be a loving wife to Moses and a be-all-there mom to my kids. Everything else is pretty much optional.
What Gal Gadot says about her character can be true for all of us women: “She can be sensitive and the greatest warrior ever. And strong and confused. She can be all of the above in a beautiful way.”
Topics: Movies, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure