Bravery is a Womanly Virtue

I dreamed this week that I was giving birth. This was shocking to me as I didn’t know I was pregnant. Surprise! I was in a hospital operating room, but no one was attending me. I was alternately pacing the floor and lying curled up on a table in the center of the room. Occasionally someone would step in and talk distractedly to me before leaving again. They were peripheral, though. The focus of the dream was 100% on my clenched abdomen. I was in so much pain, that I gave very little thought to anything around me. I did it by myself.

I had a baby. And woke up.

And then last week, I dreamed that we were at the zoo, my mom and a couple of my sisters and some of our children. We were sitting in a courtyard eating when someone started firing an assault rifle at people. I heard the rat-tat-tat of the shots, but didn’t actually see the shooter. I jumped up and picked up the round metal pedestal table where we sat. I ordered everyone to get behind the table with me, where I held it like a parasol over my shoulder. We hustled toward the exit, tightly packed together with the table behind us.

I wonder if these dreams are my subconscious wielding a highlighter; is this the way I inwardly view myself? In both dreams, I was under a great deal of pressure and I reacted swiftly and purposefully. Disturbing as these dreams were to me, I woke feeling capable and, strangely, feminine.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a woman, maybe because I live in this house with a strikingly male majority. I am the sole bastion of womanhood in a family of guys.

It seems I have some feminist angst because I freaked out when the summer blockbuster movie season descended, featuring superheroes and also more superheroes. Good luck finding a good date movie in the summer that didn’t involve highly sculpted men knocking down buildings as they fought the aliens/decepticons/bad guys. I was irate one Saturday while looking for a movie that didn’t involve tough guys fighting evil tough guys. Dutch took the brunt of it.

“I don’t want to see a movie where well-muscled men save the world! It’s like the film industry thinks the only thing that’s sexy is superheroes battling other-worldly villains, while Gwyneth sits around in her sports bra, waiting to be saved,” I ranted to my husband while shoving dirty dishes into the dishwasher.

“You know what nobody thinks is sexy?” I practically shouted at him. “My life!”

That escalated quickly. He gave me a neutral look and kept quiet.

Raising children, disabled and typical, isn’t as fast-paced as an action flick. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. Yes, there are fewer exploding cars, which is okay with me.

But aren’t stories about family relationships compelling to most people, as we all have a family of some sort? And can’t we release a few more movies with strong female leads, and let them wear their clothes while they rescue themselves? Actually, there are some movies where this happens. Merida, Anna & Elsa, Katniss, and Tris do not sit around waiting for people to come to their rescue. But I was mid-rant and on a roll.

If you ask me who the real superheroes are (which nobody did, but whatever), it isn’t pretend comic book people with physical powers.

It’s parents.

It’s women who aren’t being rescued but who are saving themselves and the people around them.

It’s anyone living with a challenge bigger than they are.


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