by Nancy Northcott
There are all sorts of things that qualify as "girl moments." Talking about guys, discussing our unique physiology, and tearing up over sentimental movies all qualify. The girl moments I remember most, though, were the ones that shifted my perspective on women and their roles. These were the moments when "the girl" or a girl, showed that women could do things I hadn't thought we could or didn't grow up being told we could. As women's roles have changed, so have men's, of course, but that's a subject for another blog.
I was inspired to write this by the recent rerun of The Return of the King . Those of you who've read the books that make up The Lord of the Rings know that there aren't very many girl moments in there. Arwen, for all of her steadfastness, is a pretty traditional female on the page. She comes across in that general mold in the movie--except during the race to the ford of Bruinen, a sequence that isn't even in the book. Though I was initially offended, since I prefer that movie adaptations stick close to the books, even when that would make the movies day-long affairs, that sequence has become one of my favorites. The elven woman outraces the forces of darkness. How cool is that?
Then there's the even cooler moment when the Nazghul is about to kill Eowyn and informs her that "no man" can kill him. Whereupon she informs him, "I am no man" and stabs her sword directly into his invisible face. Eowyn truly shone in the battle sequence, like the shieldmaiden she was supposed to be. Theoden wanted to park her at home in Edoras, but she found a horse, grabbed some armor, and came along to do her part. That's a major-league, serious girl moment. She wasn't going to tend the home fires because that wasn't her thing (though it is for plenty of people, and doing it well is important), so she didn't let Theoden define her.
Then there's Wonder Woman, of course. The women's movement adopted her as its emblem, and the Amazon creed of not relying on men certainly made her a good choice in that regard. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman tended to rely on Steve Trevor to rescue her fairly often. The concern over the lesbian overtones perceived in the character during the comic book witch hunts of the 1950s probably led the writers and artists to tread on eggshells in that regard, in part making sure WW didn't come across as too strong. Theirs was an era of far less tolerance. Issues of Wonder Woman still provided girl moments, but not as much so as the adventures of her less publicized, more independent colleague, Elasti-Girl.
Elasti-Girl was part of the Doom Patrol, who endured for about 120 issues or so before meeting their own doom on the wrong end of circulation figures. Rita Farr had been a movie star but had acquired, through one of the freak accidents so popular in 1960s comic books, super-powers. She could stretch and grow and so called herself Elast-Girl. I don't remember now whether she could shrink, too. She was married to "the world's 5th-richest man," Steve Dayton, who wanted her to stay home and be decorative. Decorative wasn't really in Rita's lexicon. She much preferred going out to kick butt with the boys on the Doom Patrol. For me, growing up in a society where the things women weren't supposed to do far outnumbered the things we were, she was a shining light.
Then there was Batgirl, the ultimate butt-kicking geek girl. Librarian Barbara Gordon, possessed of a black belt in karate, was on her way to a costume party dressed as Batgirl (female form of a Batman costume, as she envisioned it) when she stumbled across a crime and decided to intervene. Thus was Batgirl born. On the TV show, she was only allowed to kick people, but the comic book version of the character took her villain-whomping duties seriously, and every one of them was a girl moment for me.
On movie screens before Eowyn and Arwen came Sarah Connor, the waitress who survived mechanical mayhem to become the mother of the future. She fell in love with the man sent back to save her (Michael Biehn--what's not to love?). When he was killed as they tried to escape the Terminator, she kept going. The Terminator was about to grab her when she crushed it in the machinery of a manufacturing plant and told it "You're terminated." Serious girl moment, that was!
Finally, there was the biggest girl moment in my life. I was watching on television when Sandra Day O'Connor was sworn in as an associate justice of the United State Supreme Court. Women had made a lot of advances by then, compared to when the period when I was growing up. I thought it was a great thing, of course, but I was surprised to find my eyes stinging with tears as she took the oath. When a thick, ancient, plate-glass ceiling shatters, I guess the vibrations travel pretty far.
So those are my "girl moments" for today. Do you have a girl moment or a "aha" moment or realization of change you'd like to share? Are there books or movies you think exemplify such moments?