On Annie Oakley and Wonder Woman

Off the top of my head, I can go through a list of women who were my ‘heroines’ from childhood:

Annie Oakley

Queen Elizabeth (the present)

Amelia Earhart

Elizabeth I

Helen Keller

Wonder Woman

Isis

The Bionic Woman

Nancy Drew

Trixie Belden

Laura Ingalls

Jo March

Babe Didrickson

Eleanor Roosevelt

I either read a biography about them or became a fan of their character in a TV or book series while growing up.

What were yours?

Pink Ribbon Blues author Gayle A. Sulik wrote a piece recently criticizing the hero-ization of breast cancer survivors. In The She-ro, Sulik writes that the breast cancer survivor

…exists in many iterations; in magazines, advertisements, news stories, and awareness events. She is a superwoman who courageously, passionately, and aggressively battles disease. She faces tremendous difficulties. With style and optimism, she learns from her experience, is transformed, and shares lessons learned. She is the SHE-RO, the triumphant survivor who fights breast cancer and wins. Those who do not embrace her have no place in pink ribbon culture.

One of Sulik’s issues is that

instead of being presented as one possible way to cope with breast cancer, the she-ro is cast as the universal breast cancer survivor. Her idealized message of transformative, triumphant, trendy survivorship obscures and at times suppresses alternative ways of dealing with breast cancer as well as the fact that even she-roes can and do die from this disease.

She concludes that

The personally transformative power of breast cancer within she-roic representations diverts attention from the systemic factors impacting the disease such as, the current state of research, the limits of biomedicine and the health care system, and the overall lack of attention and resources going toward causation, prevention, recurrence, and metastasis (when cancer spreads to major organs of the body and becomes terminal). Commercialization, profiteering, pinkwashing, political motivations, and conflicts of interest between industry and advocacy exist outside the purview of she-roic vision. Yet these factors have played key roles in creating a reality in which we still, after thirty years of highly successful awareness and fundraising, do not know what causes breast cancer, how to prevent it, or how to keep people from dying from it.

Frankly, I’m torn. Sullik makes some extremely compelling arguments. However, I like the idea of heroines and she-roes. My childhood heroines gave me motivation and expanded my world. They had characteristics that I admired, they persevered, and they were resourceful. I even think we need more female superheroes and examples of women kicking evil’s butt in a general sense. In the spring, I fell in love with the post, Bringing Back Wonder Woman. The Crunkista writes

What I am interested in, however, is a film with an awesome plot, X-men awesome. An action packed, empowering film with a multi-racial and multi-ethnic cast of women represented as intelligent, physically powerful, resourceful, capable, strong, independent, complicated, vulnerable, flawed, compassionate and beautiful. You know, human.

I find it invaluable to have heroines guiding me along my life path. Women to learn from, who have dealt with adversity head on. I can’t avoid the fact that those that have experienced breast cancer before me are helping me find my way and teaching me about the issues surrounding this damn disease.

2 thoughts on “On Annie Oakley and Wonder Woman

  1. Deep stuff on she-ros….I don’t know who Jo March…I always loved Helen Keller, The Bionic Woman (of course!), Margaret Thatcher, and Indirah Ghandi (bad spelling).

    • Jo March was my favorite sister from Little Women (any tom boy character with a name close to mine was going to get my respect!). Indira Gandhi was awesome…I might not have loved Prime Minister Thatcher, but I did respect her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s