If You See My Superhero On The Street, Kill Her

The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out.  They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it.  They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it.  Those women are my superheroes.

—Elizabeth Gilbert (Facebook Post, March 26, 2015)

Women are not required to suffer and “handle it” for me to admire them. They do not need to be superheroes.  They do not need to do anything to serve me.

We all suffer and manage as we can—or not. If one is going to invoke the greatness of “handling it” when “s*** happens,” it might be useful to distinguish between the inconvenience of waiting for the bus in the rain or finding that one’s favorite restaurant is out of squid pasta and the outrage of being undervalued, overlooked, underpaid, harassed, threatened, stalked, abused, beaten, raped, or killed—all of which happen to women every day simply because they are women. Idealizing “superheroes” who “handle it,” without elaboration, risks giving the impression that one approves of those things, that one is content with inequity, exploitation, even atrocity.

Replace “women” with “men,” and see how that sounds.

By admiring “s*** handling,” one disregards the matter of injustice—and we are not obliged to “handle” that either.  Not on our own.

Sure, rhapsodize about the gifts of suffering—there are many—but rhapsodize over one’s own, not someone else’s.

There is a tired old myth still circulating out there about women—a myth that says that we must be rescued, that we are fragile and helpless, that without external validation we collapse, and that disappointment and heartbreak and loss will destroy us.

—Elizabeth Gilbert (Facebook Post, March 26, 2015)

Another tired myth is that it is noble for us to withstand, to endure, without any expectation of relief or release.

If a woman loses her nerve, falls short of her goals, crumples in despair, or takes her own life, she is not failing to serve her purpose as my “superhero.”  She does not have to “handle it” for my sake.  She has the right be destroyed when destruction finds her.

Women (and others) who romanticize women’s suffering and endurance in the face of adversity—or outright injustice—have my compassion but not my admiration.

No matter; their value is not dependent on my admiration.  My opinion is irrelevant.

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