I finally saw Captain Marvel. At first, I was getting incredibly annoyed by the rehashing of the outdated warrior tropes around logic and stoicism. “Use your mind.” “Learn to suppress your heart.” “Your emotions hinder you.” In Captain Marvel, it was entwined with gender norms as we are treated to scenes of her being ridiculed, told she’s too small, too weak, too feminine to succeed. (OK, if you are still reading, there are spoilers ahead).
So when she finally embraces her humanity, she’s also embracing her role as a warrior and a woman. It’s a multilayered process of removing shackles. First physical ones, then mental ones, and finally her emotional ones. In the first fight scene with her hands shackled, she uses them as tools reminiscent of the fight style of Capoeira. She fights through the conditioning that she can’t and allows herself to us all her talents. Later, she removes the chip from her brain. This furthers her progression to finding her true self. She realizes she absorbed the power, it wasn’t given to her. She’s been taught not to rely on her powers because they are other than her. In removing the chip, she’s releasing that conditioning and owning all she is truly capable of achieving. Lastly, she is challenged by her old mentor. He challenges her using her own conditioning as a manipulation while tugging on emotional connection. She blasts him out of the sky, telling him “I don’t need your approval.”
Finding examples of feminine warriorship isn’t easy. Too often it’s either through a man’s eye or gender is completely ignored. While neither of these views is a problem, it’s not helpful as a woman looking to create her space in warrior culture. As a martial arts and self defense instructor, I knew from experience what the masculine experience looked like on the mat. Though I was lucky to train with many other women, it was months before I even met a female black belt. She told me that she thought I had something and I should keep going. Many of my male teachers have expressed their surprise that I made it black belt (and others have truly validated my path.) The men can have this gamut because there are so many of them. I can count my female teachers on my fingers. My peers have been crucial to my path and to defining a feminine warrior way of being.
There are many aspects we can embody in feminine warriorship. For myself, I’ve chosen outspoken, cheeky, boundary pushing champion. I skip merrily on my convoluted path knowing I’ll be unrecognizable to many on a more traditional path. I’m learning to be ok with that and like Captain Marvel, to only look for approval within myself.