So many schools teach their students how important it is to strive for success (no matter what) and what it is to be an ideal student. The issue I have with this is that as important as it is to strive for success, there should be no embarrassment or fear of protecting yourself or others. Forget the definition of an ideal student or how you should not attract negative attention. Going to college is half about learning new material and finding a career focus or even just a passion, but the other half is learning how to take care of yourself by learning to trust your instincts. If you feel something is not right, do something about it. Say something. Call someone. And if you see someone else struggling, try to help them if you can, and I would say that is true success. It is not just about the grades, it is discovering what type of person you want to be. A bystander should not be one of them.
Whenever I watch a movie from the X-Men franchise, there’s always a part of me that’s already disappointed, even before I watch the film. I don’t usually judge a movie before I’ve seen it, but whenever it comes to a film that has a cast of strong female characters who are also superhuman mutants, my heart always has the faint hope the scriptwriters have added a certain someone.
Laura Kinney is not very well-known in popular culture compared to her male counterpart, Logan, or, as he is more commonly called, Wolverine. Whereas there have been seven films (seven!) in which Hugh Jackman has reprised his role as the three metal-clawed Wolverine, there has never been a live-action representation of Laura, his female counterpart from the comic books. Hence my disappointment.
To us, heroes are people who are empowered, strong, brave, and unfailingly good. They are loving, kind, and compassionate. Laura is many of these things, but she is not all of them. She is strong, she is brave, but she is also jaded and broken. She’s flawed and imperfect, and unapologetically so…And it’s these fractured pieces of herself that make her so empowering as not only a character, but a young woman.
Though it is ideal to aspire to be as good and heroic as Wonder Woman or Captain America, it’s not in our nature to be perfect. We cannot always be righteous, superpowered or not. There are times in which we will act the villain and break down with small hope of rising again. Like Laura, we are not simple; we are complex and complicated. In the comics, Laura’s history is rife with pain and manipulation, and she fights not only evil forces in reality, but demons in her own head. She questions her self-worth and struggles with self-love, questioning whether or not she has a “soul” on several occasions. She struggles with mental illness, confronting PTSD and self-harm.
It’s common to see male characters overcome such internal obstacles, but it’s not as common to see in female characters. Women also face these struggles and are just as capable of defeating them. Laura embodies this resiliency and strength. She does not let her past mistakes or past ordeals define her – she moves forward, scarred, bruised, but unbroken. She makes her own decisions, fights on the side of good, and continues to have hope when there is little reason to have any. She falls, as we all do…And gets back up, as we all can. She’s not a perfect hero, but then, none of us are.
Laura, to me, represents what it is to be an empowered young woman. It means being resilient, despite all that is against you. It means being unapologetic for all that you are and all the experiences that have defined you. It means not being “just a girl,” when compared a male counterpart, but being a girl who defies the status quo and all odds.
Just Who is the Empowered Woman?
Female empowerment means a lot to the feminist movement as a whole. But, just as there are so many subsets of the feminism itself, there are just as many (if not more) views on what defines the truly empowered woman.
Some believe it to be the golden example of feminist values. This would be the born leader who never kowtowed to what society deemed “women’s work”. That big, bold middle finger to all things patriarchal.
Then there are others – myself included – who see the truly empowered woman as someone with the grace to admit her humanity. The truly empowered woman should be inspiration to all, accept her missteps and make the past be lessons for the future.
The woman in my life that I consider to be an empowered woman is my dearest friend. She is the one I’ve turned to when things were tough, giving the best advice on relationships or parent issues or any other problem I might have. For that, I’m eternally grateful.
But I’ve always tried to be a good friend back to her and to hear her struggles. As a result, I witnessed the amazing woman she has grown into over the years. That is where I am most proud of her. I have watched over the years as she moved from struggling college student to budding entrepreneur. I watched her become more confident in her body and in herself, which further inspires me.
In addition to her growth in self-confidence, I find myself admiring that she continues to learn from the past. She admits her screw-ups and doesn’t paint her past as perfect. She also takes the time to boost women up and to advocate for social justice.
Empowering Others to Succeed
We aren’t these ideal feminists – nor have we ever claimed to be. But it seems that, with Ali by my side, I have the drive to keep growing as a person. She inspires me to claim my past and use it to bring about change for the future.
Someone I see as an empowered woman wants to spark those same successes in other women. This is a woman who sees other women as her equals, not competition to cut down. And that is Ali 100% – she has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders. And I am hers – I want to see her fulfill her dreams and I love that I get to be there as she works for them.
Female empowerment doesn’t always mean running around in red lipstick and screaming “girl power”. Ali has shown me that loving yourself plays a major part of it. Female empowerment means finding what makes you happy and Ali showed me that she gets just as much from watching loved ones succeed as she does with her own successes.