A few weekends ago I saw Wonder Woman and loved it.
It was a moving experience for me. I laughed. I cried. I had goosebumps a lot. And in the weeks since it came out, I’ve seen so many friends and people I follow on social media posting about it and sharing their daughters’ responses about it. I’ve had clients talk about it and seen therapists chat about it online.
Clearly, this movie struck a big chord (grossing over $300 million in its first week alone!). I’m not sure if you’ve seen it yet, but I highly recommend you do.
Because, as a therapist and feminist, I have some thoughts about why Wonder Woman may matter so much to each of us as women particularly in this day and age.
Wonder Woman As The Warrior Archetype:
Wonder Woman, in my opinion, embodies the Warrior Archetype.
What’s an archetype?
An archetype is a recurring, universal symbolic pattern in literature, story, religion, or mythology which, according to Jungian psychology, can also be a collective symbol present in individual psyches (or souls).
Archetypes, in the therapeutic sense, are therefore thought to exist within each of us as symbols of greater patterns in our personal history and also in our experience of humanity. Symbols which, when we come into contact with them, can help awake and spark awareness to certain aspects of ourselves and/or help us navigate and better understand what it means to be human.
There are dozens and dozens of archetypes with varying degrees of definition, but the Warrior Archetype, generally speaking, represents physical strength and the ability to protect and defend oneself and others against “bad or evil” forces.
And yet, while this Warrior Archetype has typically been ascribed to men and to maleness, both history and mythology are littered with examples of women warriors: The Amazons, Joan of Arc, Frances Clayton, The Dahomey Amazons, Brunhild of the Valkyries, Nakano Takeko, the Briton Queen Boudica, Grace O’Malley, and basically this list here.
It’s not only possible for women to embody the warrior archetype, but, in my opinion, I think we all contain the warrior archetype to some extent.
And while cinema and song have included more and more examples of female warrior archetypes recently, Wonder Woman may represent a far different model of female warrior archetype than what’s been commonly seen.
A Complex, Healthy Warrior Archetype:
So often when Hollywood attempts to showcase the female Warrior Archetype on screen today, she’s often portrayed as psychologically damaged, or bitter, man-hating, or isolatory, among other potentially “unhealthy” characteristics. Think The Black Widow, Lisbeth Salander, Beatrix Kiddo, etc..
Already the idea of women embodying the Warrior Archetype is a counter-stereotype, a cognitive dissonance, a suppressed archetype.
In other words, something that isn’t “normative” and that causes mental discomfort for some in challenging the “traditional” concept of femininity.
So when Hollywood portrays female Warrior Archetypes in a spectrum of unhealthy or “shadow” characteristics, it robs us all of the possibility of a “healthier,” more integrated female warrior archetype to take root in our minds and hearts.
HOWEVER, Wonder Woman gives us an example of what it might look like to be a healthy, integrated female warrior archetype — one who loves babies, ice cream, takes a lover (but doesn’t need him to survive physically or emotionally) and also kicks ass on the proverbial battlefield. Not because she’s out for revenge, not because she’s psychopathic, but because she feels a duty and calling to serve and to protect. In the name of love and in the name of humanity.
Why Wonder Woman Is So Important:
Wonder Woman is important both on a permissive and on an energizing level.
Permissively, the fictional character of Wonder Woman in all her integrated glory challenges the concept of femininity and offers up a more complex narrative of what it is to be a woman in this world. Wonder Woman models for us the message that you don’t have to choose to be one or the other — joyful and loving or fierce and tough. You, as a woman, get to be both.
We women NEED to see what Wonder Woman embodies: this duality, this both/and way of being as a woman exist whether it’s onscreen or in our own personal lives. Because, since time immemorial, we as women have implicitly and explicitly often been told what it means to be a woman, what’s permissible, what’s possible. We’ve been told and taught what it means to be “feminine.”
Wonder Woman not only speaks to the warrior archetype we contain within us, but she gives us a kind of psychic permission to rewrite what it means to be “feminine”, what it means to be a woman. She’s a complex, healthy, integrated archetype that perhaps many of us feel inside ourselves and yet so rarely see on the big screen. She gives us a kind of digital permission slip to be more of who we internally feel ourselves to be.
And, on another level, Wonder Woman is energizing. She may spark and ignite the part inside of us that needs to be called forth for external or internal battles in our own lives.
Whether you’re a young woman struggling with recovery from an eating disorder; or a woman facing sexism in the workplace; or someone who struggles to live each day with your anxiety or depression; whether your battles are internal or external, tapping into the energy of Wonder Woman and and all she embodies may be the symbol so many of us intrapsychically need to feel our strength, to move forward in recovery, to call out bullying, misogyny, bigotry, sexism, racism, and ill treatment of others and to ground more fully into our power and stand for love, for fairness, for what’s right and what’s good. Showing up for healing and love in our own lives and also in the world outside.
Wonder Woman is an example of a kind of mental and emotional touchstone young girls and women can embody when they feel challenged by their own negative, critical inner voices.
She allows us all to ask the question, “WWWWD?” (What would Wonder Woman do?) when our shame attacks us from the inside or when we’re attacked from outside. She becomes a healthy, functional voice that we woman can begin to internalize to support our own healing in the world.
And that is really important.
Getting To Know The Warrior Archetype, The Wonder Woman Inside Of You:
You may be thinking I’m going a bit over the top about a fictional character but if you’ve been following my blog for any time, you know I’m a big believer in cinematherapy to help guide, instruct, and bring healing to our lives.
Wonder Woman is fictional, for sure. And she has flaws (still hypersexualized, heteronormative, cis, and white — in other words, not as diverse and inclusive as I’d like to see heroines represented) but what she represents is clearly still so important for many girls and women among us: permission to be a woman who is strong, brave, independent and who fights for what’s right in the name of love and humanity.
So I’d like to offer up a list of inquiries to help you get in touch with and to better understand your own Warrior Archetype — your own inner Wonder Woman — in the hopes that this may benefit you and your healing.
- Do you know this part — the Warrior Archetype — in yourself?
- What messages have you received (consciously or unconsciously) about being a woman in this world?
- Growing up, were you taught that it’s okay for a woman to be strong, fierce, and to use her physical strength?
- Or were you taught that being strong, bold, and independent was not okay on some level?
- How did your mother, if at all, embody the Warrior archetype? What did you learn from her about being a strong woman in the world?
- How — if at all -has the warrior archetype played out in your own life? Is it in your eating disorder recovery? Is it separating from your abusive relationship? Is it standing up to hateful, racist individuals in your local or wider community? Is it going back to school while raising your baby? Think through all the times you ground yourself in the spirit of love, duty, and strength. These are the moments you embodied your inner Warrior.
- How — if you want — can you nurture and honor this aspect in yourself more? Where could you embody more of the Warrior Archetype serve you in your life? Ask yourself, WWWWD?
If you liked the film Wonder Woman and this article resonated with you, I’ve listed out just a handful of resources at the end of this article which, in my opinion, also speak to the female Warrior Archetype. I invite you to check them out if they feel helpful.
And until next time, take very good care of yourself, Warriors.
- This list of archetypes.
- Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
- Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women’s Lives by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
- Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.