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Space for Rent: Mother of the Country


Tweet of the Day:  Does Snow White Really Need a Prince?

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A while back, in this very space, I talked about how modern society ascribes “weakness” to “femininity” and “strength” to “masculinity.” Regardless of how you define the later whatever is considered feminine is by definition weak and whatever is considered masculine is considered strong. In fact, the world masculine is often used to denote strength.  Yet I found an interesting example that twists this dynamic to the breaking point. Recently I watched the movie, Brave, a Disney/Pixar production. In it, a strong willed Scottish princess (named Merida) breaks with tradition and tries to define her own fate.

However, the best scenes show women in traditional gender roles that far surpass the men in movie in terms of raw power. In both scenes the castle’s main hall erupts in chaos as the men folk fight it out, first with fists then with steel. Yet it is Queen Elinor, Merida’s mother who strolls with purpose to the middle of the hall, drags her husband by the ear (along with three other chieftains) and settles the matter without breaking a sweat. Merida is forced to do the same in the second scene, and while she struggles she manages to bring order to the melee, if only for a short while.  For you see, while the gender roles in this world are pretty clear, they hold a power of their own. The role of the King is to defend the realm, a typical male role. But it is the Queen that keeps House and Home, and being the Queen they are not merely the castle, or rearing of children. Her House and Home are the Kingdom, and she is the glue that keeps it together, and everyone, every single one on that hall knows it. Without her the whole enterprise would have fallen to pieces a long time ago.

When the time comes for her daughter to do the same, she does get challenged by the men folk, but not because she is a woman, but because they don’t think she is up to the task of being Queen. She proves them wrong in her own way, of course. And you can see her father’s eyes light up with pride for his beloved daughter. While the movie does fall short of breaking gender boundaries, even reinforces them, it does show that we have to break away from assigning strength or weakness to gender roles, be they binary or beyond.

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