While scrolling through Facebook today, I came across a post that - well - deeply hurt me in ways that are hard to explain. Now please, don't get me wrong, I am an advocate for female empowerment - but I also loathe the way the "Damsel in Distress" and "Princess Character" tropes have been abused, misused and misunderstood in society today.
This could be because I see these tropes from a very different view point.
Seeing this quote from Neil Gaiman, an author I have a lot of respect for, was strangely upsetting. It felt like I personally was getting rejected by Neil Gaiman - which is the funniest thing, right? Like, he'd obviously never, then, have the time to talk to me - someone - who needs a lot of help from people - a lot of help from...dun dun dunnnnn. MEN.
I think most of you who read my blog would, by now, know that I have fibromyalgia. It bleeds into every facet of my life. It's given me a rather unique perspective on the Damsel in Distress, and the Princess Character, tropes because - I am a Damsel in Distress, I am a Princess. I am the living embodiment of these things.
Well, I'm not actually royalty - but a woman can dream right ;) The Princess I relate most to is Rapunzel - stuck in her tower. My pain is my tower, and I am trapped. I spend my days looking out at the world, at places I cannot go, at people I cannot be with, and it hurts so much. I wish so badly that I could join in.
I try to join in - but it costs me dearly - I am not strong enough on my own to step outside my tower, so, I am stuck, waiting. Waiting in my tower, to be rescued, for someone to step into my life, to help me get out. I'm not strong enough on my own.
It took me years to learn to accept help from just my parents, my family - without feeling like I was somehow less of a person for doing so. And it was the mindset of Neil Gaiman's quote above that shamed me into thinking I was less of a person for accepting help. Me - an independent woman - I SHOULD be able to do everything myself, right. I should be able to get my sword and take on ALL the dragons on my own.
Well, heck, that didn't work. It just made me so ashamed that I couldn't. So full of self-hatred and disgust that I failed everything. And that's when I decided to just accept what I was: A Princess in a Tower. A Damsel in Distress. I was - am I - waiting for a prince to come and save me. I need help. I need the strength of someone else in my life. Will I be okay on my own - yes - I will be - I can swing an axe, I'll be fine - but having someone else to lean on for support isn't a negative.
Does this mean I am somehow less of a woman for needing to be rescued, does this mean I have somehow given in, and I am no longer "helping myself" - NO - for goodness sake, NO - just because a character is a Damsel in Distress does not negate their struggles. In fact it is highly insulting that people see a character like a Princess, or a Damsel, and ONLY see their waiting for rescue as the focal point. They're not seeing the pain, the suffering, the agony of waiting, the shame, the unbearable loneliness, the boredom, the strength, the endurance and perseverance and all the other interesting things that could be told through the eyes of such a character. A writer who is given a Damsel or a Princess could do so, so much - don't see the rescue as a negative, see it as a positive.
I want to read stories that are full of hope for that Damsel and that Princess. Hope that there is someone coming to rescue her, hope that her waiting isn't in vain. Hope that her endurance and perseverance will win out. Not always can we Damsel's save ourselves from situations we have no control over, not always can we slay our own dragons, sometimes we need help. Tell me stories of trust, friendship, and companionship, of love that wins the day. Of a princess who climbs out of her tower into a whole new world, hand in hand with a prince, and learns to walk again. Stop telling me that being rescued, that asking for help, that being helped by a prince, is a bad thing. It's very disconcerting.
Why - I need to know - WHY - is being rescued a negative? To me, it isn't.