The recent trailer for the new She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, a show premiering on Disney+ in August, offers insight into the disillusioned feminist. The premise of the show is the fulfillment of feminist fantasies in which a woman acquires superhuman strength, sweeping men off their feet and physically dominating whomever she pleases. The source of her power? Rage.
In the trailer, Hulk tells Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk), “The transformations are triggered by anger and fear.” Walters responds, “Those are like the baseline of any woman just existing.” Surveying the landscape of postmodernity, it does seem that in many minds to be a woman is to rage. But why are women so fearful and angry?
Half a century of mass-market feminism and women’s so-called empowerment has not made women happier. It seems it may have actually made women less happy. We can pretend that men need merely to discuss their feelings more to reach egalitarian enlightenment and that differences in physical strength mean nothing, but most people recognize the truth.
The age of pretend has ended. A natural disaster or combat scenario is enough for the scales to fall from our eyes. There are significant advantages to the average physical superiority of men. “Women and children first” is not the necessary order of disaster response. Only in a civilization that prizes self-sacrifice and cares for the vulnerable will women and children stand a chance of protection.
While decades of wishful thinking have not changed physical reality, the postmodern world has eroded protections for women, leaving them exposed and rightly afraid. Men are allowed to trounce women in sporting events. A landscape without clear mores exposes women to emotional and physical risk. Childbearing is now a woman’s “choice” and, consequently, if she chooses to bear children, her sole responsibility.
Watching the #MeToo movement unfold was educational. Hearing stories of abuse and manipulation, one was struck by how avoidable so much of it was. One is very much not allowed to say that victims had any role whatsoever in the treatment they suffered. Of course, the perpetrators are still responsible; and yet there is legitimate question about many of the scenarios. Had no one ever told these women not to go into a boss’s hotel room after drinking heavily? Had no one explained that a man’s professed feminism is not his highest virtue or necessarily an indication of honor? The obvious answer, as Mary Eberstadt discerned, is no.
Without a present and invested father, uncle, or brother, many women do not have a reliable account of masculinity with which to make rational judgments and risk assessment. After imbibing years of self-esteem boosting, women do not readily see their vulnerabilities. When they inevitably do, they can be consumed by anger and fear.
The idea that a woman could harness all her negative emotions and explode into a hulking monster of justice might be superficially satisfying for some, but what about women in real life? Fanciful transformations and superhuman strength do not await women in the world as we know it. Without something more, feminists are left to fester in impotent rage.
That anger can manifest as ugliness. Seeing the trends of partially shaved heads, unrestrained gluttony, and perpetually casual attire, perhaps one is seeing a revolt against beauty. Like Lady Macbeth, so many women demand of the spirits: “unsex me here / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty!” In the purely natural order, femininity and the beauty it exudes are not gifts to be treasured.
The Catholic worldview offers a coherent response. Under the banner of the Lamb slain, there is a paradigm in which weakness need not be despised, in which vulnerability becomes the touchpoint for God’s strength. In Christian marriage, woman’s receptivity can be seen not as a costly liability but as a conduit for love, embodied and individual.
Millennia of Christian culture produced the most beautiful art the world has ever known. Christ, who was bloodied and violently sacrificed, is the Lamb who inspired these works of art that continue to fascinate even in our age of pervasive ugliness. There is something deeply attractive about a person who lays down his life, a woman who in her weakness can shine forth with God’s beauty and strength.
There is no superhuman strength to vindicate the rage of women. There is a supernatural call that can soften even the hardest of hearts. When women follow Christ, they no longer live defined by anger and fear. While those transitory emotions can be natural and understandable in certain contexts, they cannot be the foundation of a life worth living. When women lead in sacrifice and humility, they set the standard for a culture. It is not with She-Hulk that we find peace; it is only in echoing the words of Mary’s fiat that we find our purpose and discover our beauty, a gift from the Creator.
[Image Credit:She-Hulk: Attorney at Law trailer (Marvel Entertainment)]