Arguing about the “Fearless Girl” statue is old sport now. Pause for a moment and take a look at a completely different argument. Here is Zachary D. Schmoll at The Public Discourse: “Physician-Assisted Suicide Tells People Like Me That Our Lives Are No Longer Worth Living.”
As a man with a physical disability, I need a lot of help to perform many basic daily activities. I still consider myself to be an independent thinker, but my physical independence is substantially limited by my severely reduced muscle strength. I need help to drive my van, get dressed, prepare my meals, and complete other daily tasks. For me, this is life. For many others, this level of dependence is motivation to consider bringing life to an end.
If you are wondering why the supporters and detractors of the Fearless Girl both seem to have a point, the point is implied by Schmoll: We are suffering from a fortitude-deficiency.
I give the benefit of the doubt to writers who create super-fighter female characters. Aren’t all superheros a stretch of the imagination? It is not necessary to have a feminist agenda to identify with a girl-fighter character. There is the appeal of the underdog; there is the charm of the unlikely hero. Quick art relies on facile stereotype: If you want “artistic tension” write yourself a hulking ballerina or a grandmother who hates crochet, done. Thus one can object to fighter-girls on the grounds of bad artistry, sometimes. To my mind, the main offense of the female super-fighter character is that she’s mostly hired for the job of over-filling her super-bikini.
Girls are not for that.
It should require no proof or explanation that men and women are different from each other. Faced with a culture determined to argue against the self-evident, conservatives sometimes lapse into stereotypes in order to make that point. Stereotypes fail because men and women resemble each other intensely. We all have wrists and necks and breasts and jaws and feet, which tend to be different between men and women, but the tendencies are not absolute. It isn’t that women have flippers and men have tentacles; we all have hands. A male hand and a female hand resemble each other far more than either one is like a dog’s paw or a horse’s hoof.
So it is with human emotions, human reasoning, and human passion. There are differing tendencies between men and women, but other than motherhood and fatherhood and your part in the act that gets you there, there is nothing in the human experience that is the exclusive province of only men or only women. A man is sensitive and compassionate and nurturing in a masculine way by definition: If it is a man expressing those traits, he is doing it in a way that men do it.
Women identify with traits likes toughness because toughness is a feminine trait as surely as it is a masculine one. Like hands or feet or ear hair, there are differences in how that toughness tends to express itself in the lives of women compared to the lives of men. But it is certainly there.
If you do not think women are made for feats of intense physical difficulty and danger, I fear your parents owe you an apology: That story about the stork is just a myth.
You are here on this earth because a woman gave birth to you.
Oh, but that’s not the same as manly physical difficulty and danger! No, it isn’t. A man’s body is made to express its strength and daring in a different way. Strength and daring are not male traits or female traits; they are human traits. As with hands or feet, there tend to be differences between men and women in the embodiment of those traits. But if we try to say that physical toughness and daring are solely the province of men and not women, we don’t end up with a definition of masculinity; we end up with an argument for abortion.
We are a culture that values not toughness but power. It isn’t fortitude we treasure but autonomy. It isn’t the ability to endure great trials that we prize, it is the ability to conquer decisively. If there is real danger? We want an out.
Life involves danger and pain. From the moment of conception to the last breath, danger and pain are risks we all run, and sooner or later both will overtake us.
The fundamental argument for abortion is this: I would rather you die than that I suffer.
The fundamental argument for euthanasia is this: We would rather you die than that we suffer.
The fundamental argument for assisted-suicide is this: I would rather I die than that I suffer.
We talk a big talk about being “fierce” but actually we are cowards. We are only “fierce” in the face of bronzed threats — frozen solid, unable to harm us. We can stare down a picture of danger all afternoon; real danger makes us proud to run and hide.
A ferocious beast will kill for its own gain. It is not ferocity but fortitude that we humans undervalue. We like these girls who fight because we know deep inside that we humans are created for the fight. We are created for living dangerously, and for facing the trials of our life unflinching.
Artwork courtesy of Wikimedia: The Virgin Mary with saints Barbara and Catherine of Alexandria. I dunno, were those girls all that tough? Hmmn.