Heroes

Heroes… or call them ‘sheroes’ or heroines, I suppose. Personally I would like to have a female version of the word, but neither of these choices works for me. Heroines have generally been seen as part of a pair: “hero and heroine” and she is the lesser actor, the one who gets saved. Heroes are the characters who do, who overcome. Sheroes I see as a laudable attempt to claim or reclaim language, along the lines of ‘wymin’ and other words coined in the 1970’s. But it simply won’t roll off my tongue or my pen. I think instead of the book by Joseph Campbell that had such a profound effect on me, decades ago, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Although I don’t remember whether Campbell spoke specifically about female heroes, in my mind five hundred of those faces are female.

What is a hero and why am I writing about them today? Well, not surprisingly, when I look for a definition of hero, it pisses me off. But I am mollified when I check on the definition given for heroine, because it is word for word, the same: “[person] admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.” Okay, that does work as a definition of heroes of both genders as they are represented in history or herstory. (Now, that is a ‘new’ word that I happily embrace and it has even made it into the dictionary!) Here is a note on the word, from the 1976 book by Casey Miller and Kate Swift, Words & Women:

“When women in the movement use herstory, their purpose is to emphasize that women’s lives, deeds and participation in human affairs have been neglected or undervalued in standard histories.”

Well, there I go, getting lost in the world of words, wordsmithing and meaning. It is a common detour for me, when I start exploring a topic. There is so much more to say about heroes and I guess I’ll do that tomorrow. Right now I am off to hear Gloria Steinem, one of the heroes of the women’s movement and for me also a hero/role model for how one can choose to live at eighty-one years of age.

NOTE: I’ve provided links to both books that are mentioned, but neither link is totally satisfying to me. So I hope you will explore further, if so inclined.

NaBloPoMo November 2015

Story (P.S.)

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogroll Post Script:  I spent quite a bit of time yesterday, thinking and writing about the idea of story. At the end of the day, I had a lot of notes and nothing that I was happy with, nothing that captured what I had been thinking. But because I am committed to posting every day this month, I posted a small, bilious section. This morning I chose to take most of it down. I will leave two quotes from the work of others who have influenced my thinking. Here they are:

Creative non-fiction, also known as memoir, is a popular form of writing these days.  In the introduction to her book, Old Friend from Far Away (title taken from the writings of Confucius) Natalie Goldberg says of the word memoir: “ It comes from the French mémoire. It is the study of memory, structured on the meandering way we remember. Essentially it is an examination of the zigzag nature of how our mind works.”

When I was young, I read the work of the great Joseph Campbell, author of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I found his theories fascinating and they made a lot of sense. [Based on decades of research, Campbell postulated that there are two basic plot lines for all stories.  One is ] “… The Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through all of humanity’s mythic traditions…”