A couple of weeks ago when all my Facebook friends were posting about seeing Wonder Woman, I went to book tickets on the spur of the moment for myself and Axa and discovered that, unaccountably, it opened weeks later here in the Netherlands than practically anywhere else in the world. Undaunted, I used the intervening time to get as many friends as possible to join me with their kids after the film finally opened. We ended up with 29 of us and a pre-movie dinner at Wagamama. Some of the kids were even persuaded to pose for a photo doing Wonder Woman arms.
It would be difficult for any movie to live up to the hype surrounding Wonder Woman, and this one didn’t for me, but I’m still glad we went. Yes, it was a step in the right direction, and yes there was still way too much mansplaining, and yes I enjoyed watching it and also cringed in spots. To be fair, I’m not really into super hero movies (beyond a rather fanatical soft spot for Loki), and I never read Marvel Comics (obviously, since Wonder Woman is actually DC, as pointed out by a helpful reader). So this was my first introduction to the 75-year-old Wonder Woman character beyond reading about her brief stint as a UN ambassador last year.
I really loved the first bit of the movie, though. And not just for the spectacularly beautiful Italian scenery. Ursula LeGuin and a few other writers have done some fascinating literary thought experiments on the topic, but it’s rare in movies or literature to see a predominantly (or in this case completely) female-dominated society.
And in fact, I grew up disliking the female spaces I was familiar with, which were heavily moderated by the Mormon church. The Relief Society, which the Mormon church insists upon calling “the largest women’s organisation in the world”, is presided over on every level by men, who are the ultimate authority on its budget, leadership, and scope of activities. And indeed, the activities in which I participated when I was a “member” of this organisation (every female member of the Mormon church becomes a member of the Relief Society by default when she turns 18) mostly revolved around crafts, “homemaking” skills, and indoctrination about the “divine role of women”. The unsurprising result was that I became less and less enthused about participating in these “female” activities, and by extension disenchanted with predominantly female spaces in general.
However, the fantastic Amazon island of Themyscira, with its senate and warriors and idyllically functioning female society, reminded me of something I realised a while ago about my life now: it’s largely composed of female-dominated spaces. And I love it.
I work, for instance, at a small nonprofit where four out of four employees and most of our volunteers and interns are women. Our board is also more than 50% female. I attend quite a few nonprofit-related events in the area as well, and the wider nonprofit scene in The Hague also feels quite female dominated. For instance, I presented at an event last week where six out of eight presenters, as well as the host and the keynote speaker, were women.
Earlier this year I attended a conference for Families in Global Transition (FIGT), an international organisation for service providers of expats and researchers who study them. Again, both the presenters and attendees skewed overwhelmingly female.
Several times a week I go to yoga. I have had a few male teachers, but most are women. I think I once counted an equal number of men and women in one class. But usually there are just a couple of men, and sometimes there are none at all.
The online expat parenting community I belong to, is, not unsurprisingly, also female led and dominated, as are the spinoff book club, writers’ group, and podcast I’ve participated in to varying degrees.
The editorial board of Hiraeth Magazine, the migration-themed artistic/literary collective I started with a few friends last year, is 80% female.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the launch party for the latest issue of Versal, a 15-year-old literary journal based in Amsterdam. I looked around the room, and from the organisers to the presenters to the audience, again the gathering was mostly composed of and run by women. I can’t actually think of a single place I regularly go or participate where I couldn’t say the same.
I’m not sure exactly which conclusions to draw. It’s not necessarily surprising for me to find a lot of women in the intersection of nonprofit and humanities, or at a yoga studio, for that matter. I guess I could talk about the distinct focus on consensus and de-emphasis on hierarchical leadership I notice in most of my interactions, which may or may not be related to the gender composition of these organisations and spaces. I hear female friends mention their difficulties in being heard during male-dominated meetings, or having their ideas discounted, to say nothing of sexual harassment or being told to smile more or wear different clothes and makeup. Those types of experiences form no part of my everyday life. For the most part, I don’t really even think about how nice that is. It’s just normal.
In short, we may not be doing spectacular acrobatics, swordplay, or warrior moves (ok, except at yoga), but I kind of feel like I live on my own little Themyscira.