There is a popular show on ABC called “Once Upon A Time.” The nostalgia and genius of the show that reinvents all of the Fairy Tales we thought we knew is its uncanny ability to speak to everyday life. Contained within are messages of faith, hope, redemption, and love.
One of my favorite and most complex characters on the show is the Evil Queen. I enjoy watching her when she powers up and takes what she believes is hers. I love that look of determination in her eyes that grows before you as her sheer willpower and determination meet realization. She’s beautiful, she’s powerful and you know nothing will stop her. I’ve silently begrudged her softer side looking for redemption. There are moments where she seems weak and resigned to what ending the author of her story writes for her. I know I don’t really hate that side of her. I hate that it reminds me of myself. I want the power Evil Queen Regina seems to have found; redeemed Regina feels too deeply.
While I admire women who define their own femininity and offer themselves to others, I also find myself ashamedly resenting them. I have internally struggled with this for some time now. Why would I rather see myself the Evil Queen than the redeemed Regina?
In today’s American culture we celebrate empowered women. Most of the time we are celebrating them for appearing completely nude (almost breaking the Internet) or having the bravery to have sex with as many men as they choose… But what if we are mislabeling the opposite of empowerment – “weakness,” and also “bravery”? It seems to me that softness, modesty, and grace are often called weakness and brash exploitation is made easier to look at when we splash the words “brave & empowering” above the woman exposing herself on a magazine cover & confessing her latest sex-capades.
How do we combat these perceptions? I’m discovering these images, these interpretations of powerful femininity are so ingrained in my own psyche that it is difficult to sort it all out.
I would rather be the Evil Queen in this world than a redeemed woman because being a tough and difficult woman to get close to provides a false sense of security for me. My intimidating demeanor can serve to protect you from seeing my flaws. But the life of an Evil Queen is lonely. Every attempt to get close to someone ends in heartbreak because you bail before they get too close. You hurt others with the arm you use to push them away. You rob others of hope. The redeemed woman is the more brave of the two. Her gentle spirit and vulnerability draw others to her instead of scaring them away. This is a risk but her bravery is rewarded by those and for those around her.
I have amazing women in my life who remind me I am kind at heart. I feel deeply for others and even for myself. It’s easy to wound my heart. While I try desperately to hide that, I know it is not a detriment; it’s a gift. Feeling things deeply doesn’t make me weak, it’s Christ’s strength in me to love well. In a similar way, I know the Evil Queen isn’t evil – she is wounded and inflicts pain on others to somehow release her own pain. She is soft and afraid of her own vulnerability. To those lovely women who push in to my softer side – thank you, you breathe life into me & you should be the ones held up as brave and empowered.
I will look for ways to find grace in my heart for women who find themselves too tough for love this February. I am searching for redemption too. In thinking about the word love, it’s interesting the words brave and powerful came hand-in-hand to me. Perhaps It’s time to redefine empowerment and find its true embodiment in our Savior….Approachable, ready to extend grace and love, and resolved to live openly, impacting the world around us.
Anna Hull lives in San Antonio, TX. A graduate of Schreiner University with a B.A. in Religion & Political Science, Anna is passionate about finding Jesus in every day life. She enjoys unexpected adventure, making genuine connections with others, and finding beauty in chaos.