Identity Without Limits

I was rewatching Halle Berry’s Catwoman tonite, and it got me thinking. I know that Wonder Woman is supposed to be this great re-visioning of what it means to be a strong, independent woman. I know many people looked at Catwoman as a complete and utter failure because of any number of excuses.

But what struck me is that what the movie does is reveals that women can only be free when they choose to define themselves, when they choose their identity and are true to it. It’s not about being “good” or being “bad,” but being who they are at their core.

For some women, being like Sharon Stone (Laurel Hadere) or Alex Borstein (Patience’s friend Sally) is who they want to be. They want to fit in with the world and build power and freedom within the limitations of what our society thinks is appropriate behavior for a woman.

They think if they can somehow attain that power (through their relative “attractiveness” or how closely to the supposed feminine ideal they can be) then they will be accorded the freedom to be themselves. The problem is, by the time that they attain that height, they have become something completely at odds with who they really are. Sadly, if they choose to try to reflect that inner truth, all of that so-called “power” or “freedom” disappears like a burst soap bubble.

The “living marble” that Laurel has become is a wonderful metaphor for this false self. We choose to try to conform as a way to keep from being hurt. We become who our family wants, who our husband or partner wants, who their children or friend group wants us to be — or who WE think they want us to be.

For example, my parents sometimes have difficulty — particularly when stressed or upset — remembering to use the name Cat, which is my preferred version of my name, instead of Cathy, which is the diminutive they chose for me growing up. It may seem picky or bratty to insist on my preferred version. But the person I was as Cathy bears absolutely no real connection to who I am now.

I struggled with the diminutives well into my 20s. During high school, there were a few teachers who insisted upon calling me Katy instead of Cathy — a name that literally has nothing to do with the version of Catherine on my birth certificate. Katy is diminutive for Katherine, which is the variant found in the Eastern European countries versus the U.K. and French Catherine. Being called Katy made my skin itch and annoyed me greatly.

What it comes down to is being able to choose to be yourself instead of trying to fulfill either the expectations of others OR the expectations you THINK others have of you.

Cat, to me, reflects more of my core identity. I define what is “good” or “bad” for me not what those around me define it as.

For example, I am far more liberated sexually than the rest of my family. That is not to say my family is not passionate. But my view of sex and sexuality is not theirs, mainly due to the difference in our spiritual faiths. I made a passing reference to how many men I have slept with in my life, when the family was having a discussion of men who seem to think that their penis is a fire-hose, siring children they have no intention to actually be a father to simply because they don’t wish to wear a condom.

Dad’s response, of course, was to cry TMI. For some reason which I believe has more to it than just his Christian faith, he has always struggled with my sexuality. He’s had issues with  sexuality in general, but there have been some times in my life when his response to my choices in that realm were far more intense than just disappointment in my so-called “sin.”

My sister might chalk that up to me being narcissistic, but when a parent reacts to a boil on their child’s thigh as a sexually transmitted disease, that’s a touch excessive (I didn’t recognize it as a boil because it was the first time I ever got one). At the time I was still a virgin, but not for much longer. He accused me of losing my virginity and stormed out of the room.

For the first time in my life, I actually blew him off when he cried TMI instead of either retreating into silence because “it just wasn’t worth the energy” or in some other way choosing to not be true to myself. I’m not ashamed of my sexual choices except for regret over choosing some men who were not worth me sharing myself with them. I like consensual sex and see no reason why I should be forced to act as if I am ashamed of that fact just because in his faith such freedom, especially in a woman, the act of fornication (or adultery for that matter — I was taught that the difference between the two acts was whether or not one of the participants were married. If married, adultery — if both single, then fornication) somehow devalues and debases the person who participates in such unsanctioned sex.

He can choose to feel ashamed of my choices, but that is HIS choice. He can ask himself if there is something he could have done differently as a parent or can choose to see himself as a failure as a parent simply because I choose to live a different faith than his own. These are his choices, over which I have absolutely no control. But I have no obligation to feel the same way he does. He was the best parent he knew how to be, as was my mother…and in fact, his mother was the best parent she knew how to be.

That doesn’t mean any of them (or myself) were perfect.

But after a certain point in a child’s life, their choices have no real reflection upon the parent. The parent, no matter how much they did to give their children a good life, cannot live that life for their children. Nor do parents actually live the same experience that their child or children do — even though they lived through the exact same reality in time and space.

And that, boys and girls, is what it’s about. Being ME, not what anyone else might want me to be.

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Categories: Christianity, Feminism, mental health, Mental Retraining | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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