I saw a movie recently. It’s called Mad Max: Fury Road. I went to see it because, post-apocalyptic 80s grunge action with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. I think that’s a no-brainer. (Confession: I haven’t seen the originals. Yet.)
Before I went to see it, I heard there was a lot of controversy over whether it was uber-Feminist propaganda. Do you want to know the truth? Is Mad Max: Fury Road really Feminist?
No. But it is feminist. And I love it for it.
Here’s how I define Popular Feminism: Women are the equal of Men. Women can do everything that Men can, maybe even better.
Here’s how I define little-f feminism, or, as I’ll refer to it here, Real Feminism (yeah, I think I’m right so I’m going to call it “Real”): Women and Men are of equal worth and value. They have different complementary gifts and strengths.
I think Fury Road is a beautiful display of Real Feminism. Beware, Spoilers be ahead. Seriously, stop and go see the movie first.
In Fury Road, Immortan Joe is a gross old jerk who wants to control the ability to create and sustain life. He has a harem of wives whose sole purpose is to birth him little boys. He has another harem of women to do something else he can’t do: make breast milk (at which, for some reason we all say “Ew” even though every one of us thought breast milk was the bomb.com at one point in our lives).
Immortan Joe can’t create life without women, and he’s not willing to concede that weakness, so he oppresses, imprisons, and controls them. He also hoards the water supply, another symbol of his desire to control the source of life.
Joe’s wives escape and he desperately throws all his resources and destruction after getting his preggo baby-mamas back.
The wives leave Joe a message written in their chambers:
“Our babies won’t be warlords.”
Orchestrating the escape is Furiosa, a woman quite different from the wives (but maybe, in the past, she wasn’t so different?). She’s a badass warrior woman with killer driving skills and a dead aim. Her goal in rescuing in the wives is to reach the home she was stolen from, a fertile paradise, and to gain redemption (from what? We don’t know).
Along the way we catch up with some of Furiosa’s former clan, super awesome wizened warrior ladies who ride motorcycles and shoot and carry the last crop seeds in civilization.
The bearers of life.
In Fury Road, all the women risk their lives and sacrifice themselves to protect one another, to protect their children, and to protect the future of the earth and humanity. The wives carry babies in their bellies and will do anything to keep them from the destructive fate of being Immortan Joe’s war pups. Furiosa’s clan carry the only seeds left in the world, the last chance for life in a never-ending desert. Furiosa will stop at nothing to protect and defend their lives and their right to create life.
Meanwhile, they’re pursued by a host of warlords and warriors, many of whom are brainwashed to think that only destruction and death will bring them glory and eternal life.
Destruction reigns when women are powerless.
So are all the men in this movie destroyers? No. For one, there’s Max. When he first meets the escaping women, he starts by threatening them. But as he begins to work with them, he becomes protective and sacrificial, doing whatever it takes to see them survive. First, he helps them escape. Then, after convincing the women it’s both possible and necessary, he helps them take Immortan Joe’s water supply so that they can use the clan’s seeds to recreate crops and plant life.
It’s quite clear in the movie that the women would not have survived without Max.
We need each other. Women are creators, nurturers, peacemakers, makers of rest, defenders, and protectors. Men, acting as men, defend women, protect them, provide for them, and carry heavy things. Together men and women create life. They can’t do it without each other. Together they protect life. They can’t do it without each other.
Fury Road recognizes that. It celebrates women for being womanly and it warns about what happens when men don’t. And that’s why I think Mad Max: Fury Road is Real Feminism.
Real Feminism recognizes the unique, wondrous ability of women to create and sustain life. To carry it and grow it and bring it into this world. Real Feminism doesn’t try to be the same as Men, because to do that would be to diminish the worth and beauty of womanhood. Popular Feminism says, you have worth if you can do what men can do, but not if you can only do “woman” things. What the hell is that about? That sucks. No. NO.
My body gives life. I cook amazing food. I make things beautiful. I love beautiful things. I create a place of rest. I restore. I bring softness. I nurture. I teach. I protect. I defend those I love, to the death if necessary. I am Feminine. I am steel. And that is more than enough.