This blog is about feminist books and how women and men travel along the heroine’s journey. Both fiction and nonfiction books that are “feminist” (feminism is the social, economic, and political equality of women and men) have strong or struggling heroines and heroes who battle demons in a world dominated by masculine values. The heroine’s journey does not erase the male part of us, but rather seeks a unified human experience because people have both masculine and feminine sides.
Campbell, what do you say?
I did not write the book on The Heroine’s Journey–Maureen Murdock did, and I will reference it. She was right to contrast a woman’s journey to the idea presented by Joseph Campbell, who was a brilliant man who drew from mythology and human history to create what the world knows as the hero’s journey or the monomyth. When Murdock asked Campbell in 1981 about how the hero’s journey applied to women, he said that it did not. These are his words:
In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to. When a woman realizes what her wonderful character is, she’s not going to get messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male. —The Heroine’s Journey, Murdock, p. 2″
Ready for the heroine’s journey?
Perhaps he meant that women are already “aware” and, unlike men, do not need to battle themselves and others to become more conscious and “awake”. However, I believe that women still have a journey to make. We meet several setbacks and challenges, mainly because the world regards women as “the other,” as Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex. We have our own places to get to and on the way to accomplish our goals, we will fall flat on our faces, just like the hero’s journey depicts.
If women don’t need the hero’s journey like Campbell said, is there another journey for them? This adventure is the heroine’s journey, and I believe it applies to both women and men, just as we naturally use the hero’s journey for both sexes, despite what Campbell said. It was a different time and place when he said those words, and perhaps, he would have more to say about a woman’s journey if asked today. We now live in a time when the world is changing to accommodate the theme of the heroine’s journey in fiction, in movies, and ultimately, and most importantly, in life itself.
Do we need the heroine’s journey?
I read and write feminist fiction for this reason: Because the stories we tell in books reflect the stories we live, and vice-versa. As women and men, we are the authors of our stories. Along the journey, we inevitably face challenges. Unfortunately, our trials may begin in childhood and present themselves as the biggest public health problem of our time: adverse childhood experiences. The trauma in childhood doesn’t spare us of trauma in adulthood, and many of us will go through great hardship throughout our lifetimes. Then, we ask ourselves what keeps us going–ultimately, what gives our lives meaning?
As I explore this idea of finding meaning during the heroine’s journey, I will reflect on the character’s lives in great feminist fiction. I’ll also explore books authored by some of the great female minds of our time, such as Gloria Steinem, Pema Chodron, and Brene Brown, to discover how we can live a heroine’s life and ultimately, be the authors of our stories.