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What the Heck is a Warrior Woman?


I began this year with a clear mandate from my spirit guides that I am not to hold back.  I’m to step up, speak my truth, sing my song, and be a leader.

Gulp.  That’s a tall order.  And I don’t know exactly what it all means yet.  It could take most of the year, if not longer, to process the message, develop a vision, and manifest it fully.

But I have accepted the task and spoken it aloud.  Of course, no one is handing me a cursed ring that must be returned to its rightful place to save the world.  My path is one that I must blaze and I’m open to receiving the messages that might guide me.

So when a woman that I respect invited me to a new moon gathering of “wise warrior women,” my first thought was “of course I’m going.”  My second thought was, “what the heck is a warrior woman?”

I’m not so obtuse as to be unaware that the female warrior archetype is prevalent now and always has been in literature, mythology, film and Halloween costumes.  A click on google images brings up an overwhelming array of scantily clad or armored women with gorgeous bodies and fierce faces.

OK, so they’re objectively appealing to look at, kind of, in a cartoony, stylized way.  But is this really what being a woman is about?  Do we really aspire to be warriors?  What are we fighting for or against?

Have I brought up that warrior energy in myself?  Maybe a few times.  What comes to mind for me is the times during my private practice when I fought for what my patients needed against a tone deaf medical and insurance community stuck in a box of “conventional wisdom.”   Or when I fought for my own health care or the treatment my children needed in school or in doctors’ offices.

But is that a warrior or a mother bear?  And is my willingness to step up, speak out, and take my place as a female elder in my community or in the world a sign of being a warrior woman?  Or does it just mean that it’s time I shine my light brighter so that others can see and even follow my example.

This doesn’t feel like a war or even a fight to me.  It feels more like a fierce act of love—for myself, my family, and my world.

By definition, a warrior is one who wages war, or at least one who shows courage or aggression as in politics or sports.  I have no doubt that we all, female or male, are capable of calling up this energy in ourselves when we feel the need to fight for or against something.  And certainly women are capable of various forms of aggression when needed.

But I wonder:  why are women being encouraged to adopt the warrior archetype and the aggression it implies to connote what seems really to be a quest for empowerment or meaning or effectiveness?  Is this really the side of ourselves that we want to nurture and encourage in our daughters and sons as we set an example of personal power?

I’m a biologist, a psychiatrist, a wife, and a mother of men.   And I don’t think that we women naturally seek blood in our interactions with others.  As the givers and supporters of life, I don’t think we normally view life as a zero sum game in which we win only when someone else loses.  Unless we or our children are in immediate danger.  And that’s when we call up the fierce protector in ourselves.  And there is nothing fiercer than a threatened mother bear.

As a psychiatrist, I’ve heard more than my share of women’s stories of trauma, but I’ve yet to see their wounds healed by aggression.  Nor are anyone’s wounds healed by aggression

My first bold act of 2016 is to declare my opinion that we have more than enough aggression in this world, with a disproportionate amount of it here in the United States.  (And, as a psychiatrist, I say, parenthetically, that our violence problem is not as much about mental illness as it is about disenfranchisement and disempowerment in a whole generation of men—a topic for a future blog.)

The last thing we need is for women to pick up weapons or even to think of themselves as warriors.  Let’s honor and support each other in our wisdom, our courage, our inspiration, our self-expression, strength, beauty, creativity, nurturing, leadership, healership and ability to give and support life itself.

And yes, we can honor that part of ourselves that is capable of fighting to the death if called upon to do so.  But our true sustaining power comes not in fighting, but in loving, fiercely and fully.

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