Occasional contributor Rachel Wolf explores why Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the feminist icon women need. Enjoy, Like, and Share!
I am a little late, but I just rewatched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I was struck by the strength and resiliency of Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a new character new to the Guardians crew. In a world full of strong but emotionally unstable Gamoras, we could all stand to learn a few lessons from Mantis.
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her sister Nebula(Karen Gillan) are strong, capable women that inspire an inner confidence that we all need sometimes. However, Mantis projects a more real version of women I know, and that I am. The woman that needs to know she is strong, but doesn’t always believe it — one who embraces her strength when it’s truly needed.
Walking away from Guardians 2 for a second time, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a feminist icon that wasn’t emotionally screwed up for once?” Any film goer knows this trope: emotionally scarred woman becomes walled off, but in the process becomes utterly unstoppable. The woman’s true strength is revealed in response to loss or threat to her love interest (see Wonder Woman or Gamora for multiple examples).
However, Mantis is not wielding her powers for a man. She does not believe she is beautiful or capable until she learns the true extent of her capabilities. She embraces her perceived un-beauty with not only a quiet resolve, but with pride! “Then I am grateful to be ugly!” she exclaims at Drax (her truest yet least supportive friend) when he tells her his perception of her. Mantis’ power does not lie in her subjective appearance, but in her empathy; her ability to read the feelings and emotions of others, and sometimes control those emotions.
(By the way, she is not ugly in any way. Drax’ opinion is based on his perceptions of beauty from his world.)
What if we, as true feminists and feminists-in-training, learned to ignore the subjective opinions of others around us, especially men? What if the strength of Gamora and Nebula was not the feminist truth which we should be aspiring. Their brand of feminism requires deep emotional trauma that masks insecurity — one that walls off those who choose to love us. Should we not be aspiring to deep, compassionate understanding of others?What if our pain doesn’t have to be the only thing that fuels us?
I have not suffered vast emotional trauma in my life. I have nothing that has scarred me to my core. I definitely have had my share of bad break ups, and rough days. I have endured the pain of a terribly abusive relationship (something I’d not wish on my worse enemy) but I am a resilient and happy person overall.
Yet the feminists we first learn about as children are usually walled off and resistant toward human emotion. These are characters such as Leela from Futurama, Gamora from Guardians, and Princess Leia — all utterly opposed to human kindness and love in one way or another. Why were we taught that in order to be a good feminist (or strong woman) that we have to suffered greatly and thus scorn all others as a result?
A truly strong woman, is one who embraces her emotions and is strong regardless. Like Mantis, we will face our fears and insecurities. Like Mantis, we will perform tasks we don’t think we can do, but try our best regardless. Not all of us may be succeessful 100% of the time, but we will continue day-in and day-out.
And who is more proud: the person who has no fear, or the person who has fear and does what they have to do in spite of their fear?
Rachel is in-house counsel for Progressive. She loves food, wine, and Star Wars. When not traveling the world, or at work, she spends her free time loving on her nieces and nephews. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at: citygirlinglasses.
Stock image of Mantis is from Polygon.