The fierce feminine

One of the great joys of my grandparenting years (so far) is that my eldest granddaughter’s favorite Disney princess is Merida.

If you’re not familiar with Merida, she’s the fiery red-headed, strong-willed, bow-shootin’ protagonist in the movie “Brave.” I like the movie because it’s full of bears, castles, dark magic, dark forests, family curses, family squabbles, and family healing. Also, some of our heritage traces back to Scotland.

Other than that Celtic appeal and a flimsy cultural identity, there’s another reason I like the movie — I really dig Disney’s portrayal of the independent warrior/princess character. I like warrior/princesses in real life, too. I was raised by them. I married one. I helped raise a couple myself. And my granddaughters are being guided along this path as well.

The strong women in my life might not be warriors or princesses in the most literal sense, but they all somehow blend what on the surface seem to be polar-opposite traits. Combined, those qualities form what I term the fierce feminine— embracing the gentler qualities of their gender but not backing down when push comes to shove or when a debt must be paid in blood, sweat, and tears.

I recall the dichotomy of my grandmothers hands. Her nails were always of a ladylike length and there was nothing so gentle in all the universe as her tender touch. But I also watched those hands catch, dispatch, and process many a rooster. And I watched those hands wield a baseball bat when an aggressive dog wandered into her yard as her grandchildren played.

I think of my mom who had a tooth knocked out on the basketball court but finished the game and was also Miss Hector High. I think of my wife who helped me move 300-pound hogs when we were farmers but also modeled clothes for northwest Arkansas businesses. I think of my daughters who each brought home venison from the woods, the blood on their own hands, but became the most exquisite flowers for school dances. I watch my granddaughters wandering a small creek with fishing poles in hand while wearing sparkly dresses and know that the apples do not fall far from the maternal tree.

In this issue you can see that Disney’s world of make-believe doesn’t hold the monopoly on female role models for my granddaughters to look up to. Our feature story on Russellville native Hannah Lomax is the tale of an Army National Guard member, scholar, innovator, and pageant winner. She’s a real life warrior/princess from right here in the River Valley.