The woman as supporting actress in life

I came across this thought-provoking quote from Laurie Penny

Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else’s… I refuse to burn my energy adding extra magic and sparkle to other people’s lives to get them to love me. I’m busy casting spells for myself.

The latter half of that seems a bit callous or cold, perhaps. I mean, there’s something valuable and worthwhile about doing that which makes others happy because it’s a reward in itself. Of course, certainly, if you’re sacrificing yourself in totality for another, that feels wrong too. A healthy balance, as is the case with most things, seems the proper course of action.

That said, is there some truth to the notion of how we envision our lives when we grow up, specifically along the respective gender perspectives? Personally, I know I have always wanted to be the “protagonist of my own story” as it were, but what about women? I’m not one, obviously, so I can’t really speak for them. But this quote comes from a woman and obviously, that doesn’t engender her to speak for all women either. However, I feel as if this goes in conjunction with other posts I have done with respect to female characters in fiction.

As the author Kelsey McKinney put it in her article, why does it seem as if most female characters’ story arc and inner journey revolves around men? She says, “Literary girls don’t take trips to find themselves; they take trips to find men.” Since art imitates life, is that true of life too? Is Penny on to something with her quote there?

Again, I’m not a woman; I’m just musing here, but what do women want out of life? Are men the protagonist of their story? Are they themselves the protagonist?

2 thoughts

  1. Martha Gellhorn put it wonderfully. She was married to Hemingway (wife #3) and when he complained about her working as a journalist (being overseas) her response was the refusal of “being a footnote in someone else’s life.” I liked that the moment I read it.

    I want to be the protagonist to my story. Independence is beautiful. 🙂


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