Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wonder Woman: Power through submission; peace through war

I'm not done thinking about this by a long shot, but I have some thoughts that I need to get down before I lose them. When I first realized that understanding bondage could be the key to unlocking the Warrior of Peace paradox in Wonder Woman, I knew that I was limited in my ability to figure it out on my own. I was thinking about domination and submission from a limited, traditional viewpoint in which the dominating person always holds power over the submissive person. It wasn't until Sarah from Geek Beaks pointed it out to me that I even considered the power of the submitter over the dominator.

Short of my actually interviewing someone who practices BDSM (something I've considered, but haven't done any work towards yet), she recommended that I read Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series, which I'm going to do. In the meantime though, I've done some pre-work in thinking about ways that a submissive person holds power. That's what I want to capture before I move on to Carey's novels, Charles Moulton's Wonder Woman comics, or even more of Noah Berlatsky's posts.

The saying goes that forgiveness takes power from the person who's wronged you. Revenge takes resources, so when I set out to avenge a wrong against myself, I may feel like I'm taking control, but I'm actually letting someone else manipulate me. That's the closest I can get to understanding the power-through-submission paradox. Forgiveness feels like submission, but it's actually seizing power from the person who's wronged me. The most peace I've ever been able to achieve in my life is when I've been able to fully submit to the idea that I'm not the most important person in the room. And that peace is powerful, because no one can touch it. If it comes from a place of submission in the first place, no amount of domination is going to be able to take it away.

I don't know if this is what's going on in BDSM submissiveness or not, so I'm curious to learn more, but it gives me a place to start as I begin reading Moulton's comics. I'll be interested in seeing Wonder Woman's reactions to being tied up and dominated. If she resists, then I've got to rethink this. But the miscellaneous scans I remember seeing of these situations all show Wonder Woman as calmly accepting of her forced submissiveness. If that's her normal reaction, then I may be onto something. By allowing herself to be tied up, Wonder Woman gains power. How she gets free should also be interesting to see and think about.

Another question though is whether or not the power-through-submission paradox has any bearing on the peace-through-violence one. I need to do some research here too, but I think maybe it does. My wife helped me think a lot of this through, so credit where it's due, but there seems to be something to the idea that the people who are best at war are those least excited to go there. If that's true, does loving peace make you a better warrior?

Lots to think about.


Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

This was a real interesting post. The early history of WW is fascinating and I appreciate the research you have done into it. I missed my WW post this week so this fills the hole I left.

Sarah said...

Glad to see I provoked some thinking for you!

Your last paragraph made me think about another thing I've seen represented often in novels I've read--that those who least want power are the best ones to have it, from the perspective of those being ruled.

I think you're definitely on to something with thinking about manipulation & how it relates to diametrically opposed philosophies somehow working in tandem with each other.

I want to explain more about the power of the submitter (when truly submitting) but find myself frustrated currently in being unable to properly articulate my thoughts.

Perhaps the true power only comes when the one being dominated truly submits, rather than pretending to submit? As you say, the peace coming from truly accepting/submitting is untouchable by its very nature.


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