My family loves a good super hero movie. We rarely miss one in the theatre. Black Panther was no exception. In part we saw it because we see all the Marvel films and this looked good, it looked like it would be entertaining. (It was by the way.) It was more than that though, it was important. We are not black. (Obviously you've seen my photo, you know this.) But it was important for my two white daughters to see a black hero. I won't say it was as important for them as it was for the black men, women and children who sat beside and around us in the theatre. Perhaps it was close, real close, because my hope is as they see and love Black Panther no differently than Captain America or Thor (and they love the Captain a lot), it will mean they see and love their black classmates, neighbors and friends no differently than the white ones.
This film was important. Representation is important. Heritage is important. Getting outside of ourselves and our comfort zones and seeing the world with empathy is important. It was just a movie but it was more, it meant something to people and I felt that. I cheered for that. We should all cheer for that. We should all seek to understand and applaud that.
There was a surprise in it for me that I hadn't expected though. The women...strong, mighty women. Because, y'all...I mean if you haven't seen the film then you won't know but if you have than you do know...the portrayal of women in Black Panther was powerful. When I took my girls to see Wonder Woman last year I knew it would mean something to me. I knew it would be important and empowering. (I cried, y'all, and if you want to read my gushing over Wonder Woman you can here.) But I hadn't gone into Black Panther thinking the same would happen for me. It did, because in those women I again saw what I could be, what my girls could be. What we should be.
This weekend while speaking at my church, a portion of my sermon touched on ideas of Biblical womanhood. After the services were done and I was driving my girls to lunch I was reminded of the women of Wakanda, and how they were an example of that Biblical Womanhood. Here's what I think we can learn from Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye.
1. We are strong.
They were strong. I'm not just talking physical strength but mental and emotional. These women knew who they were, their identity was firmly rooted in something greater than outward beauty (though they were beautiful). They were not insecure. They were not timid. They were warriors ready to fight beside and for their king. In Genesis 2:18 it says, "The Lord God said, 'it is not good for man to be alone, I will create a helper fit for him." So God created Eve for Adam. To go a little deep here, in the Hebrew the phrase 'helper fit for' is EZER KENEGDO. EZER is from two root words which mean strength and power. KENEGDO means comparable to, equal to. Adam had a divine purpose in this world and God created for him a partner, someone woman enough, who would have the strength and power needed to walk beside him and properly support him in that purpose. She was not weak. She was not less than. The women of Wakanda submitted to the authority of their king, their leader, but that didn't mean they had to lose their voice or walk away from their own divine purpose, it did not mean they were inferior in any way. In fact, just as they were woman enough to support their king, he was man enough to empower them. He was not insecure and jealous of them but saw them as an advocate, a benefit to his rule. We can be strong, independent women and still submit to Godly leadership and authority. (Oh, I could go on and on about this but then this would be super long so I'll move on.)
2. We should walk in our unique gifts and passions.
The three main female characters were beautifully unique. Okoye was the fierce and loyal warrior. Shuri the carefree scientist and engineer. Nakia the compassionate humanitarian. They all sought to serve their king. They all sought to protect their people. They all wanted to do all they could for the benefit of Wakanda. Yet they each pursued those ends out of their individual gifts and talents. They didn't let pride and comparison hinder their purpose. They weren't preoccupied with trying to be someone else, or fit a certain mold. They were whole in their own skin. As women, we need to be whole in our own skin, in who God created us to be. Our identity should be rooted in Christ and who He says we are, doing what He created for us to do. There is not a mold you need to fit. Not as a wife, mother, or woman. It is okay to be uniquely yourself, to follow those God-given passions and use them to serve His purposes. (Bonus Material: Black Panther actress, Letitia Wright talked about her personal relationship with God and finding her identity in Him, here, at the 3 minute mark. It's so good.)
3. We need to fight for each other.
Too often as women we spend so much time fighting one another. We bicker, We name call. We bully. We manipulate. We put one another down because of our own insecurities. These three women fought for one another, beside one another. They served a common purpose and that defined their interactions with each other. The same should be true of us. The way we treat others should speak the Gospel to the world around us, that is our common purpose. So whether you work or stay at home, are married or single, have kids or don't, we all share the mission of the Great Commission and a huge part of fulfilling that comes from the way we treat one another. (That goes for the men in our lives too.) Rather then bicker and fight and compete, we should encourage and support and protect each other.
They were whole in their own skin.
As women, we need to be whole in our own skin, in who God created us to be.
I was glad my daughters saw a black superhero, a noble king who led with honor and grace. (My five year old thought he was just awesome.) I am also so very glad they got an expanded picture of what it looks like to be strong women, of what I think it looks like to be a godly woman. You can disagree with my take if you want. I have seen some say that they felt the portrayal of women in Black Panther was overtly feminist. Perhaps it was. But I don't think feminist is a dirty word. I think that God values women and their contributions. I think He created every woman with just as much passion and purpose as men, including the ability to lead and pastor. I think God created women to be strong and powerful. I think God intended for women to be fierce warriors who are equal to the men in their lives and can submit to Godly authority out of their strength not out of any weakness. I think that God doesn't put women in a box, that He never intended for there to be a glass ceiling. If that is feminist than I guess I'm an overt feminist, though I like to call myself a biblical feminist. (I asked my husband how he felt about that and he told me it was cool because it was one of the reasons he loved me. That's one of the many reasons I love him.)