As children, most young boys are fascinated by the knight in shining armor who faces a fate worse than death in the attempt to rescue the princess. It’s a dream of dragons and castles, magic and myth. Some may call it childish, but deep down in our hearts, we all yearn for a princess to rescue, dragons to slay, and a life of adventure. We are all yearning for a quest.
My Patron Saint, the individual that I hope my life reflects, is Saint George, the Red Cross Knight. According to legend, this wandering warrior comes across a land plagued by a dragon with flaming breath, razor sharp claws and a spiked tail. Each year a maiden must be sacrificed to it, chosen at random. This time, it is the princess that has been chosen as it’s next victim. For three days, he battles this beast, his sword wounding but never killing. Each night he falls exhausted to the ground, but rises each day to continue the fight. On the third day, his sword finds true and strikes the killing blow.
He wins the girl, and they live happily ever after. Or so we want to believe.
Society has given us a picture perfect example of what we should expect in our princesses. Beautiful. Helpless. Waiting to be rescued.
It’s hard to find a princess like that. Now days, our princesses are no longer helpless. They wield bows and arrows, stand on the front line of battle, and are willing to risk everything in a fight. Our princesses are more like Joan of Arc, decked out for war.
To many times we still try to force one another into these molds. The guy rescuing the girl, slaying the dragon in the process. As much as I love this story, it needs to be thrown out the window. Why can’t the girl fight on her own? Or stand side by side with the guy? Or better yet, why can’t the girl rescue the guy?
We have Anna and Elsa. And Merida. We can even go back to Mulan. And now, Star Wars has brought us Rey. We are changing what it means to be a princess. And acknowledging how much that is changing the role of the knight in shining armor.
You see, I know many strong, powerful women. I watched them wield chainsaws for the past two years, swing sledge hammers, and stand before the flames of wildfires and prescribed burns with no fear. I work alongside them, as they are willing to stand for those who need them the most.
UPDATE: As a good friend of mine shared with me, these are not the only types of strong women. It should be noted that the warrior princesses of this world come in many forms, from the ladies that I have worked beside in the world of conservation, to women like my sister who raise children and run the home. They are police officers, firefighters, nurses, students, mothers and daughters. They are the warriors who are brave enough to stand up for themselves and for others they may or may not know. They are lovers and wanderers. Their armor is their strength, their pasts that they have escaped, and these princesses don’t always wear make up. They are the girl behind the coffee counter working their way through school and fighting for independence. They are the single lady with a child in tow working long hours because she has the strength to leave an abusive relationship. They are the women who gather together to strengthen one another, to reach out to others who need support. They are the widow who continues on after their knight has fallen in battle.
Strong women can change the world, just as much as a knight in shining armor. They can work in union. They are equals in the field of battle, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as individuals. But like all teams, they complement one another.
This is the story that we need to be writing. A knight and a princess standing shoulder to shoulder, facing dangers together as friends and companions. As equals.