High in the tower, Rapunzel sits, combing her long hair. She reclines by the window, in her luxuriously decorated room, surrounded by her books, her canopied bed, and perhaps, if she is anything like Princess Fiona from Shrek, her kung fu tapes. One day soon her prince will come on his white horse. He will call, and Rapunzel will let down her hair so he can climb up.
Once rescued from the tower, Rapunzel will ride behind the prince through the never-before-viewed countryside, into the dark forest, and over the blue ocean (they’ve exchanged the horse with a white sailboat, of course). The prince is taking her to his castle, and once they get there, Rapunzel might discover that she has traded one room in a tower with another room in a castle. Both lovely, and both, ultimately, the same.
After posting my blog about the dolphin rescue, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wondered: if there were only women on that beach when the dolphins were stranded, would they still have stood back and just watched, or would they have jumped in for the rescue? It occurred to me that the answer to this question is an obvious, resounding “Jumped!” Of course women would have saved the dolphins. But somehow, because there were men around, they did not. They stood back and allowed the men to be heroic.
I doubt I would have jumped in to save the dolphins either in the midst of these men. “I’m too weak,” I would have thought probably. “What if I can’t grab hold of the dolphin’s tail, or the dolphin starts twisting and turning in my grip? What if I fail? What if the men tell me to go away?”
At the beginning of the first Shrek movie, Fiona surprises Shrek with her impressive kung fu skill and beats up Robin Hood and his Merry Men. At the end of the film, however, Farquaad’s soldiers pull her back, and Fiona is suddenly helpless, allowing Shrek to rescue her. If Fiona can’t beat up two guards when her man is around, no wonder the rest of us can’t jump into the ocean to pull some dolphin tails back into the sea.
Is it that whenever men are watching, we women immediately become weak and powerless? Do we voluntarily (and perhaps involuntarily) give up our personal power, our own initiatives and allow the men to lead?
To us Rapunzels everywhere, I suggest we cut our own braids, tie them to the windowsill, and then let ourselves down. Why would we ever consider letting the prince climb up by holding on to our hair! It’s uncomfortable and painful and just plain dumb. I suggest we start changing our own lightbulbs and opening our own jars. The only tower I can see is the one we’ve built in order to keep ourselves inside — and surely there’s no reason to avoid the beautiful, open, green outdoors just to please a guy?