Perception is everything.
First of all, don't jump on me for not using the word 'heroine' in the title. I know some will, but playing the politically correct game of appeasement by referencing Serena's gender is missing the point. An argument pitting men and women against each other in a battle for equality and respect is not what this is about.
If I have to identify your race, gender, social class, physical characteristics or public perception in order to make my intended point poignantly enough, (or for people to take notice), then the equality you seek is still way off - and the use of 'appropriate adjectives' aren't going to swing the balance.
However, perception is everything.
A hero is defined in many ways, such as 'aiding the lives of others through selfless accomplishments or overcoming adversity linked to bravery, skill or strength.' Historically, hero depictions tended to be literary works describing feats of real, or imaginary, male characters embodying all, or part, of this description. We all know that most people mentally process information in a way that suits them.
However, I'm not responsible for the decisions of those who choose to typecast men in the role of hero; nor the cognitive priming that exists within the entertainment and media portrayals which habitually exploit this trend today without conscious thought.
But, perception is everything.
I obviously have opinions on gender, race-relations, politics and social class but so do the seven billion others on the planet. The socially sensitive topics of conversation in 2016, dominated by US presidential campaigns, police brutality and EU referendums has opinions running wild on the tips of tongues worldwide; however, that's a market I don't want to trade in.
Opinions are often an abomination of misinterpreted or misguided social constructions masquerading in the minds of individuals as fact.
However, perception is everything
Sometimes, sports can give us a welcome escape. Serena Williams has just become arguably the greatest athlete in her world-renowned discipline. Not just in opinion but in facts. Yet the global recognition in comparison has been lacking parity based on this objective measure.
I shouldn't have to say my hero is a black, female, working class, physically impressive individual, who overcame tragedy and adversity, yet divides public perception, for it to resonate or have gravitas. I didn't write this to engage any argumentative back and forth, I wrote it for Serena. In the hope, that amongst the divided public opinion she might see, objectively, what she has done.
My hero overcame obstacles impeding the path. Many didn't want that hero to succeed or reach the pinnacle, often casting them as the villain. Three times prior, they fell when the opportunity presented itself. Some laughed. Analysts correctly highlighted that the unstoppable force of time is the hero's enemy. Yet still, they were undeterred.
I can only speculate what the response would have been if the hero had faltered again. Regardless, they would have remained inspirational to me. Not everybody is aware that the hero doesn't always have to 'win' in the objective manner. Many of my heroes didn't win. When obstacles include rejection, socio-psychological inhibitions, self-doubt and marginalisation amongst other things, 'winning' takes on many forms; such as just 'being there' when the reverberating undercurrent suggests that you're not 'entitled' to.
But, perception is everything.
I would be lying if I said my personal characteristics, experiences and opinions that make me identify with Serena, aren't influential. No doubt the additional understanding from my own background adds depth to this hero depiction. However, that story is for another day. Our perceptions, as fallible men and women, can lie but numbers don't. 22 and counting. Even without my technicoloured insight of identification; today, this achievement should make Serena everybody's hero. But she isn't.
Nevertheless, Serena's objective achievement, free from my biased perspective, has positively, (and productively), energised my educational and psychological teachings for a very long time - especially today. She has fulfilled the criteria for hero in my mind. Her achievements have enriched the lives of others and she should enjoy this moment. Most heroes don't even know they are such. They're just 'normal' people doing things that are 'normal' to them. Others just perceive them to be heroic, most of the time when the hero didn't ask for it. That is where much of the burden comes for them. However, their continuation in the face of this is what provides us with hope...
But then again, perception is everything!
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