Winding my way down the Amazon, through Angelina to a whole new world of wonder women

Despite the fact that 5 times more people use the internet to watch cat videos than do online shopping , Amazon, the online retail group is used by over 244 million people! It started out in 1994 as an online bookstore but it is now truly living up to its name.

do on web

The Amazon River, after which it is named, is just shorter than the Nile but in terms of quantity of water, it is the largest river in the world. In fact the fresh water pouring out of it in to the Atlantic Ocean dilutes the salt water for as far as 160 kms!

At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, in 1535, the river had different names: Rio Grande (Great River), Mar Dulce (Sweet Sea) and Rio da Canela (Cinnamon River). The Spaniards encountered hostile female warriors from the Icamiaba tribe who defeated them soundly. This so impressed them that they changed the name of the river to Amazon, in a reference to the female warrior tribe from Greek Mythology.

This mythology is about a race of female warriors called the Amazons, who dwelt in the region of modern-day Ukraine. No men were allowed to live there. However, in order to continue their race, once a year, these women would visit a nearby tribe called Gargareans. After having sexual intercourse with them, the women would return home; they would keep all baby girls that were born, but the male babies were either killed, sent to their fathers, or left in a forest to die.

The most popular explanation for the name of the tribe claimed that Amazones was a derivation of a, “without,” and mazos, “breasts”; another explanation suggested ama-zoosai, meaning “living together,” or possibly ama-zoonais, “with girdles.” The idea that Amazons cut or cauterized their right breasts in order to have better bow control offered a kind of savage plausibility that appealed to the Greeks.

It is from this mythical tribe that we have the story of Wonder Woman, the movie, in theatres this month. This latest superheroine movie had me thrilled to bits. I went with a cautious enthusiasm tinged with a lot of wariness in case this movie would also have tokenistic and one dimensional female characters and I would be disappointed once again. But it did not happen and it was all I could do to stop cheering in the theatre !

It is not a perfect film (and many reviewers have cribbed, rightly, about its lack of intersectionality and a very limited feminism) but I think that just its existence is such a breath of fresh air !

I have not seen a Hollywood film named after and centered only on an empowered woman in a very, very long time ! Probably since Erin Brokovitch ? Ms Pepper from Iron Man series was deeply annoyingly caricatured and although X Men had some amazing characters like Storm and Jean Gray and Mystique, they were never explored as well as Wolverine was.

Wonder Woman’s supporting team of ‘liars, murderers and smugglers’ are all at the fringes of society; including a Scotsman, a man of Middle Eastern origin and a native American, who says very casually that his people were destroyed and when asked by whom—shrugs towards the white male in their team. Chris Pine plays an ‘almost woke’ man. Still doing a bit of mansplaining, ‘let me protect you and tell you what to do’ stuff, but getting to the right place soon.

wonder woman

It was a sheer delight to see Robin Wright on screen after ages ( not since Forrest Gump really), and the main role played by the Israeli Gal Gadot who was apparently 5 months pregnant during the shooting of some scenes and had to use a green screen on her abdomen. It would have been interesting if they HAD showed her pregnant though, or making a choice not to be….A whole new movie is possible already !

There were so many ‘in’ jokes about girls wearing glasses, men being useful for procreation only, crossing the No Man’s Land to rescue everyone. Of course a small nagging doubt remains that like #femvertising maybe they are just pandering to a growing demand for women empowerment tropes or situations for the sake of the audience…. But even if so, I think it opens a door that will not be easy to close again.

It may be cheesy, but seeing the old white male War God being defeated by this fierce (yet kind) new feminine order was a real thrill. They might as well as done some sky writing there saying “Smash the Patriarchy!”

The actress looked so much like a young Angelina Jolie, who is perhaps one of the real life wonder woman of our times. Besides an amazing career on screen and as UN Ambassador, she has also raised a mix of 6 biological and adopted children, had a double mastectomy to reduce her inherited risk of breast cancer and moved on from a marriage when it stopped being worth it.


Pretty Amazonian I think.

As is Arundhati Roy, author turned political activist, Rupi Kaur, calling out and holding to account Instagram and Facebook for deleting her posts, Qandeel Baloch, murdered by her own brother for being outspoken on social media, Shireen Ebadi, speaking out despite the threats to her life in Iran, so many more for so many reasons…………but wonder woman is not only an uber successful high profile woman on a global platform.

My household help is a wonder woman too. She is a single mother, abandoned by her alcoholic husband who ran away after their first child was born. She is raising her son with the help of her mother (another super woman), while commuting 2 hours every day, working in 6 homes, managing the house and also supporting her younger sister who is studying for her 12th std exams.

My taxi driver last month was a wonder woman too. Again a single mother, living in the slums, decided to become a driver to support herself and now owns the taxi she has been driving for 4 years. She does not worry about her security she told me. Only about where to pee in a long journey since public toilets are so badly maintained in Mumbai.

The young women I have the privilege of working with, across Asia, in countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Philippines who are speaking out against controls on women’s bodies, who are helping other women find safe options, who are at the edge of the rising tide of wonder women, saving the world, one action at a time.

Wonder women. May we be them, may we know them, may we raise them !




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