The Queen of My Self

By Rosalie Maggio, CA

The words “hero” and “heroine” convey subtle — and sometimes not so subtle-differences to a reader or an audience. We need to use “hero” for both men and women. In 1939, Amelia Earhart wrote, “No one can scan the shelves of teen-age reading matter without being struck with the fact that girls are evidently not expected to join in the fun. There are no heroines following the shining paths of romantic adventure, as do the heroes of boys’ books.

For instance, who ever heard of a girl — a pleasant one — shipping on an oil tanker, say, finding the crew about to mutiny and saving the captain’s life (while quelling the mutiny) with a well-aimed disabling pistol shot at the leader of the gang! No, goings-on of this sort are left to masculine characters, to be lived over joyously by the boy readers.”

Things aren’t that different today. Once you set up women as a subset (a heroine is a female hero), there’s no longer any equality. To say that “hero” is the masculine form of the Greek word, while “heroine” is the feminine is really only useful if you are speaking Greek, which we are not.

Also, oddly, two of Greek mythology’s best-known lovers were named Hero and Leander, and Hero was not the manly half. Although theoretically it should be possible to use “hero” and “heroine” in a gender-fair manner, they are already subtly weighted in favor of the broader, more prestigious “hero” and, given the devaluation and discounting of woman-associated words in our language, it seems best to support one neutral term. Do you think of Norma Rae as a hero or a heroine? Joan of Arc — hero or heroine?

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™


The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to



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