Marvel’s Invisible Woman
Though I was unfamiliar with the character during a time in my youth when I enjoyed comic books and graphic novels, I later became aware of Marvel’s Invisible Woman, Sue Storm Richards.
According to one source:
Sue “possesses two powers: invisibility and force fields. Her invisibility power deals with bending light waves and allows her to render herself and other objects invisible. She can also project powerful fields of invisible psionic, hyperspace-based energy that she uses for a variety of offensive and defensive effects, including shields, blasts, explosions, and levitation.”
As a child, I thought invisibility would’ve been an interesting superpower. Now, add to that the ability to project force fields for offensive and defensive purposes, and the concept of Invisible Woman is appealing to me.
I wasn’t the sort of child who simplistically maintained that I needed to see people who looked like me in order to relate to a superhero. Though lacking knowledge and experience due to my age, I wasn’t so self-centered as to conceitedly demand representation of comic narratives.
Can you imagine reading a graphic novel and thinking, “I don’t see myself in this character’s race,” or, “How come this character isn’t the same sex as me?” How egotistical!
Nonetheless, as an adult, I now realize that there are many people with varying interpretations of reality. Not everyone would enjoy Invisible Woman or appreciates the power of imperceptibility.
Increasingly, I’ve become aware of how a growing number of woman apparently dislike being unseen. While I’m not foolish enough to overgeneralize by declaring this applies to all or most women, it would appear as though some or many women don’t care for their alleged invisibility within society.
When addressing this topic, I’m speaking solely about reproductive, romantic, intimate, and other such relationships, not those regarding employment, healthcare, or otherwise. Therefore, the framework referenced herein relates to that of a socio-romantic nature.
The claim that begins my assessment is, “Whether they are senior citizens, middle-aged fathers or barely able to drink legally, all men are inherently attracted to young women who are in their early 20s.”
I disagree with the notion that all men are attracted to young women, because this discounts those who are attracted to older women, other men, trees, inanimate objects, or who claim to have no attraction at all. Nevertheless, I understand the claim as it likely relates to straight men.
As is the case with many psychosocial phenomenon, pathologizing the experience of aging women who complain about being ignored has taken on a name: Invisible woman syndrome. One wonders if the same argument could be made about so-called incels.
Yet, I digress. Ostensibly, self-diagnosis isn’t exclusive only among teens, as some women are plausibly attributing their perceived invisibility to a concocted syndrome. What is invisible woman syndrome?
Though not categorically defined, one source states, “Aging isn’t easy on anyone, but there is a well-known social phenomenon called Invisible Woman Syndrome that can make it particularly hard on women. The feeling of not being seen is often acutely felt by middle-age women.”
One wonders about the “well-known” claim. To whom is this well-known? Is this a WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) world issue, or are woman in other parts of the globe also contesting their perceived invisibility?
Another source claims, “Where I see it most is in stores where young male cashiers will wait on and converse with the blonde cutie vs. the older woman who is shuffled along quickly or not seen or waited on at all. I see it in restaurants where older (especially women) are hastily waited on especially by young male waiters with little dialogue and connection.”
One supposes the ingredients for victimhood of this sort is as follows: One part your problem, two parts society failing to remedy your problem, a dash of whining, a pinch of shaming, and a squeeze of feminism. “I’m being ignored; therefore, males are to blame,” isn’t a dish I care to consume.
I appreciate the candor of one source reporting, “I feel invisible because of my age,’ is a leading thought in the minds of many women of a certain age. I did not say a specific age, nor did I say all women are faced with this dilemma.”
Still, an individual problem is then transferred to a collective as the source continues by stating, “I will say this, more women than not, as they age, feel invisible.” One wonders what benefit there is with colloquial misuse of the term “feel” in this context.
When working with clients, I assist by properly identifying what is meant when describing feelings-based statements. Generally speaking, feelings relate to emotions (i.e., joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, etc.) or bodily sensations (e.g., “I feel tightness in my chest.”).
Saying something like, “I feel invisible, because of my age,” isn’t necessarily accurate or helpful. Commonly, if you can replace “feel” or “feeling” with “think” or “thought,” you’re likely not describing an emotion or body sensation (e.g., “I think I’m invisible, because of my age.”).
One wonders just how many woman experience the cloak of invisibility related to how they think, envision, perceive, or interpret the world. Curiosity aside, this seems like an iss-YOU (issue)—a you problem, because it’s altogether a highly subjective matter.
Regarding how not all women claim to embody ghostly powers, one source evokes a peculiar conspiracy theory in relation to competing female perspectives. It states, “It’s crucial to note that opposing factions of women are rarely born in some destructively stereotypical ‘women hate other women’ vacuum, but rather are carefully nursed in the hothouse laboratory that is patriarchy.”
Ahh, yes. Patriarchy was hiding under a rock somewhere, just waiting to afflict women with its dastardly influence. It couldn’t possibly be that some women claim not to be obscured to the point of irrelevance, because men must be behind whether or not some women are unseen.
What use is a conspiracy theory without so-called “experts” to bring it all together? One source addresses the “anecdotal view that women become invisible in middle age,” purportedly from around 15-years-old to the age of 49, and, “Experts said the limited age framework stems from a focus on women of reproductive age.”
Regarding this matter, one suspects that concept creep is at play. This refers to a phenomenon whereby concepts traditionally associated with harm (e.g., trauma) have broadened in meaning over time.
What used to be a well-understood occurrence—women plausibly remaining less likely to produce as many offspring with age—has now become a matter with which apparently women struggle. In some cases, this biological likelihood is outright disputed.
According to one source, “There’s no expiration date for women. That has to go. Because you can kick ass at any age. You can hold your own at any age.”
Humans quite literally expire. One wonders why women would be immune to this truism. At any rate, idiomatically kicking ass “at any age” is to deny reality. If you “can hold your own at any age,” why are there not ultimate fighting championships for octogenarians?
Likewise, using an evolutionary biological standpoint, wouldn’t younger females (of legal age, of course) be more appealing to males for a number of reasons (i.e., ability to reproduce more offspring over time, “less jaded” when younger, etc.)? Are questions such as this even worthy of exploration in order to understand the world in which we live?
Or is it the vexing patriarchy that is to blame for reality not matching expectation? The problem with what is may be that it ought not to be. One wonders.
At any rate, it isn’t as though discussions about supposed invisible women aren’t occurring without properly focusing on women taking ownership. Not all women are allegedly victimized by indiscernibility from their environment.
One source highlights how “someone who experiences her own agency, who is aware of how she can and does have an impact on others and how she is, ultimately, the author of her own life. She is aware of the responsibility this carries.”
This is precisely my focus when treating clients using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Rather than taking an activist approach at changing society, I assist clients with changing the sole element over which they have control—themselves.
Unlike Sue Storm Richards, whose superpower of invisibility may be used to enrich her life and the lives of others, suppose I saw an imagined client named Jane Doe. Jane believes that while aging occurs, women are most affected.
She demands that people should, must, or ought not to treat her differently due to her age, as she rigidly maintains that she’s entitled to the attention and affection of men. How might Jane be wrong in her assessment?
Is it true that men must find Jane attractive? Should men forego preference, discernment, or orientation solely to placate Jane’s prescriptions of the world? Why ought men to do so?
Does the same logic follow in regards to incels? Must women find incels attractive? Should women forego preference, discernment, or orientation solely to placate incel’s prescriptions of the world? Why ought women to do so?
While Jane may wish not to be invisible to men, prefer not to go unseen, or like it better if she weren’t unnoticed, can she rationally require to be valued by others? Moreover, can Jane unconditionally accept herself even when others pay her no mind?
Is Jane capable of tolerating discomfort associated with her belief about perceived invisibility? As well, is it possible for Jane to find purpose and meaning aside from her apparent inconspicuous appearance?
Even when not beginning treatment with a helpful or healthy outlook, many of the clients with whom I work achieve the ability to understand and employ REBT concepts. Perhaps Jane could do so, as well.
Sue Storm Richards, Marvel’s Invisible Woman, not only had the power of invisibility; she could also project powerful force fields in a number of ways. One wonders if some women who perceive their own invisibility project their personal experiences on people to better understand the subjective world of others.
In this way, others are forced to field the irrational questions by people such as Jane—required to justify why the world is as it is and not as Jane thinks it ought to be. Herein, I’ve cited a number of sources which demonstrate precisely this sort of absurd reasoning.
Using REBT, people may not be able to change the world in which they live. They may not even be able to influence it. After all, we don’t live in the world of Invisible Woman where supernatural powers allow us to right perceived wrongs of the moment.
Nonetheless, people can learn to tolerate their experiences, accept what little control they have, and improve the quality of their lives by retaining agency and opting for healthier, more helpful behavior that better serves their interests and goals.
Are you tired of subscribing to make-believe syndromes that do little more than illustrate what is, leaving you upset with your belief about what it is you expect or think ought to be? Are you looking for a practical approach to the idea of your own invisibility?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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