Rose the Stoic

1997 Titanic Poster,  20th Century Fox & Paramount Pictures

1997 Titanic Poster, 20th Century Fox & Paramount Pictures

Stoicism is often thought of as a manly virtue in modern Western culture. “Keep a stiff upper lip”, don’t show emotion, be brave in the face of adversity. Modern Stoicism is less about the stiff upper lip and more about living a good and happy life.

Although there are women interested in Modern Stoicism, I think we’re outnumbered by men, or at least we don’t post as much on the various Stoic forums. This may be partly because the forums tend to be filled with armchair academics shouting at each other and militant atheists shouting at everybody. I think it’s also because “stoic” still carries that connotation of “manly”. So below I present to you what I think is an example (fictional) of female stoicism.

In Titanic, Rose and Jack fall in love and then (spoiler alert!) Jack dies. Previous to this tragic event, Jack convinces Rose that life is worth living, and they make extensive lists of things to do together. One of the tropes of the movie is that elderly Rose doesn’t go anywhere without her collection of framed photos. If you look closely, the framed photos are photos of Rose doing all the things that she and Jack had planned to do together. And she’s smiling in each one.

Rose lived through the adversity of losing her lover and dear friend, and went forward to live her life to the fullest. She didn’t forget about Jack, but neither did she live her life as a woman in mourning. She made the best of the gifts that Jack and fate had given her. She went on to be happy and live a virtuous life according to her definition of virtuous. That, I think, is a pretty good example of a female behaving in a stoic manner even if it isn’t my favorite movie ever.

So females can be Stoics too. I do wonder if we need a separate “lady stoic” group to encourage the women to speak more. And kudos to you brave women who do speak up on the existing Stoic forums!

If you want to learn more about Stoicism, I suggest: 

  • Stoicism and the Art of Happiness – Ancient Tips For Modern Challenges by Donald Robertson
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine.
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