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01 July 2011 @ 10:12 pm
Women Warriors  
So over at SF Signal, Joel Shepherd has a guest post talking about how to write good female action heroes. It's a great post; to sum up, less eloquently, he posits that the key is to let her be the hero of her own story, which: YES.

However, rather than focusing on the positive, I'm going to address something brought up in the comments, which I've seen in discussions about women action heroes in the past, namely, that women wouldn't be able to hold their own in combat, a topic which Joel Shepherd and Tom Lloyd discussed in some of their posts over at Babel Clash (an interesting series of posts which also covered writing gods, among other things.) In this case, the commenter says that that's basically writing women as men with breasts, and that we (writers and film makers?) shouldn't make women assume the roles of men, as that is unrealistic.

For my own reference when this kind of discussion comes up again, and in case anyone else is interested, a cursory skim of history indicates that women have been in combat for as long as there's been combat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_warrior; also in stories about combat for as long as there have been stories about combat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_women_warriors_in_folklore; and that many actual women have felt strongly enough about being in combat to disguise themselves as men if that was the only way they could fight: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossdressing_during_wartime. Some of these Polly Olivers weren't discovered to be women until after their service; some of them not until after their deaths; and some were found out and suffered for it. To call women such as these not-women and to denigrate their stories as impossibly unrealistic is to ignore actual history-- not to mention a slap to women currently in the military.
karen_w_newton: me in Mexicokaren_w_newton on July 2nd, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
Hi, Renee! I saw this post referenced in your tweet. It always seemed to me that women's success as warriors would depend a lot on how they were trying to fight. For example, I don't think the medieval 20-lb broadsword would work well as a weapon for most women, but archers can certainly be female. Likewise as long as speed and skill count, as in hand-to-hand combat, women are going to be on a more equal footing. And once you get to the gun stage, the playing field really levels out.

Did you happen to see this video?

Edited at 2011-07-02 03:55 am (UTC)
renesearsrenesears on July 2nd, 2011 04:02 am (UTC)
Oh, I totally agree that the how of fighting matters. In the Sasha books, Joel Shepherd really laid out that her fighting style was successful because it relied on speed and agility, and a lot of her opponents didn't know how to defend against it. Also she's clearly an Olympic-level athlete & her sport is kicking ass. I just find these conversations about how it's impossible that women could ever hold their own in combat tiresome because it's actually happened, in pretty much every historical era.

That video is awesome! Made me smile throughout.
karen_w_newtonkaren_w_newton on July 2nd, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it!
(Anonymous) on July 2nd, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
Women Warriors
I would add my favorite, Queen Nzinga (or Njinga or Nzingu or various spellings) of Angola (d. 1663). She led warriors in battle against African rivals and the Portuguese. Made alliances with the Dutch to counterbalance Portuguese incursions. She converted to Christianity and, if you believe some stories, also to cannibalism, for political benefit (I would discount the cannibalism chatter, but it makes a cool story, and she used it to enhance her fearfulness). She is a novel or movie waiting to happen.
renesearsrenesears on July 2nd, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Women Warriors
Thank you, I'm not familiar with her. Will definitely look her up. She sounds fascinating-- both badass and pragmatic.
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