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Where Did All The Warrior Women Go?

Updated on March 8, 2010

I was watching a clip in which Quentin Tarantino defended 'Kill Bill' as a movie suitable for children age 12 and up because it depicted women as being strong warriors who lived and died by a code, rather than silly little twits baring their midriffs and dancing about in an obvious plea for attention and permission to perhaps maybe kick ass a little bit if nobody minded too much.

Women have always been pressured to be 'feminine' a word that has come to mean dainty and servile and pretty and alluring. If I use the word 'feminine' in describing something, it is unlikely that the reading audience will take it that I mean something is strong and bold and honorable. Instead, it will nigh mean the opposite, weak and shy and easily lead astray. That, in and of itself, is exceptionally telling.

Whether you like Kill Bill or Tarantino or not, he raises a good point in his defense of Kill Bill. We have come to accept and adore ruthless, violent male characters as part of our psyche. But for a female to be ruthless and violent is only acceptable if she experiences some kind of victim hood first.

It is interesting that in pre-Islamic arabia, there were many warrior queens, including one by the name of Zenobia who was, by all accounts, about as ass kicking as any woman can be, but in the modern world, a world in which women are supposed to ostensibly be more equal than they ever have been before, women still, on the whole, take a back seat. Depictions of women in the media are still as passive objects of beauty. Aside from Ellen DeGeneres, it's hard to think of a red carpet event that doesn't effectively deteriorate into a 'who is the prettiest girl' contest, whilst the men mill about comfortably in their suits leering at the sea of cleavage laid out before them.

The same is true for female role models for younger women. Miley Cyrus, Jamie-Lynn Spears and their ilk are hardly strong figures. They're silly, giggly girls who were both pushed into adult roles before their time.

I can think of some strong female role models in perhaps, Xena Warrior Princess and La Femme Nikita, but many people have never heard of La Femme Nikita, which starred Peta Wilson, and it has been many years since Xena or anything remotely like it was made. In the last few years, there has been a considerable dearth of strong female characters and portrayal of strong femininity in the mass media.

We're pushing women back into petty, servile roles and we're doing it at a speed which is, quite frankly, mind boggling. The question is, why?


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    • Hope Alexander profile image

      Hope Alexander 7 years ago

      If you watch all 5 TV series, it gets plenty dark. La Femme Nikita is a gem that got utterly lost, and I really don't understand why. It was, in many ways, a show before its time. A counter terrorist show made before terrorism was actually news. Brilliant depictions of the choices between the many and the few and the sacrifices that 'must' be made to protect the 'innocent'. The producers went on to make what was essentially the same show but with willowy, whiny Jennifer Garner and it got a great deal more attention. Just another mystery of the modern world. Actually, not a mystery at all, just a reflection of the fact that audiences seem to prefer willowy whiny women in roles they could never realistically pull off. Gah!

    • profile image

      Got Metta? 7 years ago

      Good point, Hope

      Women can be strong and pretty, it makes them doubly attractive. “…dainty and servile and pretty and alluring” doesn’t do it. Deliberately helpless doesn’t do it either.

      Strong doesn’t need to mean violent. The world could use fewer warriors, of either gender. Characteristics like mindfulness, compassion, integrity and skillfulness are admirable traits in anyone, man or woman.

      One of the most impressive women that I’ve ever met was the (late) wife of one of my father’s friends. She was an engineer (first woman to attend her college and later on the board of trustees), ran her own business, shot a mean game of pool, and was an excellent carpenter. She was also refined, dignified and pretty. She was a friend and mentor to me, giving me a job while I was in high school and advice and a recommendation for college.

      Strong, competent women need to be role models for girls, but there’s also something to be said for being role models or mentors to boys, too. Men also need to see strong, competent women, especially in their formative years.

      Nikita (Peta Wilson) is very attractive. However, I found the movie version to be more dark and violent than the TV series.


      Got Metta?

    • HappyHer profile image

      HappyHer 7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Great hub with many good points. I believe a woman can be all that, feminine and still kick ass.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Points well taken, but what about the variety of strong roles that Helen Mirren has played, most recently as Countess Sofya Tolstoy in "The Last Station," or Elizabeth Taylor who faced off against Richard Burton in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", or Meryl Streep in a variety of strong roles, most recently in her epic battle with Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt." Casting women in strong roles doesn't necessarily require physical combat. If the focus is broadened beyond fluffy little Hollywood starlets in crap movies to include the great actresses you'll find examples of many powerful roles for women going back even to the early days of Hollywood.