So my friend showed me this article this morning. Needless to say, she was a bit outraged, as are many women and men alike. Though the outright ridiculous claims don’t really merit a response, I’m going to give one anyhow, because, you know, I’m a woman so I’m too weak to physically fight anyone, so I just have to run my mouth instead. Can you guess what the article is about? I’ll post it below, but in the interest of not wanting to give the article any more reads than necessary, I’ll sum it up for you: Women should not be kicking butt in movies, because they are physically incapable. Sure, there are some female wrestlers that can kick butt (steroids were mentioned as a reason), but for the most part women are smaller in men, therefore we could never hope to fight them. As a writer of strong female characters, I feel the need to defend them.
Here’s the article:
And here is my rebuttal:
I’ll try to stick to the few main points made by the author: 1) Women are too small to fight (while men are biologically preordained to protect us). 2) Men can’t really function without a woman to protect in some way. This protection is how they gain their dignity.
First, as just referenced, religion is used to “support” this man’s views. I’m going to go ahead and leave religion out of this, as I know not everyone in the country believes the same things, and therefore we should not base our gender roles on a single religion. I have no problem with religion. You do you, I’ll do me, but please do not impose gender stereotypes on me based on your belief system. With that out of the way, let’s skip to science.
This entire article is based on the “fact” that men are the biologically superior fighters and protectors, yet little evidence is given to support this, except that most men are larger than women. Sure, if a large, muscled man and a small women were to have a wrestling match, we can probably guess who wins…but are the females in these movies wrestling? Nope. The writer of this article has clearly never been to a female self-defense class. I have, because I’m a weak, scared, little woman. With proper technique, a 100 pound woman can flip a 200 pound man over her back to throw him down onto the concrete. She doesn’t even have to be fit to do so. It’s about proper technique and a bit of leverage. Now, I’ll admit, it’s maybe a bit ridiculous for one woman to take on a whole gaggle of experienced male fighters, but it’s ALSO ridiculous for a man to do it. The author of the article cites Rey from Star Wars as an example. It was just so unbelievable for her to take on those men, yet I’m assuming it would have been believable for Finn to do it. In truth, if both of them had been training in martial arts for many years, they both probably could have done it. Finn would have had some extra strength to back up his blows, but Rey, with her small, agile body, would have had the speed. In fact, there are many fighting styles that focus on giving the advantage to smaller fighters who can use their speed and dexterity to take down larger opponents. Brazilian Ju Jitsu is just one of many examples. Basically, not all fighting techniques are about size, many take into account speed or agility, traits where smaller sized opponents are biologially superior. Now, I’m sure some people may be shaking their heads right now, saying, “But how many women out there are actually trained in martial arts?”….but we’re talking about female action stars here. If it’s believable for male action stars to suddenly be martial arts experts, it’s just a believable for females.
The next comments I found extremely troubling were the comments on men’s dignity. Men do not, I repeat, do not need a woman to protect in order to be considered a man. Men come in all shapes and sizes, just like women. Some are fighters, some are scientists, some are nurses, some are artists, some are fashion designers. They are all men with their dignity fully intact. In my opinion, the only thing that could take away a man’s dignity is if he commits negative acts against innocent people, be they men or women. If a man is dating a female fighter, and she protects him when they get mugged on the street, his dignity is still fully intact. The article’s author may claim that portraying strong women in movies is what’s wrong with the world. I’d say the fact that SOME men (and women, to be fair) are bothered by these fictional characters teaching little girls that they can be strong, and that they don’t need men to protect them is what’s wrong with the world.
If a man protects another man or woman, it’s not about fulfilling or going against gender roles. It’s about basic human decency. I agree that the strong should protect the weak, but those roles have nothing to do with gender. These cut and dry gender roles are just as damaging to men as they are to women.
The author also mentioned the back stories of women in these movies, and how they’re often motivated by either: protecting their children, or not being able to have children, etc. Would you like to know why this is a backstory for many women? Probably, now this is just a guess, but it’s probably because women do tend to give birth to children. If we want to go all into biology as our supporting reason, there it is. Secondariliy, if someone wants kids, and isn’t physically capable of having them, it’s sad. It’s sad whether you are a man or a woman. It makes for good character backstory.
Now, backstory aside, we know that these action movies are ridiculous, but it’s not because women are taking down loads of enemies. It’s because PEOPLE are taking down loads of enemies. It’s a bit ridiculous for either gender to be so proficient. I think it’s important to portray strong men and women alike. I also think it’s important to portray emotionally vulnerable, compassionate men and women alike. We have a choice in who we become. Women are not doing men a disservice by being strong. Men are doing men a disservice for judging each other on how well they protect women. Men should protect others because it’s the right thing to do. Women should protect others because it’s the right thing to do. Neither should act to simply live up to the gender roles laid before them. In fact, I believe true strength lies in breaking those gender roles, despite the judgement and hatred one might incur as a result. True strength lies in accepting others, and gender has nothing to do with it.