A Rebuttal to the Attack on Strong Female Characters

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.

The End.



37 thoughts on “A Rebuttal to the Attack on Strong Female Characters

  1. Whenever people start quoting a book of parables as the Bible as an authority for any argument, they already lose all credibility in my perspective. That article was an epic fail.

    You blog response was brilliant. I agree. I must reblog.

  2. Reblogged this on GIP and commented:
    Sara is absolutely right. This article is super idiotic.

    Pro tip from the GIP: The bible, whoever as much it means to you, it’s not a valid authority or does it have the credibility to support any argument. It’s a book written by man, period.
    If that’s the case, I can quote Mark Twain or Stepheny Meyer for scientific argument and let’s face, it won’t pass.

  3. So, I guess this quote kind of sums up this guy’s argument: “She’s worth dying for used to mean something. If there’s nothing precious or exalted about women, why should men bother?” So women have NO value unless they’re subservient, helpless objects? Apparently men have no worth unless they can “protect” women and fight for them? I mean, from what? This isn’t 10,000 B.C. I read this guy’s article, but all I heard was “waaaaaaaah I wish it was the year 200 again so men could have all the rights and women stayed at home and didn’t talk!”

  4. I’ve trained with numerous women over the last eight years of martial arts study (aikido). Two of the strongest, best aikidoka I’ve ever worked with are small woman – the one isn’t even shoulder height to me.

    Of course, this particular martial art was developed a 5’2″ Japanese man born in the late-19th century (who was a soldier and caravan guard as well). He also developed it with the intent of defense against multiple opponents (randori is a standard practice with 3-4 attackers against one person).

  5. Loved your comments. I would really like to be able to kick butt the way a female action star can. There are so many butts that truly do need kicking. However, I do need to say that as a 5 foot 4 inch woman, there are plenty of men around that are indeed smaller than I am -and they would lose to me in a wrestling match -couch potato anyone? I hate these broad gender identities that people come up with. Nice response. 🙂

  6. Great rebuttal, I am not going to bother reading that guy’s article. I don’t want to give him clicks. Really liked your last paragraph, people should protect people because it is the right thing to do. Fantastic.

  7. I really enjoyed your post, Sara! I watched Rey struggle to survive in the first part of “The Force Awakens”, breaking a sweat and acting on her instinct to survive. Her strength wasn’t magical, it was survival.

    I am a black belt and current practitioner of the Martial Arts (and author), and one great thing about studying the art of Hapkido, is that pressure points are highly visible on men with big arms like Mr. Alberson. His huge muscles might actually be a weakness in my area of study, even though they might be bigger than mine. it doesn’t matter how gigantic limbs are… they will all break at the same weak point.

    I know Mr. Alberson does not study any form of Martial Arts, because all of the posters here would concur that it takes the tender heart out of you, if you are forced to pick defending your life over someone who has attacked you. Survival and the will to live is huge for men an women, and with proper training (with a weapon like Rey, too!) Martial Arts can balance tender hearts and small frames.

    We certainly don’t live in movies, and we certainly don’t live in the same time period in which the Bible was written, but I do know one thing… I can break concrete with my small little hand.

  8. Great article and as great as it is to see women or female presenting people kick butt like Rey, it’s also good to see characters like Finn (it’s good to see vulnerability in a male character), it’s even better to see characters like Rey and Finn working together :). However, I do think we still have a long way to go before female representation is even close to the same level with male representation in the media.

  9. First thought: I’m not tall, not slim, not strong! However I can give a mean kick, I throw stuff reasonable accurate and I know how to defend myself. Second: My boyfriend, neighbor and coworkers don’t look like Bruce Lee or 007 and although, One was a kickbokser 10 years ago. I doubt he would still pack a punch like any of the movie characters , or be performing hero like actions.
    Luckily a female mind is just as creative as that of a man and we are able to enjoy strong characters we can identify with. .
    And the religion thing,…. (shaking head) I’m imagining an animal print rug and a bone to change the tv channel. If he really can’t come up with more creative arguments, he should keep his slippers on and eat another bag of chips, and maybe think some more before trying this again.

    Happy your wrote an answer!

    1. Hah great imagery! Totally agreed on the religion thing. I have no issues in regards to religion, but I’m sure many Christians wouldn’t appreciate this guy’s interpretations ;p

  10. Excellently written post. The educated society is trying to break away from gender stereotype because we’re starting to see each other as equals. Some men want to be home and take care of the house and children and some women want to go out and work, be the money maker for the house. This shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone. To believe that a woman is physically weak and it is wrong to portray women as superheroes (Buffy, Rey, River, Xena) and being able to kick ass of whoever is their opponent is levels of stupid. The 21st century is hell bent on changing everything and turning everything upside down because it’s bringing out the best in them. If we stuck to the age old idea of men are made to protect women and women should be weak and servile, there would be absolutely no progress. Our intelligence would probably deteriorate along with the gene pool.

  11. Wow! I love how you wrote this! Admittedly, normally I avoid rebuttle blogs because they insight indignation and bad-taste-in-the-mouth emotions about things I normally am not upset about. But you are so clear, calm, and tactful! And Rey and River caught my eye, but you know.

    I appreciate especially that you back up everyone presented in the original argument. Thank you for this. We need more rebuttles like this, which are not out to insult anyone, but are still “strong enough” to stick up for the accused party.

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