No one would be surprised to hear me say that strong female protagonists are very dear to me 🙂 To be honest, I may not judge a book by its cover, but I certainly evaluate it by its female characters and roles they are given.
Therefore I wanted to write a series of posts about female characters in fantasy and fiction, not only in literature but also in movies, video games, series etc.
Instead of simply making lists of best-most awesome-whatever characters in different categories, I will cover multiple topics. Today is about warrior women in fantasy/fiction.
There’s a problem I have with most of the “warrior woman” characters: Usually (and unfortunately), the warrior woman’s only strength is her sexiness. I mean, look at her armor!
Our philosophy teacher in high school used to say “Always start your reasoning with a definition.” So there we go:
Armor (from wordreference):
- Any covering that serves as a defense or protection against weapons.
- Any defensive covering, esp that of metal, chain mail, etc, worn by medieval warriors to prevent injury to the body in battle.
As we can see, the purpose of an armor is to protect the body (especially the vital organs). Mysteriously however, when it comes to representing female warriors in fantasy-fiction we find ourselves with boobplates, skimpy, chainmail nipple pasties and so on. As if the people who designed the attire thought “OK, I need to draw an armor, it needs to be metal and stuff but 1st of all, it needs to be sexy.”
Apart from being very sexy, none of the armors shown on the image above could protect you, not even from the natural elements 🙂
This is the female wizard from Diablo III:
This is her male counterpart:
The sexist set of mind, which wants to assign attributes like strength and valor exclusively to males, automatically assumes that a female cannot fight anyway, so doesn’t linger on any practical aspect of the character, her attire or her equipment. She just needs to be sexy, because that’s what’s expected from her.
Of course men and women are different. Women don’t have the same strength but it doesn’t mean that they just cannot fight at all. They have a bigger tolerance to pain, stronger instincts, are more flexible and have a better sense of equilibrium. By the way, most of those attributes vary from one men to another too. That’s why there exists multiple types of fighting styles to begin with. Fighting isn’t just taking turns at hitting your opponent with all the force you can gather until one of you eventually dies.
Fantasy is a genre where we don’t need to linger on the details of practicality. Look at the male wizard from Diablo III for example, most the things he is wearing, might actually kill him on a battle. Some things are there just because they look good. And that’s where lies the hypocrisy: why not give a decent armor to your female character? Who cares if you think she can’t swirl a claymore, this is fantasy 🙂
I also managed to find (a rather popular nonetheless) example of unpractical war attire for men 🙂
The movie 300 is a rare example where warrior men are practically naked just for the sake of sexiness (at least that’s how I took it). I remember seeing an interview of Eva Green, who plays one of the antagonists in the sequel. She was saying that it was weird to have all those naked men around while she is rather fully dressed in armor, because usually it is the contrary.
I think the way a warrior female character is represented depends on her actual “strength” in the plot, as a character.
Let’s look at the armor Eowyn wears:
If the character has substance and actually accomplishes something throughout the story, she will stand out. She may be sexy or not, this is not the point. The point is, her looks should not be her only strength. A female warrior character is a warrior, not just an object of sexual desire or just another awkward counter-stereotype.