Women are F*cking Badasses

15 April, 2012 Musing Musers 24 comments

I am someone who performs a lot of image searches, hard as that would be to believe.

There’s something you notice about society when you do that – and it’s the disconnect between perceptions of men and women.

Example: Look up “Man with a sword.”  What do you find?

Lots of men looking dangerous, badass, intimidating or noble.

Lot’s of these and then one picture of Jonathan Rhys Meyers falling more on the scale of titillating hotness as opposed to badassery.

Then look up “woman with a sword” and you will get a lot of…

Look, frankly most of them aren’t even swords.  They’re just flashy penis metaphors.  And even if the girls are looking a little more threatening than the above examples, most of them are dressed scantily for maximum visual effect.

Some people aim in life to be pious, some modest, caring, others successful, or desirable or powerful.  My aim in life is to be a badass.  When I walk past I want people to longingly clutch at their chest and turn to the person next to them and say, “There goes a true badass.”

When I die, I want the preacher to say, “We are gathered here today to bid farewell to Kat Kennedy – teaching people the meaning of badass one face-hammering at a time.”

When I meet interplanetary aliens (and personally broker peace between our two solar systems – either with my brilliance or my fists of fury) I want the name Kat Kennedy to translate into Badass in their alien language.  Like, “You’re looking particularly Kat Kennedyish today!”

“Why, thank you!  I always do when I’m simultaneously dropkicking black holes and calculating quantum theory.”

But that’s hard to do when a simple internet search for Badass comes up mostly with men.  Because badass isn’t something people really associated with women. Until recently.

Fucking. Ace.

And things are changing in the YA world just like the rest of the world.  Now for every two pretty prom dress covers with girls  who wait for Vampire prince charming to change their worlds, there’s a female protagonist with stone ovaries the size of boulders.

There was a discussion on a Game of Thrones thread about the representation of women in the books.  Mostly that it wasn’t great since they were all being oppressed and raped and the general response to that was, “Well, that’s history.  Women got raped and oppressed.”

Don’t get me wrong.  Women have consistently been in a position of vulnerability.  But that does not mean they are weak and it doesn’t mean that they are not badass motherfuckers.  Woman is not just synonymous for victim.  Women are beyond awesome.

Boudicca, Tomoe Gozen, Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Sybil Ludington, Maya Angelou, Bessie Coleman, Abigail Adams, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Kathrine, Queen Elizabeth I and II, Queen Victoria, Queen Mary, Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Susan McKinney Steward, Madame Curie, The Trung Sisters, Septima Zenobia.

Look, I’ve left SO many off because I could keep going and going and going.  These women are all famous for different kinds of badassery.  And maybe some people will argue and say, “Cool.  But often in YA it’s about ordinary girls – not legendary badasses.”

Okay, putting aside the fact that ordinary women, everywhere, are badasses without being legendary, the protagonist of a story isn’t very good when they’re passively waiting to be saved.  That’s not a protagonist.  That’s a piece of baggage in a pretty dress.

Case in point, there was one YA novel where the female protagonist is trapped with the antagonist and she is told to get on the stone altar so that she can be tied to it.  I shouldn’t have to tell you this but NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS ON A STONE ALTAR.

It is a stone fucking altar.  Nobody is tying me to that without a fight, is what I’m saying.  Because once you ARE tied to a stone altar, you’re pretty much fucked.  They’re not going to give you a perm, is what I’m saying.  There’s a divide between people like Boudicca, Cleopatra, Tomoe, and The Trung sisters – and someone who would actually cooperate and get onto the stone altar that they’re going to be tied to.  And maybe there’s nothing wrong with saying that I don’t ever want to read about a person who WOULD willingly climb onto a stone altar without a fight.  Because I can not stress this enough:  It is a STONE ALTAR OF DEATH.  Anybody who would do that is not a protagonist.  They’re cannon fodder.  Because the only way they can survive is if someone stronger and smarter and more capable comes along to save them.  And the only reason they’d do that is because Cannon Fodder is their pretty romantic interest. And the fact that people don’t write male protagonists as Cannon Fodder but will happily write women into that role is a massive insult to our entire sex.

And the “every day girl” shit is exactly that – shit.  Because the Trung sisters were every day girls until somebody fucked with them and they fucked right back.  Sampat Pal Devi was just an ordinary woman until she watched a man beat his wife in the street.  Millions of women throughout history were ordinary women until somebody fucked with them and though most of their stories don’t make it into history – being an ordinary woman shouldn’t be an excuse to be a pathetic, cowardly sack of tears.

My Little Pony: Friendship is magic gets a lot of slack.  It gets slack for being a cutesy children’s show.  And whilst I absolutely ADORE Ms. Magazine because it’s awesome, it was also COMPLETELY wrong in its cursory examination of My Little Pony as Homophobic, Racist and Smart-Shaming.  I would go into why they were wrong but I’m afraid it would take an entire article to point it all out.

Why are people so disgusted that adults, particularly men, love My Little Pony so much?  Why does it offend them that men would like a TV show that seems to be targeted at little girls?  And why do people look down their noses at it for being a stupid kids show?

The beginnings of My Little Pony reboot:

Faust said she was “extremely skeptical” about taking the job at first because she had always found shows based on girls’ toys to be boring and unrelatable.[11]My Little Pony was one of her favorite childhood toys,[10] but she was disappointed that her imagination at the time was nothing like the animated shows, in which the characters, according to Faust, had “endless tea parties, giggled over nothing and defeated villains by either sharing with them or crying”. With the chance to work on My Little Pony, she hoped to prove that “cartoons for girls don’t have to be a puddle of smooshy, cutesy-wootsy, goody-two-shoeness”.

And other people don’t get it but those adult men and women bronies do.  You want your pretty girls in prom dresses?  Fine, but take a leaf out of Faust’s page.  YA doesn’t have to be just smooshy, romantic, virginal, out-cast, beautiful protagonists.

To keep having these so-called everyday, ordinary girls be passive and pathetically weak/stupid is a slap in the face to ordinary girls everywhere.  Because there are ordinary girls, everywhere, who are complete badasses.  Whether it’s because they refused to give up their seat on a bus or because they rode all night to save their country or because one day they led their people in a rebellion.   Ordinary people everywhere, every day turn into heroes.  The greatest thing that can happen to a girl is not that she falls in love with the best guy ever to eternally protect her from all the nasty bad guys.  It’s the moment she realizes that, with or without him, she can be a complete badass.  Whether that’s shooting a Kraken in the face or refusing to be put on a stone altar without one helluva a fight – maybe even deciding that she’ll be on a stone altar when she’s dead and cold first.

My Little Pony teaches us that people will assume because it’s a show aimed at little girls, that it’s stupid and pathetic.  But it’s not.  Those Ponies rock – each in their own way.  Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with writing a pretty, ordinary, every day girl who falls in love with a paranormal hunk  – but, please, don’t patronize us.  Give her spirit, give her some kind of strength of character, realize what a badass she is.  Because women are fucking badasses – whether they’re ordinary or not.

Until then:


Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
Kat Kennedy is a book reviewer and aspiring author in the Young Adult genre. She reviews critically but humorously and get super excited about great books. Find her on GoodReads.
Kat Kennedy

24 Responses to “Women are F*cking Badasses”

  1. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    A-Fucking-Men! What a great article. I couldn’t agree more. I’m getting so sick & tired of reading books where it seems as though the girl has no mind of her own and she’s just prancing around waiting to be TOLD what to do.

    The difference in images doesn’t surprise me but I’ve never thought about it before (don’t do a lot of image searches) but that pisses me off! Why do they have to be half naked? What point does that prove?
    Jenni @ Alluring Reads recently posted…In My Mailbox (3)My Profile

  2. Rosa

    This post made my day! It was flipping awesome! I’m totally on board with you and that’s exactly what I teach my girls! You do not need a prince charming and if you want one make sure that you rescue him! Awesome!

  3. Donna @ Bites

    I avoid books with prettily-dressed chicks on them because it probably won’t end very well. And plus most of the time it’s totally irrelevant. The thing is doing that gets me to avoid the shenanigannery of weak females and I come across a lot of much stronger female characters in the books that I read. A definite good thing. The thing about the Game of Thrones though is that the women have quite a bit more power than what we’re led to believe. It’s just not as in your face as the menfolk are. Lady Stark is on the battlefield with the rest of the men, Cerce is conniving in ways that men would envy, Aria is a little hardass full tilt, I’m waiting for Sansa to stab her inbred king-mate in the face in his sleep, Daenerys is a dragon ruler and now there’s that red witch with that dude’s brother. It’s definitely a patriarchal society but the women are far from weak.

    People have argued that the weak female character should be eliminated from reading material because it gives the wrong impression to girls. But the reality is not every woman is a total badass. There are quite a few Bellas of the world that would be quite content being rescued by her choice of being and being lorded over, or protected, whatever, by him for the rest of her days. The princess syndrome is still running rampant and even with choices that’s what women choose. I say don’t take it away from them but let’s not inundate the market with their fantasies either. Just like there are girls dreaming of being rescued there are girls dreaming of fighting in battle (or whatever). Broad spectrum. Multiple choices. And I agree, chicks don’t have to be anything special to actually be special. The girl next door is perfectly capable of having a gun vault in her bedroom.
    Donna @ Bites recently posted…Things I’ve Learned from Books + 147My Profile

  4. michelle

    Excellent post! I have a shelf that I have been slowly adding to over the years of books that I specifically hope my daughter will read (right now she is only 3). I often get asked why I have started so early, and my answer is always something along the lines of: I want my daughter to know that female characters can be written like this. That is it okay that she likes to wear pretty dresses and go outside and tear them to pieces climbing trees and rolling down hills. That, no, she doesn’t have to borrow one of her brother’s ‘army men’ to play battles with him and his friends, her girl doll will do just fine, thank you. I want her to know about women like Mother Jones. I don’t want her to be a damsel in distress, but rather, someone who saves herself. I am bookmarking this post for the next time I get into one of those inevitable internet arguments where you just can’t say anymore until someone get where you’re coming from. (And the image search stuff, while terrible, is sadly not surprising at all.)
    michelle recently posted…Weekly Forecast and In My Mailbox #10My Profile

  5. Luan Pitsch

    I worked as a Juvenile Court Intake Officer. Basically, interviewing and making recommendations as to disposition. I was soooo proud when a father described me this was to the receptionist. “She’s real soft spoken, but, she’s real mean.” Badass?

  6. Vorbis

    That is the thing I loved so much about the very first Anita Blake book – (SPOILERS) at the end in the graveyard I was waiting for her to be rescued. It was all set up that way – she had the Sexy Vampire with a crush on her introduced as Love Interest earlier, I was literally waiting for him to show up and save the day, had my fingers crossed for when it was going to happen.

    And it didn’t. Kick ass, Anita.

    As far as badassery in real life, it’s harder. I can’t really imagine a woman being a badass without being super sexy at the same time. I know we have some awesome women in politics, but I don’t truly aspire to be them. The idea of being in their shoes makes me feel ambivalent and slightly exhausted at the rot and nonsense that fills their lives.

    Well, I guess that’s it for me in a nutshell now I think about it.

    I see most conflict and standing up for yourself and your principles and fighting for your p.o.v to be accepted as tiring. I can’t decide if that’s just because I get most of my satisfaction out of mediating a successful solution, or if I’ve just always been scared of standing up for myself.

    Hmm. I think that’s it. I don’t argue about what’s Right because being right never helped me win an argument when I was a kid. I didn’t have the social skills to back it up. Wonder if I do now? *grins*

    I’ll give being a badass a go for a week and report back in with how it went.

    • Kat Kennedy


      See how you go!

      I see total badasses all the time. One friend of mine has four children. She is a badass. Another woman here is our local politico and she deals with complete asshole contemporaries. She is a badass. Badassery is a state of mind – not the wielding of a sword or fists. Try it. You’ll love it!

  7. Sarah (saz101)

    Kat. I fucking love you.
    And you ARE baddass.
    True story.

    This post is just… perfection. The only thing that sucks is that, what, coming up to a hundred years post women being given the right to vote, ‘post-feminism’, post sufragettes, post how many hundreds of thousands of amazing women every bit as ‘badass’ and memorable and important as the men who’ve stuck their hands in the running of the world, we still need to be having this conversation.

    But we do.

    And as long as we are, and NEED to be, I LOVE this post. So. Well. Put.

    Sarah (saz101) recently posted…Blogspiration (14): What Did You Expect…My Profile

  8. Lauren's Loquacious Literature

    You are quite possibly the most extremely awesomest person in the world. This post was fantastic. And in a way is similar to a conversation I was having with the above Saz101 about sex in YA books which I will be posting very soon.

    THis post was seriously awesome though.
    Lauren’s Loquacious Literature recently posted…Blogspiration (9)My Profile

  9. AJ

    This is a great article! The thing I love about women is sometimes our badassery is our ability to survive, to endure oppression when the weight of civilization forces it upon us, to live with the pain of childbirth and of being underestimated and not be destroyed.

    And I love living in an era when there’s less of that oppression, less working against us. If only more of our fiction would get in on the revolution.

    Also, I can’t stop reading and loving the whole bit about Cannon Fodder. It’s true, no matter how you try to pretend otherwise, Cannon Fodder is not the protagonist of a story. You can do a whole episode about the red shirts in Star Trek, but they’re still the red shirts who are provided just to die in that episode so the audience believes this is serious and spare the stars from any danger.
    AJ recently posted…The Angelina Jolie GapMy Profile

  10. Kelsey

    You know, I just might be in love with you. THANK YOU for this great post. Hopefully it will get passed around.

    Happy reading!

  11. Lexie B.

    You know what’s badass? This blogpost. Honestly, I felt like I should cheer at some points. Random cheering with all the family looking on would probably not have been the greatest idea, but I assure you there was some ear-splitting cheering going on internally.

    Despite the fact that things are a million times better nowadays than they were not so long ago, we’re still nowhere near equality, and it’s foolish for anyone to pretend as much. Women are still not equal, not in their rights, the laws society imposes on them, or even their reflection in media. Often, women in media are either the sit-around-and-wait-for-dashing-heroine type, or the creator ATTEMPTS to make them badass but ends up with nothing but an incredibly sexualized pawn that does random ninja moves. When I see actual badass girls in YA–whether they’re badass for their fighting skills or just for their spirit–it automatically boosts that book in my eyes.

    Really, really fabulous post.
    Lexie B. recently posted…The Other LifeMy Profile

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