Was a time that women did not publicly kick ass. That time was very much up to and including my childhood, and it has only been in recent years (roughly corresponding to the advent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) that our culture has allowed women to regularly be tough and authoritative (and yes, I know there were exceptions [Cagney & Lacey comes to mind] — but they were just that).
Nowadays, though, we can be seen kicking ass and taking names and running the show and shooting arrows and saving lives alllll over the place. Maybe not as much as I’d like? Maybe not as much as I think generally reflects our abilities, experiences, and aspirations? But you know: It’s genuinely, really out there. Things have begun to change for real, and as a mother, I am so glad that my kids get to grow up into that change.
But I’m impatient. I want more.
And not just more of the above. Not just more of Buffy, and Katniss (Hunger Games), and Zoe (Firefly), and Kat (Alphas), and Black Widow (Avengers) and so on. I want more kinds of women.
Like our women detectives (Olivia Benson, Brenda Leigh Johnson) and our paradigm-shifting princesses (Snow White, Merida) and our comedic powerhouses (Liz Lemon [crossing my fingers for Mindy Lahiri!]), every single one of the women I’ve just listed is absolutely lovely. And slender. And in the cases of Buffy, Kat, and Black Widow, positively tiny.
We are willing to allow our women to be powerful, it seems, as long as they don’t look it (and, all too often, as long as some part of their lives is really messed up).
I realize that this is not news, breaking or otherwise, nor am I the first person to call attention to it. But as I sat watching Alphas the other night, absolutely lovinglovingloving the teeny-tiny character that is Kat, I couldn’t help but feel the old impatience rise.
It’s the same impatience I felt when, emerging from Avengers (one of my favorite movies in recent history), my first thought (after “OMFGTHATWASAWESOME!!”) was: “The only women in that movie looked like you could snap them in half. Including the one whose job it was to snap you first.”
It’s the same impatience I feel all the time. Because it’s the same problem everywhere.
There’s no reason to write the Buffies and the Black Widows and the Kats any differently. Small ladies can be powerful too! Beauty is no impediment to badassery! Grrl Power!
But for heaven’s sake.
First of all, in most cases, physical prowess requires at least a little physical ballast, and women (in fact) can be soft-n-squishy and still command authority. Moreover, women are as many and varied as men. Take a good hard look at the men on our screens, both big and small: Very few of them are genuinely fat, and most of them are some kind of good-lookin’ — but they’re much more representative of actual men in actual society than the women ever are. Because men are allowed to be many and varied.
So, even as I enjoy and hail the changes (bows and arrows and underwater lock-picking — oh my!), I can’t wait for us to cover more ground. I can’t wait for us to open the door even further to all the many wonderful ways of being human that women have found.