Action Heroine Fans discussion

General discussions > Action heroine books/drama/iconography --sexual exploitation of women?

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message 1: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Over on one of our other threads, a couple of us recently got into a discussion of the PR impact for the action-heroine genre (positive or negative?) of action film star Sybil Danning's 1983 Playboy spread. The whole subject of whether or not the motif our group is focused on is "exploitative" of women has been touched on at times on other threads, too; so I decided that it's important enough, and distinctive enough, to deserve a thread of its own. Probably, the school of thought that wants to hand out scarlet letters to all male fans of the genre (and these people generally assume that all the fans are male, an assumption belied by this group's demographics) won't be largely represented on this thread --I wouldn't censor them, but they probably wouldn't join this group to start with! But this may be your chance to talk back to them, if you want to. :-) And --since any complex question has more than two sides, often a lot more!-- there are also those who argue that some of what we traditionally think of as exploitation of women is actually okay; so if the motif is hypothetically exploitative, so what? You can make the case for (or against) that position here, too.

Anti-gun feminists, moralists, and armchair psychologists stigmatize the armed woman motif in our culture, viewing her as nothing more than a sex object for perverted male fantasies, so that, for instance, admiring a picture of a cowgirl wearing a Colt is morally equivalent to ogling a picture of her wearing nothing. (Pro-gun feminists like Camile Pagila, on the other hand, tend to like the motif, since it shows women finally standing up for themselves!) There's no question that an attraction to this motif IS about gender --most of us are also fans of action heroes, for instance, but there's a reason why our group focuses on the distaff side of the equation. But I'd argue that being about gender isn't the same thing as being about sex, in the sense that these critics insist it is. So, what do you think? If you've got an opinion on the subject, this is where you can get it off your chest!

message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Personally, I LIKE looking at naked pretty women & make no bones about it. I also like the idea of a woman that can protect herself. Guns are also known as 'equalizers' for a very good reason - physical size isn't a big deal when you have a gun in your hand.

What does 'exploitation' mean? It can be anywhere from a wise or full use of a resource to taking advantage of it. We're talking about the latter, when talking about exploiting women.

Life isn't always perfect, so we often don't have great choices. I've reset toilets in disgusting bathrooms & buried rotting animals, to name two. It's honest work, if disgusting.

I don't see anything wrong with a pretty gal using her assets to make a buck by posing for nudie pictures. Men are horny critters, so sex sells. The gals aren't doing anything wrong. If you're religious, then you believe your god gave the gal her body, made two sexes, & made her attractive to many men, so I've never understood how that could be inherently wrong or why society would think so.

We're the only animal that makes a big deal out of sex, a natural function, & we screw it up with all kinds of odd notions about what is right & wrong with very little logic supporting our attitudes. Those attitudes change constantly & are often laughable when viewed from outside the culture or time.

As I said in the previous topic, if a woman wipes your butt or cleans your toilet, she's in an honorable profession; nurse or housekeeper. She can even rub you almost all over & all is fine. Put a 'happy ending' on that body rub & it's not. Put a ring on her finger & all is well again, even if you divorce her a few months later. Very odd & hypocritical to my way of thinking, especially when so many do it or want to do it on the sly.

message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Jim, thanks for posting! You put your finger on some issues that are really crucial to the discussion.

It's key to be clear on what we mean by exploitation when we talk about it. Your definition, "taking advantage of," is a good one. (We might also think of it as treating somebody else as a thing to be used, not like a person). And I think you're right that seeing someone naked and thinking that he/she is pretty, or handsome, doesn't automatically qualify as "exploitation" in itself. But there is a lot that goes on in the sex trade, and sex trafficking, worldwide that would qualify as exploitation, and that adds up to a lot of misery for the women involved. And typical sex industry "consumers" tend to harbor attitudes toward women that place them on the level of things rather than persons, though I know you well enough to know that you don't.

You also highlight the importance of our basic set of presuppositions in determining how we respond to this motif. As I said on another thread (or words to this effect), how we respond to armed, fighting women is a subset of how we respond to and think about women as a whole. And how we think about sex as a whole colors how we think about the sexuality of a heroine. From a biblical standpoint, you're perfectly correct that sexuality itself should be seen as a good part of a good creation (though it can be abused, like anything else in creation --we'd agree that, for instance, rape is an abuse) though Christians haven't always seen it that way historically.

I could comment more (you've opened up enough avenues of discussion to keep us thinking for months!), but I'll hush up for now and give other people a chance to weigh in! :-)

message 4: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Jan 08, 2011 12:57PM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments Well, interesting. First, Sybil Danning started out in what was at the time euphemistically called "adult films" in Germany. She went on to both "A" and "B" films. She did some "action type" parts, leather and skin sword and sorcery stuff to a sci/fi Amazon in Battle Beyond the Stars (an attempt at doing The Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven in space). But She was also in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers (Michael York version) and some other better know films and TV.

Some actresses start out and try to get all the notice they can and sometimes they end up in Playboy or some other "soft core porn" publication as part of that. Sometimes they make a name for themselves as "sex symbols" whether in magazines etc. or simply by virtue of the parts they get and end trapped in that role. Danning was in at least three movies with Raquel Welch. Welch was (and still is) one of the best know sex symbols Hollywood ever produced, and she herself became frustrated with it. She fought for years to prove she could act and handle parts that were more than "just" about her beauty.

In 1971 Welch did a movie titled Hannie Caulder. It's the story of a woman who is attacked and raped by three men who also kill her family and leave her penniless and alone. She gets a bounty hunter/gunfighter (Robert Culp) to teach her to use a gun so she can hunt the men down. There are other name stars in the movie Ernest Borgnine, Christopher Lee, Jack Elam (the quintessential western bad guy) and it was a pretty good movie. It would definitely place Welch in list of action heroine (along with Bandolero, 100 Rifles, and a few others). But look up the movie Hannie Caulder on line. The picture that come up and the one on the poster is of Raquel in nothing but a poncho and gun-belt.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm male and when I see Raquel Welch my heart skips a beat, no doubt she's a beautiful woman. Still, she wanted to do parts that involved more than that and actually did.

Like most men, I enjoy seeing beautiful women, I just think there's more to it than that. I don't necessarily feel negatively "toward" an actress who has done a Playboy spread etc. If I know about it, I try to go on the "It's in the past" principal. There are stars who make it clear they want to be know as "sex stars" others who don't, and some who (like Jim) think nothing of it one way or the other. If the part is well done, well acted then it's well acted and I'd hope the actress can move her carrier the way she wishes. Note for example Charlize Theron who did "AEon Flux" but also did Monster where her looks were purposefully "toned down".

All that clear as mud? (LOL) So far as things Like prostitution and pornography goes, they are negative and while I see Jim's point about the law in comparing a nurse and the other professional in question, it's a red herring. The two bear (actually) no resemblance...ask any massage therapist who's had to deal with some moron who doesn't understand that massage therapy is actual therapy and has no relation to the "massage parlor" the police closed down on the news last week. Even where prostitution and pornography are legal they are a heavily negative influence. Even in Nevada, New Zealand, Canada and other legal places, you won't find family neighborhoods around the "bordello". Of course then there are places like Antwerp where you can get a "brothel guide".

I'm a Christian, and yes I avoid even soft core porn. Yet I'm still tempted by it, why? We are not animals and we are supposed to be able to make relationships something serious and special. It is however not required and trying to force it in general doesn't work. the problem comes when one party want s a "special and monogamous" relationship and the other doesn't. This is a long and complicated discussion and we won't settle it (no one has yet). We'll all end up with our own attitudes and opinions still intact. However discussion might bring some understanding each of the other's point of view. This has been "in general" and we may cover more ground when "specifics" are brought up.

message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Mike, you bring up some good points. Getting typecast is a problem for actors. I think Leonard Nimoy is one of the best examples of that. He railed against being Spock for years & it didn't do him a lick of good. One 2 year show & his career was pretty much doomed, although I remember seeing him in some earlier stuff (Twilight Zones?) I always think of him as Spock.

I don't think Hannie Calder is the best example. I thought Welch's acting was pretty bad in it, even with some excellent supporting actors, & I don't think Elam is the quintessential bad guy. Did you see him in "Support Your Local Sheriff"?

I did not write 'massage therapy', but 'massage'. Big difference. I've had massage therapy & even a couple of massages. The first is more like a visit to the doctor while the second is a feel-good experience. It doesn't have to be sexual (None of my paid ones were. One was delivered by an old guy & I don't fly that way.) but they're not the same as therapy, either.

It's my belief that one of the main reasons prostitution & pornography are such negative influences on a community is that they're seen as & treated as such. Our society treats them as bad & makes them illegal. The Greeks used to have temples for Aphrodite devoted to giving away sex. It's an entirely different way of looking at it & brings a different reaction from the community. Those who live by the black market aren't the best folks around, obviously. By making sex a crime, that sort is drawn to it because there is a market to be filled for it.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments Okay...lots here. Light first. Ya I saw Support Your Local Sheriff (far superior to it's follow up Support your Local Gunfighter) that was later in Elam's carrier. He also starred as a marshal in a short lived TV series The Dakotas. Before that in the 50s and 60s though he was a reliable "bad-guy" in a whole lot of movies. I saw him interviewed once where he was laughing about the number of ways he'd been killed by good-guys and how he'd been shot, hanged, killed in horse chases and so on. He broke out later and did a few good-guy parts and then comedy, but for years he did the "heavy". I always liked him.

I thought Hannie Caulder was a fairly good movie, maybe not Raquel's best work, but not bad. Of course I always liked Culp to. The writing of the movie left something to be desired to, but not bad I thought.

My point was just the one you made about massage and massage therapy and then "massage" they bear no resemblance to one another. Yet the word means prostitute to many. I've had physical therapy on 4 separate occasions each time 3 times from a woman and 2 of those times from the same therapist. They are always careful to keep a proper distance and the attitude above doesn't help them. I feel for them when they have to make things clear to someone who "doesn't get it". The source and intent of any type of medical massage differs greatly from the "pleasure industry".

I don't think that criminalization of prostitution has given it a negative reputation. Also historically the temple prostitutes of Aphrodite were not considered even in their day "pillars of the community". They were seen as apart and not looked on as "common prostitutes". Prostitution in Antwerp has been legal for a very long time and it still tends to be a draw for other negatives. The biggest argument for legalization of prostitution is the same as it is for drugs or gambling and that is that it can be taxed. Not that it will make it less negative. Most even argue it can be "controlled better".

It wouldn't bother me greatly to see Prostitution legalized, but I believe to do so might draw more young women into it who would then find themselves unable to ever go back. They could leave the life but never undo what is done. I believe that having multiple partners reduces ones ability to have a satisfying monogamous relationship later, especially if it begins young. There is evidence to say that a person's emotional development stops at the point at which the become sexually active. Still I believe that anything can, given time and care heal. I just think that legalization would simply lead to more problems for our society.

If I was incomplete of course we'll continue talking and I don't think we'll actually agree, or settle the disagreement but as I said, we'll at least see each others thoughts.

message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I never heard that one's emotional development stopped once they started having sex. I've heard that about alcoholics & other drug addicts about when they start using, though. That's a scary thought. I'm not well versed enough in psychology to disagree with any veracity, but my gut says they're full of it - unless the person is a sexual addict. In that case, I would believe it. I've seen the emotional growth of many addicts once they've gotten sober/clean. It can be quite stunning.

I'm not sure, of course, that decriminalizing prostitution would clean it up all that much. It's a high profit service industry. In any high profit business or situation, greedy folks will try to make an extra dollar. I do think our society's view on it is ridiculous & contributes to the problems, though.

We, as a society, tend to judge folks by what they do or the snobs would be out of business. Look at all the ruckus when a royal marries a commoner. There's a lot of prejudice in the world & a woman who has provided a pleasurable service is basically still branded. I abhor the attitude.

I think we're on the same track about massages & that was kind of my point - it's all about perception. It's that same perception that makes some people think that it's sexual exploitation for a girl to show off her charms depending on the scenario. Personally, I think that's a decision best left to the girl. Only her opinion of it really matters. Anyone else's opinion is based on their own mind - often a dirty one.

message 8: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Jan 08, 2011 04:36PM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments Well, I've seen some evidence of the emotional retarding effect of early sexual activity myself though I don't feel free to go into details. I'm speaking of a 15 year old. I admit it would be anecdotal, but it backed up what I'd read. I'm not saying that every youth who becomes involved in an early sexual situation or relationship will slow emotional development but I believe it can help change perspective,

Prostitution is based on the "gratify me" school of sexual thought and this in itself will cause problems in relationships. That doesn't even go into the attitude a "provider" would have to have even in the best of circumstances. Forget today with drug addiction etc. holding many in the "field". How can anyone ever hope to have a descent relationship if they think of sex as a commodity? Even a legal commodity?

I don't judge anyone on their life choices (unless they effect me of course a drunk driver or someone who drives under the influence of anything that impairs judgement or ability to drive, I would still try not to "judge" I suppose, but I'd clearly disapprove. Especially if they killed someone I cared about..well or me:). But I've know a few people who would like to have their past back and remake the decisions that effect them and for that matter those around them.

I've also seen the damage of those you refer to as snobs and it can be considerable. That's unarguable and I agree with you on it. Remember, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone". I don't stand in judgement of anyone.

I am however cognizant of some of the damage we do to ourselves.

I agree that each person's choices are their own, whether I would live their life style or not. Still, we don't live in isolation and we effect each other. As to the question of legalization, I'm not truly sure where I'd stand. I think on the whole it would be a negative but still it comes under letting people decide their choice. Again my concern, when can they decide? Would it be 18. To become a sex worker at 18 is a decision you can't ever change. Even if it were a respected and honored profession (as in Firefly for example) the person would never know what might have been once that way was chosen. It's not like deciding to be an actor or a plumber or whatever. It's where you share yourself in the most intimate physical way possible.

Hopefully someone else will join in soon. I'd like to see other thoughts...I believe we know where each of us stands. :) LOL

message 9: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Mike, I agree with most of what you wrote, although definitely not all the way with:
"...Prostitution is based on the "gratify me" school of sexual thought and this in itself will cause problems in relationships."

Yes, it can be, maybe mostly is, I don't really know. I do know that it isn't always, though. Sometimes it's loneliness, just for fun (sex is!) or for other reasons. Unfortunately, the general public only sees it the way you do.

I also don't agree that the 'provider' has to have a bad attitude nor that sex has to be thought of as a commodity. It's a service, which can be a commodity. I think the definitions there get a bit hazy depending on scarcity & attitude. I don't think the legal status of prostitution has to affect a relationship either. Sex is an important part of any relationship & folks figure out what works for them or they don't & get frustrated. One or both partners having an affair is hardly a novel idea. Some couples seem quite happy with the arrangement.

What it all boils down to is the perception of sex as something that needs to be strictly controlled & is inherently shameful, a decidedly Christian attitude in this country. We're raised up with all these odd ideas & they become such a basic part of us that most people don't question them deeply enough & they need to.

Some examples are a general consensus among many that it's OK for a man to stray, but if a woman does, she's forever branded. It's OK for boys to test the waters, but a woman must go to her marriage as a virgin. Masturbation is evil & will give you hair on your palms, etc... These attitudes are, thankfully, losing their appeal, but they were in full force when I was young.

I read Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex last year & was appalled at how little science actually knows about sex. Much of the reason is that it is difficult to get government funding for any experimentation. Subjects were easier to get than I would have thought, in part because there are so many dissatisfied people out there. I found it hard to believe what some men would do to get an erection - not only the odd, grotesque potions they would ingest, but the horrific operations they would pay a LOT of money to get done. It's simply amazing.

message 10: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Jan 08, 2011 06:24PM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments Well again we've got to step back. Sex is not viewed in Christianity as shameful. Adultery (which entails betrayal) is. There are Christian groups that tend to view it that way, but there are groups that view anything joyful etc. as shameful.

Also the "it's okay for men but not for women" attitude is more cultural and isn't Christian either. The example I quoted is one in which a woman was brought to Jesus to be condemned without the man and Jesus refused to do so. What is laid out in the Bible applies equally to men and women. A lot of the "sex laws people run to (and frequently misquote) from the Bible are from the Old Testament and have to do with the actual civil law laid out there. Israel was supposed to be a Theocracy under the rule of God through the Levites (though it never actually worked out).

As for attitude again I think we're going over the same ground and simply disagreeing about reality. When I say prostitution is a "gratify me" thing I mean it has little or no 2 way aspect. Even if the customer is lonely he goes for a service. He is looking to be served, to have his needs met. (By the way I realize it could be "she" as a customer also, I use "he" as it tends to be the way most think of it.) If the customer goes simply for fun, still he's looking to have his wants and needs met, with little concern for the "supplier's" wants or needs, other than monetary. The supplier is in it for the money and while I'm sure they will want to make the "customer happy" still, it's for the money and so they'll get the best pay and repeat business. "Ideally" in a relationship fun would be shared by both parties, and hopefully they could go to one another with loneliness (Yes I know. I'm naive enough to believe it's always that way, that's why I said "ideally".)

Which brings me back to the other point in attitude. Once anyone has developed the "sex is service for money" attitude or out look it would be difficult if not impossible to also have a meaningful relationship with a spouse or "significant mate" and not carry the attitude over.

As to your last paragraph...subject change. LOL. You're right of course in that a lot of the "scientific" information that's been "around" has turned out to be bunk. But then we're not really talking about that. You're right the world is full of lonely people and that leads to a lot of desperate decisions. Because I believe prostitution a damaging thing does not mean I don't see the sadness and pain out there.

Remember I'm a widower and my wife was ill for many years before she past. I know whereof I speak.

message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) It's late & I'm only up because I had to turn heaters back on out in the shop & tack room. We lost power for a couple of hours tonight.

My last paragraph wasn't well formed. It was the beginning of a point on how ignorant we are of one of the most important aspects of our lives, which I find shameful. What people will do - both men & women - to enhance their sex lives, yet how deep in the closet they stuff such a natural function is amazing.

As for the Christianity, I was referring to how people practice it & what they believe, not necessarily the actual religion. There are too many interpretations of the Bible, but sexual repression seems to be an underlying theme with most & not just for adultery.

Anyway, I digressed way down this path because I think that repression is unhealthy & one of the reasons people don't see a half naked chick shooting bad guys for what she is - an equal opportunity heroine - or see an actress who got recognition through showing off her beauty in a nudie magazine for what she is - just another person using what they have, like Michael Jordan or any other physically talented person.

message 12: by Werner (last edited Jan 09, 2011 05:35PM) (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Guys, good discussion; lots of thoughtful posts! Mike expressed the wish that others would comment; I haven't been able to until now, but I've been following the comments in my odd moments online over the last couple of days, and champing at the bit. :-)

We all know that our society has a lot of males who view women reductively as only good for one thing, and who basically respond to an attractive woman only on a sexual level. (That's been true for millenia, but it's only been relatively recently that they've had access to movies and the Internet.) They react to attractive armed women the same way --not because they're armed, but because they're attractive. None of us in this group, I think, have that kind of one- dimensional attitude, but many people tar all action heroine fans with that brush; and there are writers, film producers and Internet site creators in this genre who appear to think that males of that ilk are their target audience. And then at the far end of that spectrum, you have what I think of as your hard-core porn sickies, who refer to women as "hos," "bitches," "pieces," or worse; who like to engage in rape and dominance fantasies, etc. We can also find them clinging to the underside of modern action-female fandom, like barnacles on the bottom of a ship. But this is just something that's part of the broader picture of toxic sexual attitudes in a fallen world, IMO; it doesn't mean that the armed-woman theme in the creative arts is somehow "bad" in itself, any more than a barnacle-encrusted ship is bad. Far from being part of the problem, I'd say that this theme actually can help educate the culture in general towards better attitudes; very often, fictional males of the type described above are exactly the sort of villains who get their comeuppance at the hands of heroines like this, and in those cases it shouldn't take a genius to deduce what is, as Aesop would have said, "the moral of the story."

To contribute to an understanding of where I'm coming from, in terms of the broader view of sexuality in general that shapes my view of it here, my wife Barb and I fell for each other hard and fast back in 1980; last Sept. 5, we celebrated 30 years together. Our union has been a deep, loving partnership that's entwined our lives together in every area, and taken us through hard times and good; it's produced three precious daughters as a result (and now four grandkids), and our love has expanded to include them too, in a family that's inexpressibly dear to both of us. The sexual component of that sharing has been an integral part of the whole (and in my opinion that's what it's for), and the whole has been, and continues to be, vastly rewarding, fulfilling and meaningful for us both. Part of what makes the sexual bonding so special is its exclusivity. And having experienced this for myself, it's an experience I would wish everyone else to share --or eventually to come to share, whatever their past experiences have been.

That's the reality that colors my reaction to other pretty, sexy women that I encounter in daily life. I don't view them as sex objects, because my sexuality is part-and-parcel of the life-partnership I share with Barb. And though these women aren't potential life partners for me, they're actual or potential life partners for somebody else; they have feelings and intrinsic worth, and they're entitled to respect. That attitude spills over into my reaction to even fictional or dramatic characters. So yes, a strong, beautiful kick-butt female character does come across, to me and to a lot of other males, as (among other things) sexy; but that doesn't mean that I'd think of her in any less respectful a way than I do a living women.

Given this kind of mental orientation, the idea that I'm drawn to rooting for heroines of this type in order to mentally undress them and wallow in fantasies of loveless sex with them is a canard so ludicrous it would be funny --if I didn't know that there are droves of people out there who are prejudiced enough to believe it. That knowledge tends to make some fans, like myself, embarrassed and defensive; so when an action star like Danning takes her clothes off for Playboy --which throws gasoline on the fires of those people's prejudice!-- a natural first reaction is to feel that she's giving aid and comfort to the enemy. But not being able to read her mind or her heart, I don't really know what her motivations or attitudes were in doing that, and didn't have a right to throw a rock at her; so, my humble apologies to the lady. (And Jim, I'm sure she'd appreciate your gallant defense of her!)

message 13: by Thad (new)

Thad Brown | 84 comments Quoting from my own story collection, The Smoking Gun Sisterhood, is probably shameless self- promotion! But in reading the comments above, I couldn't help thinking that a couple of quotations from there are relevant to different aspects of the discussion. The first one is from the preface; the other one is from one of the stories in the book.

"Tongue-clucking critics, though, don't recognize this as serious art; in fact, they'll assure you that it's bad for you.... In fact, though, respectful recognition --and admiring appreciation-- of a woman's physical attractiveness doesn't have to include any component of lewd or exploitative desire.... GWG [girls-with-guns] fans look up to the women portrayed, not down on them. And if you don't already know that women don't exist to be dissed and exploited, the gals in these stories will quickly convince you."

"'I guess impressions and tastes that you form when you're a teen sort of stick with you; so I think a lady that packs a gun is pretty cool. I was a big fan of La Femme Nikita when it was on TV, and I suppose I've rented Tomb Raider and The Quick and the Dead from the video store half a dozen times apiece. You probably think that's kind of kinky,' he finished sheepishly.

After considering that for a second, she shook her head decisively. 'No, I don't; because all of those women would come across as brave, and strong, and self-reliant, and admiring those qualities isn't kinky at all.'"

message 14: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Don't forget pretty. Almost all leading actors & actresses seem to be pretty now. Often they have no character, they're just eye candy. Not like a Charles Bronson... hmmm... were there ever any ugly leading ladies?

message 15: by Thad (new)

Thad Brown | 84 comments Jim, that comment made me think of another quote from the preface. Okay, I know, I've gotta stop; but as a classmate of mine once said, "You knocked the ball over the net, and I had to hit it!" (I won't quote any more after this; cross my heart!)

"Heroines (and heroes) of action adventure are invariably portrayed as physically attractive, and it's been suggested that this makes people shallow, inclined to think that outward looks are the measure of a person's worth. That kind of thinking, of course, is shallow; but I don't think that these stories encourage it. is as beauty does. And looks are not only in the eye of the beholder --every woman is a beauty, to the man who loves her-- but pretty much in the eye of the beheld, too; we all have an inner beauty that reflects on the outside when we feel good and confident about who we are. It might not be a flashy beauty that turns heads, and might take a second, closer look to see --but taking that look is worth doing."

Of course, that quote has in mind more the written medium than the celluloid. I think you're right that Hollywood nowadays, in its casting of leading roles (especially female ones) does seem to have a fixation with "the flashy beauty that turns heads," to the exclusion of any other kind, and sometimes a juvenile preoccupation with things like bust size, etc. That, IMO, really does encourage shallow thinking about looks. But that's not inherent in the genre itself, just in the way that producers try to market it. A lady doesn't have to measure a perfect 36"-24"-36" or have a face like Helen of Troy's in order to shoot a gun capably or master the martial arts; and if she can do that, fans who aren't shallow wouldn't worry about assessing her looks against some Hollywood checklist.

message 16: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Alex Smits is a professional photographer, and a serious online critic of media (mostly film) depicting females in action roles. Over 10 years ago, I happened to discover his insightful essay, "Thoughts and Observations on 'Girls With Guns' Films," (posted online at ); obviously it's focused on movies, but many of his observations would also apply to books. His opinions are his own, and not clones of mine or anybody else's (though I basically agree with many of them); but I found them articulate and well-reasoned. Since some of them relate directly to this thread, I asked for his permission, which he kindly gave, to quote from the essay here:

"When someone asks me what kind of movies I like, I usually reply 'girls with guns.' Most of the time the reaction to this is that I'm a pervert, which frustrates and puzzles me. When done correctly, the girls with guns genre empowers women with more strength, intelligence, independence, attitude, and assertiveness (some would say 'girl power') than any other genre, and prominently features women in strong lead roles.... What's so perverse about that? It really surprises me that more women don't appreciate the genre, and that many tend to view it as adolescent sexploitation or only consider the Freudian implications of pistol-packing beauties. Now, Freud was a pervert and had his own set of problems, but that's not the point of this essay. The point of this essay is to explain why I like girls with guns films and to explore the merits of the genre....

Unfortunately, this powerful imagery is used to sell a lot of crap. I don't know how many times I've rented a movie with impressive girls with guns box art, only to have it turn out to be a male dominated get naked sex romp....

It's not about sex. One of my biggest complaints about American media is the emphasis on the sex.... Unfortunately, this is where so many potential girls with guns action films turn into sleazy softcore erotic thrillers. The introduction of sex destroys the purity and power of an action persona, male or female. It makes them lose their focus, takes the edge away from their actions, and introduces vulnerability. It's even worse for female characters, because they usually take a submissive role with the men that compromise them, which utterly destroys their credibility. Additionally, the nature of cinematic sex almost exclusively focuses on female exploitation, which tends to undermine any attempts to create a strong and respectable female action persona. The point of female action cinema is to see women in car chases, blowing up buildings, pumping villains full of lead, and beating people up, not to see them writhing around naked or losing their tops and their inhibitions for every man they see. That's what porno films and teenage comedies are for.

And yet, I'd be lying if it weren't about aesthetics. Female action cinema is sexy without being sexual. Let's face it, women are more attractive than men, and most of the women I know would agree with that. The question I often pose to people is 'why watch a couple of attractive guys shoot at each other and beat people up when you could watch a couple of attractive women do the same thing?' A woman with a gun in her hand or martial arts training is just as deadly and dangerous as a man with the same, but the woman is far more interesting to watch. There's also a certain amount of physical grace that women tend to have more of than men. Male action heroes tend to look awkward and clumsy --like how most guys dance. Women action heroes [sic] tend to move more quickly and fluidly, and with more grace and cinematic flair. This adds tremendously to the impact of a cinematic experience."

message 17: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments This thread has been dormant for months, but last night I got hit by a thought I have to share here, because it helps explain some of the seemingly paradoxical mental association of armed females and lewd fantasies that so many people make. As some of the posts above have noted, Western society for centuries has been bedeviled by the notion (often fueled by distortions of Christian belief) that sex is bad and sexual desire is disgusting and dirty. "Good" girls, in that view, aren't interested in sex; it isn't something you'd want to associate with a female you respect, and even if you have to have it as part of your marriage, it's not something you'd want to actually enjoy in that context. But males with this attitude often feel that a "bad" girl (who's interested in sex, of course, because she's bad) "deserves" to be disrespected by sexual interest because she's "asking for it," so it's okay to throw out any restraints where she's concerned. As noted elsewhere, some fans of the whole "girls-with-guns" subculture prefer villainesses over heroines, and naturally assume, if they see a woman wearing or holding a gun, that she wants it for sinister purposes. I think that's at least partly because, consciously or subconsciously, they see the gun as a label designating the holder as "bad," and therefore a legitimate target for sexual fantasy. And even a woman who wields her weapons for good purposes can be viewed similarly as somewhat transgressive, because of our stereotyped attitudes about "proper" gender roles. So there IS a basis for the association, but it's not inherent in the motif; it comes from attitudes some (not all!) people bring to the motif. (My own view, of course, is that just because a female may happen to be an evil villainess doesn't exempt her from the principle "a woman is a temple;" it may be okay to shoot her, if you have to, but it's never okay to diss her. :-) )

If one views sex and sexual desire as a good part of a good creation, and the concepts "hot sex" and "loving, faithful marriage" as the intertwined strands of a cord rather than as antithetical, one's reaction to armed-woman imagery is apt, IMO, to be a lot healthier than some of the reactions you may run across on the Internet. I'd contend that well-done action-heroine books/drama/iconography can actually promote and serve that healthier view, not impede it!

message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Separating the sexual component out, you're pointing out a more basic human trait, Werner. When someone crosses over the line to 'bad', we often feel that they deserve whatever they get or what we feel like dishing out. This has led to torturing or performing experiments on jailed criminals as well as punishments that some view as extreme, such as cutting the hand off a thief.

On the sexual side, I agree with your analysis, but I think it's important to remember that there's often more going on than the above. Girls with guns are often portrayed as dressing provocatively & that sort of dress has led many a man to the wrong conclusions. I won't say they were right, but the spoken language is not the only way we communicate. If a girl doesn't want to be looked at as a sexual object, she shouldn't be dressed in a fashion that just begs every man around her to examine the wares. I'm not saying women should dress up in burkas, but there are some limits & when she pushes them, she should & often does expect sexual attention from men.

Last night, we were watching an old "Rescue Me" & it had a bit that was right on this point. Dennis Leary's girl friend is very pretty & was wearing a low cut top with a necklace that pointed at her well displayed cleavage. Several times, she asked, "Are you staring at my tits?" Of course, he was, but tried to make excuses & it was funny. He finally said, "Yeah & if you don't like it, don't show them off & point to them with the necklace." How true!

None of that means touching is allowed - rape is not justifiable - but greedy people (in this case, horny men) can rationalize just about anything to justify taking what they want. Coupled with crossing the odd moral lines that religions can draw, it's not surprising that even 'good girls' would have a problem.

message 19: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Jim, apropos of your comment, my wife (who dresses very modestly) takes the position that women shouldn't dress too revealingly, because it causes sexual temptation for males around them, even if they don't mean to. I have to concede that there's some justification for that view --though, like you, I don't think revealing dress excuses invasive touching (and I'm also no fan of the burka!), and I recognize the fact that women shouldn't be expected to dress heavily in hot weather. As a male, I don't feel very comfortable lecturing females about what they should wear --as adults, that's their area of responsibility and choice; my job is keeping my own thoughts respectful and clean-- and I realize that like most men, most women want to present themselves to the world as attractively as they can. But it is worthwhile for women to note that they CAN look attractive without looking sluttish. And I think you're absolutely right that a lot of women in this genre (and every other genre!) are deliberately portrayed as "dressing provocatively," especially in the film/TV medium, because the (usually male) producers think that's what draws viewers. Alex Smits is right on, IMO, in pegging that as an embarrassing abuse of what action-heroine cinema can be (rather than the true essence of what it is).

message 20: by Thad (new)

Thad Brown | 84 comments Because males respond much more to visual than verbal stimuli in this area, the discussion about provocative dress is more relevant to movies, TV and art than to books. But those of us who write this type of fiction do control how our characters come across, through the way we portray them, in description, speech and actions; and we know that there's action-female fiction out there that's essentially pornographic. Then there's the whole area of cover art, and there are some publishers who have the same idea about what visually attracts customers that the movie producers do.

Writing my stories posed a certain challenge in this area, because most of them were inspired by GWG art from the Internet, and those sketches determined what the characters looked like. None of them were nude, and not all of them dressed "provocatively." But some of them could be said to; and while they didn't arouse any lewd reactions in me, I knew they could in some males who might be more disposed that way. In adapting them to the print medium, my guiding star was to make them, as a post above put it, "look attractive without looking sluttish," so that shaped the descriptions. And since I wanted my heroines to be respected by the readers, I tried to give all of them a style of speech and conduct that would deserve that reaction. (Hopefully I succeeded!)

My publisher has been really responsible and restrained in the area of cover art on the e-stories, for which I'm very appreciative! Some covers depict a gun-toting female, but none of them dress in a way that anyone could object to (or salivate over).

message 21: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Provocative doesn't necessarily mean sluttish, although that is one form of it, & women aren't always at fault for turning men on. Some of us are easier marks than others & different outfits work for different men. For instance, most sluttish outfits leave me cold. They display the wares like a hooker on a street corner. Not that I have anything against hookers, they're working stiffs, after all. (Yes, pun intended.) It's just not what makes my day. Nor do I like girls that spend hours & $$$ on looking good all the time like models & such. Oh, they're fun to look at, but more like an object d'art (Don't touch! You'll break it!), not like a real girl.

message 22: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments True; "provocative" is really in the eye of the beholder, whereas sluttish is always sluttish. I'm not at all attracted to the ultra-sluttish, hooker-on-the-job look myself, either, and I'm also inclined to prefer a more down-to-earth style over the pursuit of high-priced, high-maintenance elegance for its own sake. That goes with the fact that I'm drawn to action heroines --most real ones don't dress like they worry about breaking a nail, or sweating on their clothes. :-)

message 23: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Cannon (deborahcannon) | 16 comments I noticed that all of the participants in this discussion are men. What are women's views on this topic? Not all women think sex is exploitive. In fact many women choose to dress provocatively because they perceive their sexuality as power. Maybe it was Madonna who reminded women how powerful a tool their sexuality is. Girls dress the way they do because they don't want anyone telling them how they should dress. Ask them why they want to look like Madonna or Britney Spears. They do NOT dress for men. They dress for themselves. They like feeling sexy because it makes them feel powerful. Power is what it's all about. It is more powerful than packing a pistol or swinging a sword, but all the more so if you can do both. Granted, in real life, dressing provocatively can attract unwanted attention and behaviour from men, but books, film, TV, Music etc. is not real life.

I watched the pilot episode for the new series ALPHAS the other night about people with special powers. In the climax, the professor was in big trouble because one of his alphas was brainwashed to kill him. The female alpha who normally could influence people's thoughts had no effect on him, so in a moment of high tension she distracted the shooter by kissing him, and the professor could inject him with the antidote. It was funny and effective.

Just another viewpoint to consider.

message 24: by Werner (last edited Sep 21, 2011 08:49AM) (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Hooray! Finally, a female comment! Deborah, I've been wondering myself where all the female voices on this topic are (especially since our group has more women than men --which is itself a refutation of the idea that the action heroine motif is exploitative of females.) It seems like women, of all people, would be apt to have illuminating perspectives on this topic, and you just demonstrated that. I'd really never thought much about that angle, but it makes sense. For a woman, the fact that males, even male adversaries or potential adversaries, find her attractive is bound to make them less aggressive, and certainly gives her a type of power in that situation that a male counterpart would never be able to draw on. (And, of course, it works outside of combat situations, too!) There's nothing inherently exploitative about males feeling that kind of reaction (it's just natural), and nothing wrong with a woman employing that advantage for a good purpose.

That's, of course, assuming that the males in the equation are the sort who react to attraction to a woman in a normal and positive way -- with romantic feelings, admiration, desire to please and serve, etc. If they're the kind that react with desire to selfishly or even violently possess and dominate, so they can feel big and powerful --which is where sex can become exploitative, though it isn't inherently-- that's where the women can get unwanted behavior (and even when this occurs in fiction or drama, it can be taken by readers/viewers as a role model for real life). But that reaction isn't caused by a short skirt or low-cut top; it's caused by those males cultivating the attitudes they have. (Of course, that's where a lady's gun or sword, or a good karate kick, can come in handy for attitude adjustment.... :-) )

message 25: by Danielle The Book Huntress (last edited Sep 03, 2012 11:55PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Chiming in really late on this discussion.

I don't think the action heroine genre is inherently exploitative no more than action movies/tv/books are exploitative. It's all in the presentation.

I do get a bit itchy when the action heroine is perpetually underdressed--scantily clad and in inappropriate clothing for the situation. I think that can lead to some objectification of the character. Will I say that I don't enjoy any books/movie/tv shows that have this dynamic? No. But there are some that turned me off. For instance, I couldn't stand Dollhouse by Joss Whedon. I found that show blatantly exploitative. I admit I gave up after eight episodes. My sister said it got better, but it was too late for me. I think after Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, it was too far a step down for Whedon. Especially since he did so well with writing very strong characters who were female and subverted stereotypes about women and their strengths. In contrast, the scene in Alien where Ripley is clad in her underwear, facing the alien, there was something so powerful about that image. It was as though even at her most vulnerable, she was able to save herself, and it didn't require her to be a man or for her to have a man save her.

Also when she is portrayed as sexually loose or easy, lacking in self control. That's a big pet peeve for me. If a woman is strong and in control, it doesn't work for her to be susceptible to any man who comes along. That's a personal choke point for me. I've never believed that women's strength and independence means that they can show no self-respect for their bodies.

Now you might ask me am I a big fan of the shirtless buff action hero? Not necessarily. While I think Jason Statham has a gorgeous body, he doesn't have to be shirtless for me to enjoy him and watch him kick butt. The same can be said for any of my favorite action heroes. Even in their scantily clad states, they still manage to hang onto their clothes more than their female counterparts in action movies and tv.

So, long story short. I say that if you want to impress me with a strong, in control action heroine, try to have her keep her clothes on for at least 60% of the time, if at all possible.

As far as girls with guns, I'm not so much into this motif as the whole idea of a kickbutt heroine. I think I like seeing a girl with a sword more. Something so powerful about a woman with a katana. I thought Kill Bill Part 1 was much better, but Uma Thurman was awesome in that role, and even though O-Ren (played by Lucy Liu) was awful, she was pretty awesome with her sword-fighting. I think it's the lover of martial arts in me that really gets a kick out of women with swords.

message 26: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I've never seen sexual promiscuity as lacking in self-respect for their bodies. Macho hero types often sleep around & have the Achilles heel of the femme fatale, so I don't really see the difference. Perhaps that's because I'm a guy, though.

message 27: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments My take is similar to Lady D's; I'd agree that the same standards should prevail for action heroines as for the macho hero types, but I see promiscuity in the latter as a negative as well. To be fair, though, in the minds of the writers who produce both the male and female characters of that type, promiscuity isn't necessarily linked to lack of self-respect. It depends on their beliefs and assumptions about sex; in a culture where it's taken for granted that having sex with another person is just a bodily function like blowing your nose, most people don't see self-respect as affected by it. That's why I've said above that I think the subject of this thread is just part of a broader canvas of cultural attitudes. For at least some males, strong kick-butt women come across as attractive; but if you're culturally conditioned to assume that the only possible response to an attractive woman is to view her as an object for promiscuous sex, that's probably how she'll be viewed. And the more skin she shows, and the more promiscuous she's portrayed as being, the more validation those readers/viewers feel for that reaction; the writers/scriptwriters both share that attitude, and exploit it for profit. But fictional and dramatic portrayal of strong kick-butt women isn't the basic problem; that motif can lend itself just as readily to portraying women who take sex seriously and who command respect, and to portraying committed and faithful relationships.

Personally, I admire both gun-fighting and sword-wielding heroines (as well as ladies who can fight barehanded!), and I'd say that fighting with a sword at close range takes more strength and skill than fighting with a gun. But the basic fact is that in modern times, facing an opponent with a modern, multi-shot firearm, a woman armed with only a sword would probably be at a distinct disadvantage in most cases. She might be both brave and skilled; but if she were too stubborn to update her weaponry, she'd probably end up also being dead. :-(

message 28: by Danielle The Book Huntress (last edited Sep 05, 2012 10:12PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Jim wrote: "I've never seen sexual promiscuity as lacking in self-respect for their bodies. Macho hero types often sleep around & have the Achilles heel of the femme fatale, so I don't really see the differen..."

I'm not a fan of promiscuity regardless of sex. You won't catch me hanging onto a double standard of that sort. To me is very much about lacking self-respect. I realize that is due to your personal values and those are mine.

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments No question that you don't bring a sword to a gunfight, but I just find swordfighting more appealing personally, Werner.

message 30: by Danielle The Book Huntress (last edited Sep 05, 2012 10:46PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments Another point I'd like to make is that for women, it's very common for them to be presented as a sexual object with nothing other than their body of value. Now men are sometimes objectified, but not to the degree that women are. So yes, there is a different perception for women who have multiple sexual partners than men and particularly what kind of women would be more open to sleeping around, based on how she presents herself.

message 31: by Zee (new)

Zee Monodee (zee_monodee) I agree with Lady D, esp the longer reply above. I too cannot understand how and why a woman needs to 60% naked during action scenes. That's actually making her more vulnerable, and then the long, flying hair. In a fight, you won't have the rules of combat in place; an opponent will not hesitate to pull your hair, and then flying hair totally hinders your range of vision. :)

message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I've rarely read about bouncing boobs being a problem for women in a fight, either. I guess fake ones aren't as much of a problem for the actresses since they don't seem to bounce as much, but real ones can apparently be painful. My wife & daughter both mention it. Erin just did yesterday, in fact. She had some problem with her bra (wrong one?) & was jumping her horse. She said it was a drag.

message 33: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Lady Danielle wrote: "I just find swordfighting more appealing personally, Werner." I hear you there, Lady D! Other things being equal, I think facing a foe at close range, who's armed with an edged weapon that can seriously cut you, takes more moxie than trading shots at a distance; and handling a sword in combat takes more upper body strength and agility than using a gun, so it's more of a test of prowess. I was just explaining why action heroines in contemporary settings are pretty much obliged to mostly use guns if they want to be combat effective.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments I'm really too fussed about what weapon a protagonist uses. Guns are good in "gun books" and blades are good in "blade books".

The entire "exposed skin" thing is sort of a long running joke in some circles. We've talked about the chain mail bikini and so on. Dragon Magazine years ago published a cartoon strip where the attractive redhead in their monthly comic shows up and says, "It's a good thing I was wearing my armor" and then she's shown in her chain bikini with a cluster of arrows in each breast piece, but unmarked otherwise.

Mostly the exposed skin is to drawn in the boys. I collect 25mm pewter figures (usually used in table-top gaming) and paint them. A huge percentage of the female fighters is in "skimpy" armor, though not all. If you want a realistically armored figure you can get one. Most female players do prefer the more practical armor, LOL.

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments I was just explaining why action heroines in contemporary settings are pretty much obliged to mostly use guns if they want to be combat effective.

I get you, Werner. It totally depends on what setting you're looking at, like Mike was saying (gun books v. blade books). It's my tendency towards martial arts and historical action stories coming out. Edged weapons are my personal preference as far as weaponry.

I do like a good sharpshooter as well. And of course, I loved the movie Equilibrium with the gun kata. And most of Chow Yun-Fat's movies. Although not action heroines!

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments I thought that was interesting (the gun kata in Equilibrium). Interesting idea. I like some martial arts flicks...but not Like I did when I was younger. A friend of mine and I used to get together every sunday afternoon and watch imports. I think the multi weapon fights were the best, swords, spears, knives, clubs, etc., etc. The cool thing was that all hits made the same noise. Fists, swords, spears, clubs, feet whatever the hit sounded the same.

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments The old school kung fu movies were fun. Kind of low budget on effects, but the stunts were good.

Steamywindows♥♫ (steamywindows) | 3 comments What an interesting discussion. I hope you don't mind my chiming in here, but this topic has got me thinking. A few years - OK many years ago, there was a documentary produced by the national film board of Canada called "Not a Love Story". It was powerful in its condemnation of how women are portrayed as sex objects in the media (I.e., advertising).

Over the years,I have been rather surprised that this exploitation has not gone away, and even seems to have escalated. Maybe it is just that we have more media and the incidence isn't higher, just proportionate, I don't know. but what I have noticed is that we now seem to objectify men as well. I am certainly guilty of ogling hot men, but being happily married for twenty plus years, see it as appreciation of beauty, strength and sensuality and have no desire to do anything but admire from afar. Is this objectifying men?

I like to think that admiration, even exercising our flirtation muscles is healthy, not exploitative. The harm seems to me to be if there is no choice, or consent. What do you think?

message 39: by Werner (last edited Sep 06, 2012 08:58PM) (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Steamywindows wrote: "I am certainly guilty of ogling hot men, but... see it as appreciation of beauty, strength and sensuality and have no desire to do anything but admire from afar. Is this objectifying men? ....The harm seems to me to be if there is no choice, or consent. What do you think?"

No, I think that admiring someone is the very polar opposite of objectifying them. (You don't "admire" an object for personal qualities, you just use it.) Your sexual interest is in your spouse, as it should be; the recognition and appreciation of admirable qualities in other members of the opposite sex is just that, and not about sexual desire at all. I can totally relate, because that's how many of us happily married guys regard strong, beautiful women that we encounter in various action heroine media. (You can admire a LOT of members of the opposite sex --many of them have plenty of qualities to admire-- but you marry the one that you love!

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments We do need to be careful of our own attitudes at times I think. We can't of course do a huge amount to change the society around us. I've been shocked (especially since my wife passed) at how powerful "sexual temptation" is.

Don't get me wrong, I think sex is great. I miss it. that's what I mean. We live in a sex soaked culture and it can make things difficult for people who are single. I think that the way women are presented in commercials, adds and even accepted entertainment does have the possibility of at least influencing the way women can be perceived. Women are "objectified" in the popular media at least to some extent and in some cases.

Oddly this also causes a sort of unhealthy back lash as there is a rift between "normal" men and women. A fake battle of the sexes actually makes things worse. Try to get someone to define "love". Most people will tell you it's an emotion that "sweeps" over you and can't be controlled. Woody Allen's "the heart wants what the heart wants" as he makes an excuse for leaving his wife for his step daughter.

That sort of love is infatuation and it can be "part" of love. But the kind of love that lasts is the love where 2 people transcend that and make a decision that "this person is the one I will love, even though we'll get angry at times, even though we won't always be in love...we will fall in love again and again".

So I suppose it's up to us. We can't control what's on TV or in movies or in books. Personally I need God's help, I'm only human.


 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments I agree with all three of you. It's perfectly okay to find someone attractive, but when you go from appreciating someone to reducing them to merely a body or a sex object, that is the problem.

message 42: by Nomad (new)

Nomad | 24 comments Very interesting discussion!

Like Lady D, I too get annoyed when I see the lady action heroes in what is essentially chain mail bikinis, corsets, vinyl underwear and well... hooker wear as they go about their business. I was in the Marine Corps, you can't wear that stuff and not die. And it irks me because in most movies and tv shows, hell even books, you don't see men in these ridiculous getups.

If the lady in question wants to wear vinyl leotards in her off time, great... but why oh why does she have to wear that stuff to stop crime?

At the end though I think the reason some people cry foul at the lady action hero is due to being very invested in images. Some men and women are VERY invested in the image of woman as nurturing mother goddess. The all mother as it were. This all encompasing societal image of comfort and succor. Of gentleness and goodness. And frankly there is a sub-set of feminists out there who are in love with that image.

The problem is that is an image and as an image it can't possibly speak to every women and every situation. Quite frankly neither can it's opposite, the woman warrior. They are archetypal images and only speak to one particular facet of a real woman's personality.

I'm more the warrior woman type myself. But I sew, embroider, and cook and I stayed home for 4 years to have 2 kids. I also was in the military at a very combat type job. I keep up my pistol rating on the gun range near my home and I take krav maga and am working on my next badge. Though Lady D, the chances of me ever touching a sword are about... zero! So I'd like to say that I blend the woman warrior with the all mother archetype. A balance if you will.

But some people can't do that. And for the women who cannot, they see the female action hero as a betrayal, an almost pornagraphic image of exploitation. But that is no more true than the opposite side crying gender exploitation at the craft and handmade rennisance going on right now is exploitative of women.

I hope this didn't ramble on too much and makes a lick of sense to anyone.

Steamywindows♥♫ (steamywindows) | 3 comments Ah, Laura Crofts springs to mind! Never coud figure out how (and why) you would wear a bikini to a bar fight. Can we talk chaffing? But that said, these images persist. Remember Meg Ryan in a military role, credible yes, sexy? mmmm...not so much. The comment earlier about Rachel Welch posters depicitng her scantily clad for a "serious" role - imagine her dressed appropriately, would it have "sold" the movie?

message 44: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) As a young lad with a fascination for Raquel Welch's chest, I can tell you that it needs no support or armor, not cuddly at all, but great eye candy.

Meg Ryan is always sexy, but in a cute way, different from the bold chested Laura Croft & Raquel Welch types.

message 45: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1552 comments Nomad, you didn't ramble, and what you wrote made perfect sense to me!

Steamy, I think you're right that writers and movie producers think that sex sells books and movie tickets, and that a scantily-clad heroine is usually perceived by males as more sexualized, so that accounts for a lot of that imagery. Deborah had a good point above in that, in real life, women usually make their own decisions about what to wear, and if they dress in a way that emphasizes their attractiveness, it's often because that personally makes them feel good, and gives them a genuine source of psychological power in their interactions with men. Actresses on TV or a movie set, though, don't usually get to choose their own wardrobes; they wear what the producers tell costuming to give them, and characters in a book dress any way the author chooses to have them dress. So in these cases, we're not really talking about the woman's free decision; and the people making the decision for her are more often motivated strictly by money-hunger than by wanting to express any of the kinds of ideas Deborah mentioned, IMO.

That said, there IS a market for action heroines "dressed appropriately," and male fans still find them attractive. Lara Croft is always fully clothed in the Tomb Raider movies, if I remember correctly (I don't know about the video games), Xena's leather body armor and high boots didn't show a lot of skin, and the cowgirl heroines from any female-empowering Westerns I recall usually dress modestly enough, most often in the same kind of shirts and pants the cowboys wear, or in 19th-century Victorian women's garb not noted for its revealing qualities. (Maybe the rest of the Hollywood decision-makers will eventually get that memo.... )

message 46: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Sep 08, 2012 01:03PM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments Both men and women can be attractive without being "over the top". In action films (and books for that matter) it would make since for action types to wear clothing that allows freedom of movement. I've seen situations where everyone wore something like a t-shirt. That could make sense...unless it's an area where everyone else is wearing body armor.

Still, swimming upstream. Scantily clad heroines will still be the rule I suspect.

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments One of the reasons I love the Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews is that Kate is very practical in how she dresses. She wears loose-fitting clothes that allow her to safety fight, and wears her hair in a braid so that it doesn't get in the way when she's fighting. When I read the first book, I did a fist pump. It gets kind of old to hear about heroines wearing corsets and miniskirts fighting demons. Really? I think not.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments Maybe it's a magic corset??????

You know I like the Paks books and Moon deals with it all very logically. It's not an issue.

 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 360 comments It would have to be in order to fight in it. You can barely breathe in corsets! And how about the stiletto boots or heels? I think not.

Paks and Moon....both in the tbr pile.

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) | 326 comments I tend to recommend it every time I get the chance. The trilogy (Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold or in the single volume The Deed of Paksenarrion) are among my top favorite novels. I'd say the top 3 or so.

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