Born To Be a Warrior Princess?


“If I have to listen to you two blabber anymore, somebody’s going to end up seriously dead.”

~from “Xena: Warrior Princess”

To fix my chakram or not to fix my chakram, that is the question

I really miss Xena. She’s been gone from the airwaves for over 10 years now and star Lucy Lawless is (gasp!) 43 years old. The show first came on the air at a crucial time in my life, when I was away from home for the first time in my life and (gasp, again!) having to make more important decisions than what to do on the weekends. Xena was tough, determined, clever, beautiful in a barbarian kind of way, resourceful, and kind only when the mood struck her. She was the kind of woman who might have been included in the John McClane and Dirty Harry Callahan club of loner action heroes. In short, she was the best kind of role model I never had growing up.

As I’m now the age Ms. Lawless was at the end of the show’s run, I find that I’m turning into the kind of woman I’m sure my parents never wanted for a daughter. I consider myself a feminist to the extent that I think men and women should be paid the same for the same work output, and be given all the same opportunities where applicable. I also believe that a woman doesn’t need a husband or boyfriend (or girlfriend, depending on her persuasion) to be a valued and valuable part of society.

The L-word (lesbian) is always bound to come up in any conversation about Xena. That’s OK. It was largely the lesbian fanbase that catapulted the show, along with its kindred sister Buffy, into the fandom stratosphere in the late ’90s. I personally am not a lesbian (at least, I don’t think so), nor do I have anything against other people’s sex lives, but the notion brings up an important idea. Is it possible for a woman to be a strong “warrior princess” without needing a significant other, male or female, in her life?

Collect 10,000 Xena points and earn your own palomino

I think it is. It might be the exception rather than the norm, but such women exist, whether they are lesbians or not. It’s normal in western culture and literature to see men who are tough, intelligent, almost asexual loners completely dedicated to their work. (Sherlock Holmes leaps immediately to mind.) There are only a handful of such characters who happen to be women; Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski is the one I always use for the sake of argument.

I guess it’s no secret by now that I am (or aspire to be) one of these warrior princess types. I spent my whole young life thinking I would join the police force, or perhaps the FBI. Never for a minute did I fantasize about a fairy-tale wedding or a nice house in the suburbs like most of the other girls. I had no user for frilly clothes or the latest in eyeshadow and lip gloss. While my female peers were giggling over boys, I was making homemade catapults and shooting jackrabbits. I always knew I was different. (Now that I know it’s partially due to my Asperger diagnosis, I feel slightly relieved.)

The question I ask myself is whether this “Xena” personality bent is genetic. I think it has to be. There are some women who never grow out of that “tomboy” stage. Some may be lesbians, others may not be. I really have no idea. I do think society often unfairly paints these modern warrior women and excludes them from so many opportunities. We’ve come a long way since the advent of the feminist movement, but there’s still much work to be done. Girls need to know they can be anything they want to be, including warriors. Nothing wrong with that!

This month, I hope to explore a bit more of my interest in pop culture feminism and tell some stories from my own (sorta) checkered past. I don’t even know where this fixation came from. I’m not a mother, nor a sister, even a caretaker or teacher of girls. I just want to get the word out somehow, even in a small way, to the girls who might be struggling with the same things I went through. So, battle on, would-be Xenas, for there will be more on this topic!

Yours truly, cosplaying a long time ago

Got comments or suggestions? They’re always welcome at wikusandmurdock@yahoo.com . Enjoyed this post? Be sure to click “Like” and subscribe to P&Q!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on July 20, 2011.

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