It’s been almost 10 months since I originally posted “Why I Hate (Most) Photos and Drawings of Women with Swords” and about 9 months since I posted “Depictions of Sword Women that are (Mostly) Awesome.” The response remains tremendous. I greatly appreciate the comments and shared links.
Despite the controversy, I have only one regret about that first article. I should never have mentioned Michonne. Here’s why.
When I found that image of Michonne, it appeared sort of generally problematic in that she’s off balance and holding the katana in a way that is NOT effective for cutting, defending or anything. Granted, muscular people can power their way through any cut regardless of bad form. YouTube overflows with videos of “badasses” using blades to whack the shit out of anything standing still. Michonne might be a very fit, badass character, she is not one of these muscle heads.
But I wasn’t pointing out the problems in this photo to scratch my nerd itch. I identified them because they were dangerous to the wielder. My main beef with the photos and artwork in my original post is that the women look more endangered than dangerous. Whether or not they are holding the weapon correctly is almost beside the point. It just so happens that usually when a weapon is held incorrectly it endangers the holder. That’s the main reason that I pointed out incorrect hand and body positions. This is way more common for women in images than men.
The resulting comments and conversations, however, didn’t follow that line. They branched off into distracting arguments of the following flavors.
A few people thought I was picking on the actress. Believe me, I wasn’t. I’ve been in a relationship with an actor now for over five years and I’ve been friends with many others for decades. So, I am not in any way picking on Danai Gurira, who is gorgeous and awesome. The issues lies with the fight master or choreographer. (Granted, sometimes you just can’t train someone to do something. It’s unfortunate casting, but it happens.) If anyone gets my grief for the problems I’m describing, though, it’s the fight director, as well as any director who interferes with appropriate stage combat practices.
Others were incensed that I’d picked on their favorite character from a much-loved TV series. They explained that, if Michonne had faults, it was because she had picked up the katana “along the way” and had not been trained. (Never mind that holding the sword incorrectly means she would’ve never made it out of the first season alive, much less three.) In bringing up Michonne’s past, they inadvertently pointed out the character’s poor construction, which is a deeper issue. It sucks just as much when writers do poor research as it does when artists do poor research.
Ultimately, these concerns distracted from my main point. As you can see in the blog post about “good” photos and artwork, I point out some misplaced hand positions. But I don’t fault them overall because the actors/characters actually look like they’re doing something effective with the weapons they are holding. And while I (and others) can find fault with Michonne and her creators in The Walking Dead, doing so drives the conversation away from the meta concern that women are often depicted as not just incompetent with weaponry but self-endangering. In this case specifically, I don’t think that’s what they mean to convey at all — in fact, quite the opposite. They’re attempting to depict a woman who is dangerous with her weapon of choice. And most viewers perceive her that way, which is important.
So, thanks to everyone who shared their passion for Michonne with me. It helped bring the conversation back to where it needed to be. Merci!