Just when I thought things had died down, a Russian blogger recently discovered my well-disseminated post about why I hate most photos and drawings of women with swords. In that article, I give many examples of how photos and drawings tend to depict women (unlike men) as grossly incompetent with bladed weapons, far more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else. Anyway, as website activity has been crazier than usual around the article, it made me realize that it’s been two years since I posted that rant. I love that it still resonates with people.
Examples have only proliferated since then. Like this:
“Men go to battle. Women wage war – ON THEMSELVES.”
Seriously?!? This isn’t waging war, people. This is cutting the shit out of your own hand so that you can’t even wield a sword. Starz marketing really fucked this up.
I guess at least she isn’t poised to slit her own throat like in this one:
Or trying to use the sword as a… chin-up bar? Oh, fuck. I have no idea what is going on here. Do you?
The crap I posted two years ago was good compared to this. Although, I should note that, in German and Scottish longsword fighting techniques, it was legit to hold the grip with one hand while simultaneously holding the blade somewhere up toward the tip as you fought. If I understand my sources correctly (and perhaps I don’t), the part of the blade where you held it was a bit duller. Regardless, you usually held the blade with a heavily gloved hand.
And then there is this.
::returns, picks up microphone::
HOW THE HELL DO YOU DO THIS AND NOT REALIZE IT’S EVERY SHADE OF STUPID? LIKE, EVEN ULTRAVIOLET, INFRARED AND X-RAY STUPID? Did they not notice she is slicing open her scalp? She’s parting her hair. Permanently.
This unbelievably bad photo originally appeared on the “What Do Nerds Like?” website. I guess what they’re saying is that nerds like to humiliate women? I doubt that’s what they meant to say, but that’s what came across to me. To be honest, I was also like JJ:
Just so you know, it’s not just swords. Take this photo for example, which is supposed to be marketing a corset:
Arrow drawn and pointed at foot? Check!
Right hand upside down? Check!
Left arm on wrong side of bow string? Check!
Can you even see the damned corset? Nope!
There is no reason to pose this model with a weapon, especially if neither she nor the photographer know how to use it. Undoubtedly, somebody thought this would look “sexy.”
They were wrong.
Mind you, people send me loads of this stuff now. They almost never realize how bad it is. In fact, they often think it’s good. For example, when this interview with a “deadly” martial artist went viral, many people sent it my way. It was clear from her website that, while she claims to be a martial artist, she is certainly a model who poses in all kinds of appalling, dangerous (to herself) ways with her weapons.
In her interview, she talks about how women have to be tough, and this is how she poses — like a pre-1970 Disney princess who has never held a weapon in her life. (A sensei of mine especially condemned her website photos.) Some of her interview poses are so poorly formed, she would tear the tendons of her arms if she actually tried to attack. Even the way she holds a bo stick — more like a pool cue than a staff — she would break her fingers. Why not pose correctly? With strength? Was she afraid of looking too “angry”?
(If your martial art is what tells you to hold a bo stick that way, you need to find a new discipline. Stat.)
We have to be honest when we’re buying into the game of appealing to the male gaze at the expense of our power. We who know better — that is, female martial artists — have to do better than this.
(And, boy, am I going to get hate mail for that last critique. Hoo!)
I now leave you with this wonderful longsword duel between Bénédicte Robitaille and Amy Graham at the Montreal Winter Tournament 2015.
Bénédicte went on to take the gold at the 2015 Medieval Combat World Championships.
Kick ass, ladies!