warrior womyn
November 29, 2003 09:10 PM

As I started to think about this week's WHB topic (that is, what am I going to post - I think it's going to be a feminist response to a feminist response to pop culture, that is, a reflection on something I read in Bitch.), I realized that I'd never actually completed - scratch that, never even saved - my response to Alison's Warrior Womyn post from last week. Um, oops.

She asks, of the Discovery Channel (Canada) "Warrior Women" week:

Is this television special one you will watch?
How do you feel about such a focus on Warrior Womyn?
Do you feel that we should have this specific and individual focus, or should they be included in general historical views of warriors?
Should we focus on the past, or should we be educating on our modern warriors?
And, lastly, who would you include if you were making the schedule?

First, I recall watching the Joan of Arc one when it aired in the states. At least, I watched something about Joan of Arc that involved Xena in some way. It was alright. I mean, it was very "Discovery Channel", meaning that it was frequently reductive and probably contained factual holes that any serious Jeanne D'Arc scholar would have found laughable (this being my experience when Discovery does shows on anything I'm particularly knowledgeable about).

What it did do well was in actually focusing on the military accomplishments rather than the whole "crazy girl hears voice of God" thing. And I recall it being somewhat hedgey about some of the conventional wisdom about Joan of Arc, which is commendable - it very much worked the "everyone thinks this, but honestly we don't know" angle, and I can appreciate that.

Second. The focus on warrior women. As much as I believe that a woman warrior is well, a warrior (don't see any specials on "man warriors", do you?), I think there is some value in calling out what is still an exception to convention. Until it is assumed that women and men have equal fighting potential, pointing out these exceptions shows the possibility. Including them in the general "warrior" population presumes more equality in this area than actually exists.

Is it ideal? Hell, no. I see these kinds of things as a temporary function. Of course, they can backfire. I suppose it's possible that I'll say "Women still are assumed to be weaker and less qualified fighting forces" and someone else will say "But no! Joan of Arc! Feminism died in the middle ages!" (or they could always use a more current example of an exception to prove me wrong, I suppose). Generally, though, a good temporary measure - it adds Joan, Mulan, warrior women in all forms, heck - even Xena, to the role models girls and women have access to.

Third. The modernity angle. While there is certainly also value in focusing on contemporary (or at least, less distantly historical) figures, that is frequently not what the Discovery Channel is about. There has been some interesting coverage of women in the US armed forces baked into the WWII and Vietnam weeks on the History Channel (which I'm pretty sure is related to Discovery), though. Something interesting about that - the coverage of women in each successive US war seems less distinct from the coverage of men - so, where we have "Oh look at the brave and pretty nurses" in WWII, we have "Oh, and some of these army folk were women" in the Gulf War. I take that as a positive sign that the slow, quiet integration of the military is slowly and quietly being incorporated into the culture at large.

And honestly, I'm not sure who I'd include. I'll have to contemplate that.

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