Does Being Feminine Mean You Can’t Be A Warrior?

I apologise immensely for my absence lately. I unfortunately had to take a small hiatus due to starting back at university.

BUT. ANYWAY.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post about What Constitutes A “Strong Female Character” and Why They Are Important — and I wanted to write something else along those lines. I really enjoy writing posts about female characters. Fortunately (or, more like, unfortunately) I came across a comment on Goodreads that made me stop in my tracks. The unnamed reviewer said “Celaena Sardorthian is an unbelievable character because her femininity contradicts her being a warrior” and then went on to say that “you can’t be bold, bloody and resolute and also be particularly feminine”.

A small part of me wants to accept that this is her opinion and she is entitled to think whatever she wants. However, another part of me just feels incredibly angry because I do not agree with this statement AT ALL.

(And I really wanted to understand this person reasoning for this, but unfortunately this person “did not have the time to write a detailed discussion”, but had the time to write a full length review about Celaena being unbelievable. Whatever.)

Though, perhaps my anger over this has something to do with the fact that I’m the kind of person who hates being told what I can and cannot be. If I want to wear make-up and love clothes and play with puppies and be silly, I can — and if I want to kick-ass and learn how to fight, I can as well. As a complex, three-dimensional individual, I do not need to fit into one box. I can be feminine and I can be a strong woman. And I don’t believe that one contradicts the other.

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I absolutely love Celaena Sardothian because she embodies both feminine and masculine qualities. She can be a girly girl, but at the same time can go out and kick-ass. And I strongly believe that being feminine does not mean that you cannot be a warrior. I mean, who says that someone with feminine qualities can’t be a cold hearted killer? Have you not seen the news or a documentary on serial killers?

Out of interest, I wanted to check what defined a warrior. And I discovered that the definition of a warrior is basically “a brave and experienced soldier or fighter”.

Does Celaena embody that definition? In my opinion, yes she does. And she manages to embody that despite possessing a number of feminine qualities. Personally, I really like her unique blend of characteristics, it makes her a much more complex and interesting character. Additionally, according to this definition, being a warrior has nothing to do with how much or how little someone is feminine.

I don’t understand how someone can believe that being feminine somehow cancels out being a warrior — as though liking clothes or shopping or make-up or whatever can somehow prevent you from being an assassin or warrior or, in today’s modern world, a simple kick-ass woman.

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There are also a number of wonderful examples of strong female warriors in fiction and media. For example, one of my all time favourite female warriors is definitely Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy loves clothing and shopping and girl talk; she can be vulnerable and sweet and kind; she wants to go to prom and wear pretty dresses and date boys; but she is also one of the best fighters to ever exist.

In young adult fiction, I absolutely love Isabelle Lightwood. And she is another wonderful example of a female character who possesses a number of feminine qualities, but is a capable and skilled warrior/fighter. In fact, Isabelle is quite similar to both Celaena Sardothian and Buffy Summers. She, too, loves clothes and shopping. But that doesn’t define her. Once again, Isabelle is a wonderful example of a female character who possesses a unique blend of characteristics, making her a fuller and interesting character.

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When I think about other fictional female characters that embody feminine qualities whilst also being a capable warrior, some that come to mind are the following:

Daenerys Targaryen (A Song of Ice and Fire)

Annabeth Chase (Percy Jackson and the Olympus)

Emma Carstairs (Lady Midnight)

Morrigan (A Court of Mist and Fury)

Amren (A Court of Mist and Fury)

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So, at the end of the day, I strongly believe that being a warrior does not mean that someone cannot be feminine as well. We are all complex individuals. We are passionate about different things and enjoy various hobbies that may seem weird to other people. I mean, I study history and spend a lot of time reading, but I’m also a huge fan of metal/hard rock and would love to drive a car super fast around a racetrack.

Everyone is complex and different, so I don’t think that characters need to fit into a certain type of mold. Otherwise, they would not be as interesting to read.

What is your opinion? Do you think being feminine is contradictory with being a warrior? Can you think of any examples of feminine warriors?

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32 thoughts on “Does Being Feminine Mean You Can’t Be A Warrior?

  1. I think it stems from the societal belief that being a warrior is a type of masculine quality. These old gender ideas are just that, old. Which means that, though it’s changed throughout the years, it can still be a really strong held idea for a lot of people. And when a lot of people hold an idea, they usually pass it on to thos3 younger.

    People still also think that the eonly way to be feminine is to be dainty & delicate, which they may perceive as the exact opposite of a warrior.

    I, personally, don’t agree with those things at all. And I am all for smashing gender norms & embracing all aspects of ourselves & not letting anyone dictate what things mean to us. If you wanna wear makeup, tight dresses, & take down armies? Do it!!! It doesn’t make you less of a warrior or less feminine. ♡♡♡

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love this comment, because it is absolutely, 100% true. It definitely stems from deeply embedded societal beliefs that often dictate what we perceive as normal. I love that fiction, storytelling and other forms of media are breaking these gender norms and demonstrating that we all possess a unique blend of characteristics. I mean, there is nothing wrong with having a female character that is an assassin who isn’t particularly feminine, but it is nice that authors are attempting to demonstrate that there are numerous ways of being a warrior.
      Thank-you so much for your comment! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What that comment is crazy? I haven’t read Throne of Glass yet but the idea that femininity contradicts her being a warrior is something I really disagree with. It’s sort of an archaic idea that women can’t be soldiers unless they enjoy ‘man activities’ or have abandoned all their feminine tendencies. Its like when you see a beautiful woman in the police force and people are shocked or are like ‘well she can’t do much, she must just have a desk job?’… Erm why.

    Femininity and being a warrior can go hand in hand, a woman is just as strong as a man and can be just as much a warrior. I’m so glad that some Young Adult Literature is going against views like this and showing strong female leads, such as Hermione from Harry Potter who is intelligent, strong and also beautiful. Katniss, even Feyre from the A Court of Thorns and Roses. Feyre is one which some people don’t agree with, but I find her a strong character especially if you have read ACOMAF then (just incase you haven’t I wont reveal anything) but she stands up for herself and decides what would be best for her and what she doesn’t want to happen.

    I love these posts, I like how you start a discussion and keep us up to date with some of the conversations in the book community. (Hopefully everything I put has made sense, but I’ve had to stop and start 3 times because a 2 year old is currently battling my patience)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is definitely an archaic idea that women cannot be soldiers unless they enjoy masculine activities! It goes back to my other discussion about strong female characters where a lot of other people believe that a female cannot be strong without denouncing their feminine qualities. This is such an old idea, and I too enjoy the fact that young adult fiction is challenging these “norms”.
      I have read ACOMAF and I really enjoyed it. Feyre is a complicated character for me, but there is definitely something that I cannot deny: in this second book she definitely chooses herself and decides what is best for her. I like to think that the first book was about her learning how to fight for those she loves, and the second book was about learning that it was alright to fight for herself.
      Thank-you so much for your comment, and I am so glad that you like these posts! It definitely makes me want to continue posting stuff like this 🙂

      Like

  3. First of all, great post and I’m glad you aren’t afraid to bring up these issues! As a kid I never once believed there was anything I couldn’t be just because I was also a girl. When I grew up I realized that views like the idea that you can’t be feminine and a warrior are commonplace, and like you I can’t stand being told what I can and can’t be!

    I agree that you can be both feminine and a warrior. I mean, it’s not even a stretch of the imagination. I like your examples, especially Buffy and Annabeth. I celebrate literature that shows that women are actually three dimensional and capable of being anything we want!

    Awesome post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely grew up experiencing the same thing. I didn’t really understand that these ideas were commonplace until I reached high school and I can remember it being really deflating. I just couldn’t comprehend why I couldn’t be something because of my gender, it made no sense. (And I still somewhat have that feeling today, because I cannot comprehend how some people believe that my gender dictates what I can and can’t do.)
      And yes, I definitely celebrate any type of media that demonstrates women that break the norm and fight for what they believe in. Characters like this are wonderful reminders that we cannot let people or society try to dictate what we do!
      Thank-you so much for commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Celaena as a character frustrates me A LOT but I’d agree with what you said about her embodying both feminine and masculine qualities! I definitely don’t think that being feminine and being a warrior are mutually exclusive, but it’s true that YA characters, for the most part, usually sit on one or the other.

    Anyway! I enjoy reading a blend, but I think the context is also important – not all characters have to be BOTH feminine and masculine, and not all characters have to be EITHER feminine or masculine. It just depends on the story, in my opinion, and I think there’s also something to be said about moving away from naming certain characteristics ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’. No personality trait is inherently either, after all. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I absolutely love this comment! I also enjoy reading characters that often blur the lines, but I think it is also important to understand that characters don’t have to be either or both feminine and masculine for them to be fascinating. And it definitely depends on the story!

      Thank-you so much for the comment! 🙂

      Like

  5. Love the discussion! I agree that women can be feminine and can be warriors. I don’t think it’s contradictory, per say. I do think warriors are typically equated with masculine qualities–strength, focused, grounded, proud, violent, whatever. I do think feminine people can have all of those qualities too. So what exactly makes something feminine and something masculine? If femininity can encompass strength and stoicalness, and masculinity can encompass the “feminine” traits of caregiving and gentleness…what delineates the two? I’m tempted to say that the binaries shouldn’t exist, but I like the idea of a “beautiful masculinity” and “beautiful femininity,” so I don’t really know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank-you so much! I definitely agree with what you have said. I personally think that some people believe that either someone is masculine or feminine — which I strongly disagree with. We all possess a variety of masculine and feminine traits, and one is not more superior than the other.

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  6. This is one of the best posts I think I have ever read, and extremely important. Society and the people in it are always trying to shove others into boxes and I’m sick of it. I don’t like when people tell me I can’t enjoy the books or movies I do because I also like makeup and ballet. People are complex beings that can’t possibly be defined by one simple trait. Of course you can be a kick ass warrior and also like fancy dresses. It’s preposterous to assume otherwise. Why is it that femininity is viewed as weak? I really like all the examples you used to contradict this, especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I love even more for her femininity (which never stopped her from saving the world, which she did a lot). LOVED this discussion so much ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am SO SO SO glad that you liked this post. Your comment has seriously made my day. Society definitely attempts to shove us into boxes and define/label us; and I strongly believe that literature and media are wonderful agents to combat these sorts of belief. Of course you can like a certain book or movie, and still enjoy make-up and ballet! People really need to learn to accept that people are complex beings.

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  7. NOOOOOO no no no no no. I don’t understand why people event think females can’t be warriors. Everybody can be both soft and strong. Or maybe even both strong and cruel. It depends on the character or the person. However, I don’t think having a specific gender defines whether the person can be a warrior or not. Because, in my opinion, anybody can be a warrior.

    Wonderful post, Madeline!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank-you, Mara! We are all well-rounded individuals and we all possess different likes and dislikes. Our personalities are complex, so why can’t are characters be complex as well? And yes, I firmly believe that gender does not define whether or not someone can be a warrior. Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂

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  8. I think I saw that comment on GR and thought ??? Surely what makes her an unbelievable character is that she likes books. I mean you can’t be a warrior and be able to read can you? Comments like this are just stereotyping nonsense. I was a little surprised by how vain Celaena is but when you learn more about her background it kind of makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, thank-you so much for giving me a laugh! I definitely agree with you, though. And I like how Celaena develops throughout the books. Yes, she definitely comes across vain and perhaps not well developed initially, but she grows into a very fascinating character! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes! I LOVE this! You are so right. I love it, but I hate that the conversation is still necessary. How are we not over this by now?! Women can be MORE THAN ONE THING. The ideas of femininity and masculinity are so out dated. I wish we could just get rid of the terms altogether.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There are so many. It’s depressing, but not surprising. The roles women are allowed to play in so many stories are really limited. I suppose it’s inevitable that people would start to think that’s all we’re capable of.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. That is extremely aggravating! There is no one mold. That’s an old, old way of thinking. Assassins are a type of warrior and you have to live under a facade anyway – so it makes sense to be strong and feminine at the same time. But anyway, your interests and your capabilities don’t necessarily coincide… Your gender/sex has nothing to do with capabilities either! Or interests! I was the biggest tomboy growing up. I still have no interest in make-up or fashion. I really want to learn a style of fighting, myself! Ugh, we seriously need to be over this by now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, your interests and your capabilities definitely do not need to coincide — and neither does your gender or sex. Thank-you! Unfortunately, so many people still think this way and it is very annoying. Today, we can be pretty much anything we want to be, we have those choices, and yet so many people continue to see that was unbelievable or wrong because someone is a woman. Thank-you so much for commenting, absolutely loved your comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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