The Wednesday Rant – Women With Swords

And now – a new sort of post (for me): The Wednesday Rant, when once a fortnight I’ll be letting you know what really gets my goat. Hopefully, it will similarly get yours too, which means a mutual cathartic offloading/putting the world to rights. There is one rule though… if any of my bugbears are done/liked by my friends, then they’re excepted. Because they are my friends, and, well, I’ll put up with anything for a friend. Well, almost.

So, the first topic to come under the scrutiny of my beady little eye is….

Women with swords (who still have perfect hair at the end of a fight)!

Yes folks, this leads to such massive eye-rolling on my part that I’m surprised my eyeballs don’t just fall out and roll away somewhere more peaceful. Please, Please, please, film and program makers… why do you do it? Stop please. Stop right now!

No! No! No! Keira Knightly as Guinevere in King Arthur

I can just about tolerate these happenings in pure fantasy films, although I still grind my teeth when the said women hardly look strong enough to lift a kettle, let alone a sword or shield! And how their flimsy costumes manage to survive a full-on dust-up (and still provide great cleavage shots) is anyone’s guess.

It’s surely a matter of common sense that hefting a heavy sharp pointy thing around takes years of training and not a small amount of muscle. In the Middle Ages, only men of noble birth tended to get that training. Not random attractive women, who happen to find themselves in a tight spot. I’m all for female equality in the right places, but the middle of a historical sword-fight ain’t one of them (and don’t even try to quote me artistic licence!). Any woman of the past, who truly found herself in trouble and in miraculous possession of a sword, may have managed to wave it around a bit. She may even have had the strength to keep up the waving around for a while. But up against a trained man of any period… well, she would have been dead very quickly.

Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian in Robin Hood (the Ridley Scott version), And what was it with the whole armour style thing in that film?

Not only that, but it would have been deemed improper for a woman to take up arms (apart from, maybe, a bow). However, native Celtic women, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, were pretty fierce and not averse to a good punch up:

“…a whole band of foreigners will be unable to cope with one [Gaul] in a fight, if he calls in his wife, stronger than he by far and with flashing eyes; least of all when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth, and poising her huge white arms, begins to rain blows mingled with kicks, like shots discharged by the twisted cords of a catapult.”

So yes, there are some exceptions, but not many, and I’m sure those women looked like they’d been in a fight by the end of it, not prancing around looking heroically sexy! Talking of exceptions, I will also allow the Lady of the Lake is allowed to handle a sword – there again, she had a good excuse!

Yep, no problem with this one, unless she gets out and starts waving it around!

What about the strong (in character) women in the Middle Ages who defended castles (Nicolaa de la Haye) or went on Crusade with their husbands (Eleanor of Aquitaine), I hear you ask. You didn’t? Never mind, I’ll answer it anyway. As far as I know none of these women actually took up arms and fought. They could direct the male defenders under their command though, if their husband was not present, and they often endured hardship as well as any man. Surely those stories, told well, would make a good enough offering, although, I expect, the title role would have to be played by some gorgeous lithe Hollywood type, and it would probably be a flop in terms of being marketable to the usual audience for action films.

There. That’s my little rant over for a couple of weeks. I shall now go and have a quiet lie down with a soothing cup of chamomile tea and listen to some Mozart!


  1. Well said! I couldn’t agree more. It’s an absurd Hollywood belief that any random person could pick up a sword and instantly fight like an expert. You would never think it took a) strength and b) skill that was developed by loooong practice. For a medieval woman (let alone a lady) to have both these is so unlikely as to be a one in a million circumstance. Personally, I believe it is the art of the typical that convinces.

  2. I find it amazing that while everyone else is receiving all sorts of body shots, these women scamper in and out wearing a leather bikini and never get so much as a paper cut or a burr let alone a proper wound. And yes, the body type of an anorexic, not a fit warrior. And long hair flying around obstructing their view but never tangling or preventing them from seeing the six approaching guards (who have the decency to attack in ones or twos so as not to overwhelm her).

    The exception to this is Lucy Lawless, because Xena was meant to be tacky and she did break her pelvis during filming.

    Thank you! Love the rant!

  3. Hear, hear! I am also annoyed by men who pick up swords in movies/TV episodes/etc and fight like experts, when they have never touched the weapon before. I’ve read more than one book wherein the hero, a non-fighting type (artist, bookshop owner, etc), becomes a master swordsman in a few days (or hours!) and goes on to defeat dozens of men who have trained all their lives. Urban fantasy stories often have the female version as heroines, those anorexic, never-fought-before mall rats who suddenly defeat armies of zombies or other nasties with masterful hand-to-hand combat tactics. Fie, and a pox upon them all! 😛

  4. I am afraid that ‘history’ and Hollywood only have one thing in common…..the letter ‘H.’

    Love your rants Jules……….:)

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