I meant to blog more for women’s history month, but it’s been a heller. So instead of doing individual posts like I wanted to, I’m going to present you with a shitload of links and pictures. My first women’s history month was about women at peace, but given all the fuckery that’s been flying around, I feel compelled to opine on women rulers and warriors.
There is an interesting narrative that is a close cousin of the “Western women don’t need feminism! You need to quit whining and save those brown women over there!” trope, which is that prior to the rise of feminism, women knew their goddamn place and goddamn well stayed in it. And that place was as breeding livestock and house slaves (and that this was a natural and effective social order, which I will write about more later, because, LOLWhut?).
This assertion that women had no agency receives regretful assent from some (young, usually white, usually American) feminists, and crowing chest beating posturing when spouted off by misogynists (who also like to threateningly imply that when modern civilization breaks down, the worst of the patriarchy will rise again and put us uppity bitches back in our place as fuckable footstools).
The point of this post is to demonstrate that there has never been a time in human history where there were not uppity women, picking up weapons and getting all uppity-in-your-fucking-skull with them, and building giant ass monuments and just generally seizing power where power existed to be seized.
It should serve as a reminder that men are women are much more alike than we are different, and that we are equally capable of violence, courage and politics.
Some of these women took the reins of power in the most Machiavellian ways imaginable (I’m looking at you Shammuramat, oh god please don’t haunt-murder me with your lioness), and ruled with an iron fist.
Some fought against colonization, and fought in spite of the patriarchy at home. They had different motivations, noble and base, which should shock absolutely nobody, since women are just people like men.
Finally, I hope that this post is also a slap to the face of racist-misogynists who would very much like to believe that women of color are just naturally subservient exotic playthings and always have been, because nature!
In no particular order, but maybe sort of chronologically, I don’t know– let’s begin with evidence for ancient Eurasian warrior women, who may have been the basis for the Greek legends of the Amazons (some of the article is meh, but wev).
Also, Pharaoh Hatshepsut.
Hatshepsut was not to be fucked with, ruled as Pharaoh (very successfully) for 22 years, and had this built as her mortuary temple:
Assyrian Queen Shammuramat. Not to be fucked with. At all. Military and (evil) political genius, and that’s saying something when you talk about Assyrians.
Shang dynasty general and priestess Fu Hao. Mother, wife, oracle, warrior, bad ass woman with a god damned huge ax.
The Gladiatrix. I urge you to click through and read Juvenal’s whingy passage about women “denying the sex they were born with” to be fighters. There is NOTHING NEW about the shit spouted by evo-psychers and anti-feminists (venn diagram shows massive overlap between these groups). Oh look, they’re being called Amazons!
Tomyris, Scythian Queen, defeated Persian king Cyrus the Great and stuck his fucking head in a fucking bag of blood, just to be witty: “I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood, and so I shall”.
Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, Syrian queen of Egypt who famously revolted against the roman empire. She was defeated by Aurelian, and there are various accounts of her death. One account is that she was so awesome that she was given a villa and became a prominent socialite in Rome and died a natural death. However, she may have gone on a hunger strike, or been beheaded. Regardless, she was badass.
Of course I’m going to include Queen Boudica!
The Tru’ng Sisters, martial arts practicioners and badasses, who pushed the Han chinese out of Vietnam in AD 43, with an army mainly comprised of women warriors. This section also warrants a special mention of the bad-fucking-assery of one Phùng Thị Chính, a noblewoman who fought alongside the sisters, and was in charge of protecting the flank. She was pregnant, and legend says she gave birth on the battlefield and held her newborn in one arm while swordfighting with the other. Someone explain to me why this has not been in a movie?
Tomoe Gozen, Lady Samurai about whom this is written: “She was [. . .] a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors.” –Tale of the Heike
Gráinne Ní Mháill, Irish pirate who met queen Elizabeth (who also deserves a nod on this post), and was generally bad ass.
Yaa Asantewaa, Queen Mother of the Asante people ( a kingdom in present day Ghana), who fought against British colonizers for her people, and is quoted as saying:
Lozen, Apache Warrior and Prophet. She fought beside Geronimo in resistance to the colonization of America, among other things. Click through the read the account of her leading women and children across the Rio Grande. She was a badass.
Rani Lakshmi Bai, Resisted British colonial rule in India, and was a leading figure in the 1857 rebellion. Bad.Ass.
Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko, WWII Soviet sniper with 309 confirmed kills. She was studying history in 1941 when the german army invaded, and was among the first volunteers for the war effort.
With more information on women soldiers here via the BBC.
This is hardly an adequate or complete list of women who took power, or who resisted the march of empires. But I hope that the it stands as evidence that there have always been, and will always be, uppity women, taking up arms, being badass, fighting for their people and for themselves–being human.
Oh, and I hope that it’s also evidence for hollywood sexism, because jesus cheese and crackers christ, you can’t tell me that none of these women are fucking epic, and deserve movies. Not scantily clad 18 year old blonde nymphets with guns movies, real movies.