Inspirational fictional feminists: She-Ra
I make no apologies. I love She-Ra. Even just saying it makes me feel all empowered (come on, give me some “She Raaaargh!”). It’s like Riot Grrrl for pre-teens.
One of the main joys I had from the show was that it featured an awesome female hero in a world of other awesome women. All too often, as a girl, my female heroes were lonely, sore thumbs sticking out of a world populated only by men. Also known as The Smurf Problem. My other examples of female heroes were all Smurfs: Princess from the deeply confusing Battle of the Planets, Teela from the He-Man series, Cheetara from Thundercats and The Pink Girlie One in Transformers. Female fighters were the exception. They were The Girl. The pat-on-the-head for female viewers: “there, look, she’s joining in too!” Not so on Etheria.
Female-heavy shows were a rarity at the time – and are still (sadly) a rarity. But the ones that exist are inspirational.
Like an animated precursor of Xena (noted fact: warrior + princess + sword = kickass) She-Ra lives in a world of female fighters, bitches-getting-shit-done, lady-doers and action women.
Seriously – take a look at all of them (more to the point, take note of the fact that the only bare midriff on display is from Bow, one of the few male characters who aren’t boyfriends, brothers or fathers). Nice bit of gender-reversal there, Mattel.
Oh and did I mention they’re all freedom fighters? Female freedom fighters battling against the
Patriarchy Evil Horde using epic and non-gender stereotypical super powers such as ass-kicking, laser beams, ice and um… being an intergalactic Space Bee. The best bit is that none of them appear to be suffering from Sex Assassin Syndrome (SAS). Except for maybe Bow. Who also sings, bless him.
The full backstory is over here on Off My Bird Chest, and some more stuff on Wiki which contains a huge amount of very cool She-Ra facts, but my main takeaways (and prime feminist inspiration fodder) as a child were:
- Women can be just as cool, if not better than men – Unlike many ‘girlification variants’ She-Ra is so much better than her brother He-Man (although now I have a mature and rich appreciation for the gay icon himself, including the epic levels of homoerotic implication that I completely failed to see as a small girl). Even in her ‘normal’ form as Princess Adora, she is an effective war leader as opposed to Prince Adam, who is basically Clark Kenting it. Also, her sword can do more stuff.
- Princesses do NOT sit in towers doing nothing - this is a very important lesson to learn as a young woman. There are umpteen tales of royal ladies hanging around turrets waiting to be rescued. Not so with She-Ra, who is basically too busy defeating evil, saving the planet (in both senses of the term, there’s a bit of eco-warrior going on here too) AND having romances with sexy sea pirates to even consider such vain idleness.
- There are other important female professions aside from Being Famous – whilst Maxie might have had “her own TV show” and Jem was “truly, truly, truly outrageous” ultimately their main goal in life was to be celebrities. Great. Not so She-Ra – in fact, keeping out of public view is generally a good idea for rebel leaders. Obviously, she had her followers and people who thought she was cool but she didn’t court the publicity… (for some reason I’m now thinking of her as Che Guevara, only in gold lame. Sorry for that image. But I’ve got it and now you have too).
- You do not have to save the world by yourself – harking back to my original point, but that’s because it’s a really important one for me to have learned. She-Ra fights her rebellion not just with her magical sword and cool flying horse, but because she creates the United Nations Of Kick Ass Women (and Men Who Wear Crop Tops). Most of the other female characters are leaders in their own right, of different realms and even planets. Take that, Barbie.