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Found Feminism: Lady Pirate

2012 November 14

There’s an issue that pirate-fans such as myself and Miranda are very aware of. It’s an issue that is fairly common to women characters in the fantasy genre and is closely linked to Chainmail Bikini Syndrome. Miranda calls it the Nautical Sexpot Problem.

A tanned plaster model of a woman climbing some rope rigging. She is wearing a very short fawn skirt and we can see part of her bottom. Her top half is barely covered by a cut-off shirt tied over large breasts.

Shiver me timbers. I bet she’s cold.

We both enjoy reading about and discovering stories about women pirates.

Sadly, they are often poorly represented in pop culture and in advertising as little more than the aforementioned nautical sexpots, turning up, as women sadly often do, only to prove that the central male characters are heterosexual and dashing.

The example on the left is a good one. This was taken from a pirate-themed crazy golf park. The male pirates had clothes. And coats. And treasure. All kinds of useful pirate things.

This is the trope we are used to – men representing the cut and thrust of the character, women thrown in for a bit of titillation (assuming that you like your titillation in this form, and sadly we live in a universe were that is the the assumption).

But all is not lost, me hearties!

There’s a sea-change coming. If we set sail to Hastings, that lesser known bastion of cut-throat feminism, there is a weather-beaten and battered but nonetheless awesome figure of a woman pirate on the roof of a restaurant.

A far cry from scantily-clad mermaids attempting to flog battered cod and chips – and a very refreshing change, as well as two fingers up to all the people who think that a woman’s place is stapled to the prow of a ship.

A female dummy dressed in a black and white striped top with long sleeves, a bandanna and a sash over her arm. She stands at the front of a ship, looking out imperiously. Her face is a bit worn by the weather.

Avast in front! Now you’re talking.

No high seas bikini here! She’s got an outfit suitable for Proper Adventuring, she’s steering a boat, and she’s got treasure, which (aside from clothing that protects you from the elements and your enemies) is what every pirate wants.

Throw in the eyepatch and a pet crow (plus points for cool animal companion) and she’s ready to plunder the high seas.

So, aside from the fact that we’ve finally (finally!) got a female character in a similar position and costume to male characters, what really makes this a Found Feminism for me is the placement: we’re so used to having female characters as the special, odd one out, look-at-me-I’m-a-girl that having this figure here without any particular attention drawn to it makes it all the better.

It’s not a special Lady Pirate Restaurant, it’s just a bit of pirate ship decor which also happens to have a normalised, non-stereotyped female pirate aboard.

I’ve long flown the flag for giving women characters equal weighting in stories, especially fantasy and sci-fi fiction, where writers and audiences get the joy of experiencing other worlds that aren’t bound by the tedious social rules of our own – including sexism.

One Response leave one →
  1. November 14, 2012

    My first reaction reading this post, I’m slightly afraid to say, wasn’t about pirates, but WAS about awesome women with eyepatches – specifically, the Formula 1 test driver Maria de Villota, who was involved in a terrifying testing accident in July where she basically took the brunt of a collision with a truck… on her face.

    After being rushed to hospital for some pretty drastic surgery, she has lost her right eye, and her sense of taste and smell, but still wants to return to racing if she can get a licence, and wants to get involved in the (somewhat beneath-the-radar but HUGELY important) motorsport safety movement.

    And she cuts a hell of a dash with that eyepatch.

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