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By Jani Anandh
The recent years have seen a number of films that feature a certain type of female that falls under the category known as “kick-ass”:
physically strong, foul-mouthed, leather-clad, high heeled footwear, and not to mention, sexy. Take for instance Scarlett Johansson’s
Black Widow from The Avengers, Angelina Jolie’s character in Salt, Angelina Jolie’s character in Wanted, or any female character
from Sin City (graphic novel as well as film).
These films are sold to the public as so-called feminist films. Films promoting the idea that a truly independent, feminist, and strong
woman is someone who is not afraid of a fight. Someone who doesn’t shy away from taking names and kicking asses. These films
depict the ultimate woman as an aggressive, yet attractive being who exudes a certain level of animalistic sex appeal. They focus on
the woman who is equally as strong and as mean as men, if not stronger and meaner. And in order to achieve this image, these
women are portrayed beating up men and shooting up things throughout the film.
But is this really the concept of feminism? A reversal of ‘gender roles’? Whereas it used to be the male who was the warrior, the knight
in shining armour, it is now the female. Because if he can fight, why can’t she? To this end, these films see the woman adopting the
traditionally male role of the “kick-ass” hero.
But is this mere reversal of conventional gender expectations and roles truly the aim of feminism? Do we want the ultimate woman to
be someone who acts like a man on steroids, and the ultimate man to be someone who is a stay-at-home-dad? While I am an ardent
supporter of the latter, this role reversal cannot be the definition of feminism and gender equality.
Feminism should never be restricted to a certain idea of a woman. The ultimate woman is not limited to the physically superior,
warrior-like being. Nor is she necessarily someone who acts like a man and maybe even dresses like a man (the so-called tomboy).
The idea is that every type of woman is the ultimate woman. As long as she is independent, makes her own decisions, and lives her
own life. A girl wearing short pink dresses and pumps is just as much of a woman as someone who has a successful career on Wall
Street. A woman who devotes her life to taking care of her husband and her children is just as much of a woman as a soldier fighting
for her country. A prostitute is just as much of a respectable woman as a elementary teacher. As long as the choice is hers. As long as
she makes her own decisions. As long as she defines her own happiness, and thus her own life. Embracing “traditional” gender roles
is not a shame and does not make you less of a woman/feminist, and denying those roles and acting like a man does not make you
more of woman/feminist.
I think Natalie Portman put it quite aptly when she commented on the problematic of the idea of “kick-ass feminism” in an interview she
did for Elle UK. “I want every version of a woman and a man to be possible. I want women and men to be able to be full-time parents
or full-time working people or any combination of the two. I want both to be able to do whatever they want sexually without being called
names. I want them to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad — human, basically. The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’
re making a "feminist" story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable
woman can be feminist if it shows a real person […].”