• Fri, Mar 25 2011

Gallery: Why Are Warrior Women Always Dressed Like Strippers?

Let’s take a moment to talk about Sucker Punch.

First of all, it was horrible.

Second of all, it felt horrible in a really personal way. It felt as though they reached inside my head and found everything that had ever provoked a shocked/fearful emotional response in me – lobotomies! Nazis! Rape! Zombies! Mental asylums! Forced prostitution! Setting someone’s face on fire! Rape by someone eating French Onion Soup!  – and then they tossed all of those things into one big ball, and exclaimed “let’s slap some glitter on all of this and make it dance! Jon Hamm, crawl out of that bubble, you get yourself over here with an ice pick!”

It was deeply uncomfortable.

Probably more so because it was profoundly boring. It’s a deeply humorless movie. As one character – who was set up to be, by far, the most sympathetic character – expires, with her dying words I found myself wondering “what was her name, again?”

But it’s not my place to judge the movie. I’m sure you can read all about that at our sister site, Crushable, where they review movies.

Since this is a fashion and beauty website let’s talk about why so-called empowered “warrior women” are always dressed like they’re about to trot down the main stage at Scores.

Because one point this horrible, wretched movie (which I am in no way judging) made well was when one of the characters jumped up and said “Don’t you get it? All of this is to turn guys on!”

Which, well, yes. Got that.

But I cannot for the life of me understand why.

Look, wasn’t the whole point of this movie supposed to be about female empowerment? There’s literally not a single male – other than a geriatric, sexually non-threatening one – who is portrayed well. I can’t imagine dudes coming away from watching a teenage girl be sexually molested by her stepdad and thinking “God, I am so turned on right now!” Or, if they do, that is probably something they’d do well never to admit.

Given that the premise revolves around a gang of women overcoming obstacles to escape from a mental asylum/escape from a bordello/escape from zombie robots and dragons, isn’t this supposed to appeal to a female audience? To be perfectly honest, isn’t the target audience for this really angry teenage girls? And do angry teenage girls really need to see someone dressed up as though she’s about to audition for the Pussycat Dolls to feel like they can relate?

Or, do teenage girls want to see those girls kick ass, but also be reassured that ass kicking is really sexually attractive to men (whose asses they are kicking)? Do they want to be reassured that after they’re done dominating every problem, someone will still think they’re hot in their little pigtails? Even if that person is a rapist who eats French Onion soup?

God. Maybe we all do.

How depressing.

Look, I completely, wholeheartedly believe that someone’s fashion sense isn’t necessarily a reflection of their inner qualities. I don’t believe that if someone wears glasses, she must be smart (although she could be), and I don’t believe that if someone wears a mini-dress and makeup, she must be dumb (although, again, she could be).

But these aren’t real people. These are fake people. They are female characters in action movies who directors and costumers have seemingly decided need to be dressed a certain way in order to appeal to a certain audience (who may not even be male). Sure, I can give some leeway for the character in Sucker Punch imagining her comrades in sexually suggestive outfits in her bordello fantasy, but would she really see them strutting around in fishnets and leotards when she’s imagining them fighting giant robots? Why? That seems like really awkward robot-fighting gear. It’s a convention no one’s really made sense of.

But then, perhaps they’re just holding to traditon. Here are pictures of other female action heros. Let’s try to figure out whether their outfits make any sense in their stories:

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  • Danielle

    I’ve thought about this topic on and off for several years. If you look at mythologies all over the world you’ll find the same theme: women who are both sexy and deadly. I can’t help but think that instances of these kinds of women showing up in modern film and stories is more of that same thing. On a psychological level I can’t help but wonder if we’re channeling something from our primal past.

  • Kat

    I think they wear skimpy clothes as to appeal to fanboys…I kind of understand Laura Croft’s outfit, I mean, if it’s hot out why not wear short shorts?

  • MNiM

    I don’t know anything about Sucker Punch, but more generally it’s because:

    1.) Sexy sells tickets

    but also because

    2.) Sex is powerful. Female sexuality is powerful. That said, it’s not just female sexuality — male action heroes are often sexualized too (James Bond, for example).

    As for: “do angry teenage girls really need to see someone dressed up as though she’s about to audition for the Pussycat Dolls to feel like they can relate?”

    It probably helps, yes. So much of the teenage years is spent in receipt of mixed messages about female sexuality (in particular), but naturally, most teens want to believe that they are/can be sexy. And sexy heroines embody the idea that you don’t have to give up your sexuality to be taken seriously.

  • Phil

    On the flip side, many action movies have men fighting while wearing a suit and tie. Totally unrealistic. It’s really tough to punch someone while wearing a suit jacket and it’s tough run fast in dress shoes and slacks.

  • Ryan

    Haven’t seen Sucker Punch yet. All I know is I want to see it based on the previews. Interesting thing though is, even if you cover up every girl in the previews, and just look at what is happening in the scenes, it still looks like something I’d want to go to. Unfortunately for me, my wife(who would otherwise love this movie) looks at the girls and doesn’t want to go see it because she doesn’t want to go watch a bunch of girls dressed up like sluts. Whats worse is I get the idea she thinks I’m a pig for wanting to see it. Never mind her best friend wants to see it a well (a girl!)

    As far as the general subject goes though, female warriors are generally seen as quick and agile, while most male warriors are seen as stronger but slower. Stronger but slower relies on armor for protection while the quick and agile use their reflexes for protection and see armor as getting in the way. Martial artists are a great example of this. Google “Bruce Lee” to see a male example of a quick and agile warrior, no criticism for not wearing enough there! Now Google “RoboCop” for an example of a strong but slow warrior. Strong and slow are generally viewed as brutes, and unless there is something really special about them, they are supporting characters.

    The point of all of this is, if we want female warriors to wear more, they need to be stronger and a lot slower, needing armor for protection instead of their wits and reaction times. The fact that these girls don’t need armor just reinforces their amazing portrayal of skills, I know I’d need the armor!

    FYI, historically, anybody on a battlefield with a bow and arrows had minimal armor due to the fact that armor reduced the effectiveness of operation of the bow. They would then retreat behind the swordsmen as close quarters combat threatened them. That being said I have not seen King Arther and Guinevere looks like she could use a shirt.

  • Anette

    Because nobody would care if these skanks looked like Rosie O’Donnell. Women aren’t warriors. Hollywood has to make them sexy so guys can beat off to them when they’re done patronizing them with suppressed laughter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plkeKMTDM9g

    • Informant

      Princess Pingyang,Gudit
      Triệu Thị Trinh
      Boudicca
      Trưng Sisters
      Artemisia I of Caria
      Fu Hao
      Ahhotep I

      You are incorect in stating that women are not warrior’s. There has been and will always be female’s who eitheir are born warrior’s or will become them,dress them up dress them down fantasize them into sex symbol’s.
      Their only movie’s but do not forget the real women warrior’s out there our world would be far better as a whole if we worked together,men and women as equal’s. f]Fuck female power fuck male power! Embrace the power of equality and team work. Take pride in who you are whatever you feel you are but dont demine the other sex as you go about it.

  • Ginny

    I’m surprised you didn’t list Buffy the Vampire Slayer on her, with her constant butt-kicking while wearing heels (okay, that could just be because SMG is so short), and skirts or tight pants or…..

    • G

      True, Buffy wore girly clothes and heels. But she rarely dressed like a prostitute. Usually she was wearing regular skirts or turtle necks and stuff. In fact there was one scene where she wore a skirt to a bank to get a loan and was annoyed when she couldn’t kick in it.

  • Alicia

    Female sexuality is a deadly force. Women use seduction as a weapon in the animal world as well. Of course women can be badass and asexual, but you’ll find that behavior in books. Movies market themselves to the lowest common denominator, IQ-wise. So you’re going to get the idiots who are only watching the movie for masturbation material and the bimbos who think that in order to be cool or popular you need to wear the shortest, tightest, most revealing clothing the world has to offer. Only indie flicks and books are made to appeal to the intelligence of the audience so therefore are slightly less concerned with showing tit.

  • Delilah

    Okay, so this really has nothing to do with the meat of your gallery, but…
    I freaking LOVE The Avengers and it has delighted me to no end that you included Emma Peel! Do you know why her character is named Emma Peel? Apparently in the 60s on the British news, anchormen would say a woman had “M-appeal” to mean man appeal. So actually, I guess this does fit into your argument, because Emma Peel’s character was intrinsically tied to sexiness.

  • http://Facebook.com/kellie_kaleilehua Kellie

    No “Xena the Warrior Princess” and her sidekick Gabriella? Really? For shame!

    I grew up watching that show weekly with my mom!

  • The Truth Fairy

    It’s a way of minimizing any potential “girl power”.

    Society is telling girls in no uncertain terms that in order to be effective, important, valuable, or interesting, they have to be attractive to men, and that requires they be highly sexualized.

    Ugly girls don’t get to be main characters, unless they’re psychotic due to their incredible fugliness. And even if they are, it just takes a 3-min movietime makeover to turn them into raving beauties!

    Look at “Beastly”: the chick who falls in love with the beast is a hottie! If she were fat or fugly, who would care?

  • James

    You complain about Guinevere in King Arthur, but ancient Celts actually went to battle naked, smeared in dirty and ashes. It was a bit of a precursor to the warpaint that the Scots would later use. Basically, it was for shock. It was to frighten the Roman legions, to make them think that the Celts were crazy, stupidly brave and complete animals.

    As for Catwoman: You’re complaining about outfits in Batman comics. Have you *seen* what Batman wears? Let’s not even get in to Robin. And these are some of the more reasonable outfits out there, in the 4-color world. Same with Elektra — she’s from Daredevil. Did you see that film? Did you see how Affleck looked? Yeeeeah.

    “Boys shorts have nothing to do with archeology.” Neither do whips.

    Overall, your list is annoying and pedantic.

    • Venus in Furs

      James, I think I’m in love with you. “‘Boy shorts have nothing to do with archeology.’ Neither do whips.” Hell yeah.

    • Lux

      This is supposed to be ironic, right?

  • Alex

    Sex and violence go together like chocolate and peanut butter. They are both vehicles for venting repressed energy and stimulation of the endocrine system. We never feel more alive than when were fighting for our life or getting laid.

  • Happly Valley V8

    Sucker Punch (not sure where this title came from…unless it refers to the unknowing movie-goers that bought the tickets) is not one I would go watch again. I am female and agree with the fish-net stockings, etc., and the over use of. Could have had a very well done story of intrigue, action and over coming of obstacles. The names of the characters were ill-conceived and the story became, well, more and more unclear. Had some great special effects. I continued to think “Charlie’s Angels on Steriods as striipers”

  • emme s.

    James & Venus….. Have you seen indiana jones? any of those movies??? He uses a whip in all those films. and he’s obviously the most beloved archeologist in the movies. So…I think it’s ok for other people to use them if they are also fictional movie archeologists. Even Lara Croft. With her booty shorts and all!!

  • Citizen Deux

    I am not even going to entertain seeing SP. Your comments are right on target. Here is a picture of a real woman warrior.

    http://www.supportamericansoldiers.com/images/ArnoldScoping.jpg

  • Stephanie Zhao

    A friend’s mom always said that Elektra died because she had too sexy of an outfit.

  • Monica

    I think there is something free and savage about being scarcely dressed. Women used to have to put on layers and layers of clothes just to be deemed acceptable, and then when women empowerment came around women took off their bras and burnt them and cut the middles out of their shirts. I think there is something powerful and primal about wearing “sexy” or “stripper” clothing.

  • Eric J

    I humbly disagree w/r/t the Tomb Raider getup. Forget what she’s *supposed* to be doing (archaeology) and focus instead on what she spends most of her time doing — basically it’s bouldering. Which I happen to do about three times a week, and let me tell you, that getup is downright practical.

  • Larz Blackman

    You’re trying to intellectualize something which isn’t worthy of your efforts. Men don’t give a damn about authentic female warriors — that’s what we have other men for. Also, most women don’t give a damn about authentic female warriors for the same reason — it’s a woman trying to do a man’s job. (The “female empowerment” angle is just marketing hype and you ladies swallow it left and right — girl power!). So, the girls are dressed cute/slutty to appeal equally to both sexes.

  • SpookSquad

    Oh wow. That’s sad. Sad, (but also hilarious), re: commentary that actually attempts to present “reasons” as to why women who fight don’t wear clothes.
    Equally sad (but also hilarious), people who show hostility towards the writer for pointing out this glaringly obvious “WTF”.

  • Jo

    Actually for Guinevere (Keira Knightley) she’s playing as a celtic/pict warrior woman. Yes, they actually did have female warriors. So in that case she’s actually overdressed because they fought naked, both men & women.

    As for the rest, we’ll it’s sexy & that’s appealing, both to look at & to be. I don’t mind as long as it isn’t *too* impractical. Like, fighting in high heels, that pisses me off. That’s just stupid. Personally I think women warriors are sexy even if they’re in full body armor or uniform.

  • Kristal

    I’m a girl, and I thought the movie was AWESOME. :\ I didn’t really understand why she was wearing a schoolgirl outfit, but since her nickname was babydoll I guess it makes some sense? Maybe they were trying to play off like one of those bad Japanese action films with the high school girls fighting vampires and yakuza and stuff. XD The movie was really cool, especially the action scenes! I didn’t think it was confusing at all; we were seeing the fantasies/delusions of a troubled girl trying to cope in a bad situation. I thought they did a good job putting everything together.

  • John

    I come from the UK & where I live most of the young girls dress like stripper’s so why are you surprised by this is movie’s. Their was a poll done in the daily male a UK paper that asked 20,000 + young girls if they could choose would have a high IQ or bigger boobs & 95% said bigger boob’s.
    I fully understand that there are alot of women out there that want to be taking seriously as a person & not treated as a sex object but the fact is instead of having a go at males all the time you need to speak to your sister’s in the world that still prefer to be sexy over respected & intelligent, as long as they exist your argument is rather hypercritical.
    Look at the fashion industry that puts pressure on young girls to be thin & pretty, that is mostly gay men & women behind that not men, as straight men as seen by the popularity of glamour model mags prefer women to have a shape & curves, yet that is conviently forget & blamed on the fashion industry as a whole rather than saying women & gay men are to blame but when it comes to the sex issue men are always at the forefront of the blame.
    Anyhow fighting films tend to appeal to the dim, those who punch first & ask questions later, & that appeals to both dim men & women, the question you should be asking is where have all the intelligent people gone full stop lol.