Note: My tumblr refuses to update the tags on this post, so I’m RE-posting it and adding the tags MYself. Apologies for the rerun! - QLM
I adore The Hunger Games and think Katniss is the absolute SHIZ, but giving kickass female protagonists a bow is nothing new in terms of pop culture constructs.
Katniss Everdeen is only the most recent lady badass with a bow. Observe!
Susan Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia)
C.S Lewis decided a bow was the perfect gift for this “daughter of Eve”…
Kimberly Hart (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Japanese television producers seemed to like the idea too.
Artemis Crock (Young Justice)
Can’t forget Green Arrow’s protégé from this slice of the DC Universe!
Artemis actually might be a clue as to the origins of this trope. You see, Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt, moon, and foothills…AND one of her symbols was, indeed, a bow and arrow.
But why has the bow endured as a popular lady weapon since ancient times?
The first thing to consider is possibility that the bow probably wasn’t even originally intended to be a weapon. It was a tool made for hunting game, not for combat. Notice that Artemis isn’t the goddess of warfare, she’s the goddess of the hunt, which carries with it a ton of (gender constructed) “feminine” associations related to mother nature and the provision of food/sustenance. This is nicely mirrored in Katniss’ character, who is forced to take her breadwinner archery skills from the hunting grounds of District 12 to the arena of The Hunger Games.
On a physiological level, the bow neutralizes a woman’s biggest weakness in battle: a lack of upper body strength. It emphasizes precision over brute strength. However, the device has probably remained a favorite weapon to give fictional female characters for sexist reasons.
On a practical level, bows are kind of flimsy and easily broken when compared to other weapons like swords and maces. Additionally they’re great for long distance strikes, but the user is totally vulnerable at close range. Unfortunately, vulnerability and delicateness are qualities that have become associated with femininity over time. Women are supposed to be *dainty* (even when they’re taking names and kicking ass).
These “feminized” attributes, of course, don’t override the overall power of the weapon. Instead they allow a woman to be both “feminine” and ”masculine” at the same time. By blurring these lines, the bow and arrow show us how stupid it is to assign gender to these sorts of objects and positions in the first place.
It’s worth noting that in hunter/gather, tribal societies, the division of labor was much more egalitarian than we might think. It wasn’t until the advent of agriculture that you began to see the “men work in the fields” / “women stay inside and maintain the home” dichotomy. For this reason, hunting was, at some point, perhaps a unisex task in which both men and women participated with equal proficiency and enthusiasm.
The bow is also a favorite weapon to attribute to fictional characters because it is sexual as well as powerful. Swords, of course, are naturally phallic on their own, but look at what the bow does to a person’s body. Look at the way the chest opens as the arrow is drawn. The bow itself is stretched and made taunt while the user waits for that perfect moment when she can finally seek release and penetrate someone from a distance…
Geez. It all comes back to Freud somehow, doesn’t it?
WHO ELSE? WHO ELSE? I know there have to be other famous, badass bitches with bows…Help me out people!
This of course