I’ve had variations on this particular fantasy for many years, but here’s the current one. A rabid puppy or other type of fascist or garden-variety male asshole a lot younger than me is looming over me in a threatening way, and I say:
If you try to hit me, one of two things will happen. Either you’ll hurt me, in which case you’ll go to jail, because society frowns on young men beating up old women and I guarantee I’ll file charges. Or I’ll defend myself effectively and hurt you, in which case everyone will mock you because there must be something wrong with a young punk if an old woman can beat him up
And then he probably slinks away, though in the best of all possible fantasies, he throws a punch and I take him down.
This is not a very realistic fantasy, because movies aside, most actual fights don’t include so much dialogue. Though it might happen with the kind of man who assumes his maleness and/or size is enough to threaten any woman. (I’ve known some men like that.)
I am moved to share this fantasy by a couple of items I’ve seen in the news. One was this essay in The Guardian by a guy who has a similar fantasy (though he’s smart enough not to act on it) and frames it as a male thing, even commenting that his wife doesn’t get it.
Trust me. It’s not just a male thing. It’s the kind of fantasy shared by all of us drawn to the way of the warrior, both those who think fighting is only about who’s the toughest and those who like the philosophical side of things and know that the best fights are the ones that don’t happen.
But a lot of people assume that only men are drawn to that path. And that brings me to the other news item, one that was all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds: the high-ranking Viking warrior who was a woman.
Viking women fought. And they weren’t the only women fighters in history, not by a long shot. There are many reasons why we don’t know a lot about the women warriors of the past, but an obvious one is the bias of the original researchers who found this women’s grave. She was buried with weapons befitting a commander, so she must have been a he.
When I write stories about fighting women, I usually set them in a future world where no one questions that women fight. Occasionally I make up a fantasy world where women warriors are a given.
People often dismiss women warriors in historical settings as “wishful thinking,” though the discovery of the Viking warrior contradicts that. Still, since the culture continues to insist that past women warriors were a rarity, authors find themselves having to explain how this particular woman got there. As more women have taken on combat duty in modern military forces, it has become easier to write a current day story about women warriors.
I find it possible to worry about excessive violence and cheer for the progress of women soldiers at the same time. Yes, of course that’s contradictory, but I just started a book by neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in which he talks about his love of violent movies and his belief in gun control. It seems to be normal for us humans to have contradictory attitudes about such things.
One of my Aikido teachers used to say he would have been a mercenary soldier except that he was a Quaker.
I’m no great shakes as a fighter. My biggest takeaway from thirty-eight years of martial arts is how to stay calm in a crisis and how to avoid trouble. Also, I’ve got a body full of joints that complain unless I treat them gently. I’m not looking for a fight. That same teacher also used to say that a very good tactic in a bad situation was “Nike-do” – that is, run like Hell.
But I also know when there aren’t any other options. And I think about those situations when I’m out and about. What would I do if that guy over there came at me? What would I do if the nasty words those people are throwing at each other develop into something more?
Don’t assume us old women are harmless. Just because someone doesn’t meet your fantasy of a tough guy doesn’t mean they can’t beat you up.