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Women warriors in literature and culture

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Subject: Portrayal of women in American comics, Princess Leia, List of women warriors in folklore, Amazons, Vishpala
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Women warriors in literature and culture

Britomart Redeems Faire Amoret, William Etty (1833)

The portrayal of women warriors in literature and popular culture is a subject of study in history, literary studies, film studies, folklore and mythology, gender studies, and cultural studies.

Folklore and mythology

Medieval women helping to defend the city from attack.

In Hindu mythology, Chitrāngadā, wife of Arjuna, was the commander of her father's armies.

The Amazons were an entire tribe of woman warriors in Greek legend. "Amazon" has become an eponym for woman warriors and athletes.

In British mythology, Queen Cordelia fought off several contenders for her throne by personally leading the army in its battles.

In his On the Bravery of Women the Greco-Roman historian Plutarch describes how the women of Argos fought against King Cleomenes and the Spartans under the command of Telesilla in the fifth century BCE.[1][2]


Women warriors have a long history in fiction, where they often have greater roles than their historical inspirations, such as "Gordafarid" (Persian: گردآفريد) in the ancient Persian epic poem The Shāhnāmeh.

Various other woman warriors have appeared in classic literature: Belphoebe and Britomart in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Bradamante and Marfisa in Orlando Furioso, and Camilla in the Aeneid. There is also an ongoing debate among scholars as to whether Grendel's mother from the poem Beowulf was a monster or a woman warrior.


Professor Sherrie Inness in Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture[3] and Frances Early and Kathleen Kennedy in Athena’s Daughters: Television’s New Women Warriors,[4] for example, focus on figures such as Xena, from the television series Xena: Warrior Princess or Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (who inspired the academic field Buffy Studies). In the introduction to their text, Early and Kennedy discuss what they describe as a link between the image of women warriors and girl power.[5]

See also

Related articles

Further reading

  • Alvarez, Maria. "Feminist icon in a catsuit (female lead character Emma Peel in defunct 1960s UK TV series The Avengers)", New Statesman, 14 August 1998.
  • Au, Wagner James. "Supercop as Woman Warrior."
  • Barr, Marleen S. Future Females, the Next Generation: New Voices and Velocities in Feminist Science Fiction Criticism. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
  • Davis-Kimball, Jeannine. Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines. New York: Warner Books, 2001.
  • Deuber-Mankowsky, Astrid and Dominic J. Bonfiglio (Translator). Lara Croft: Cyber Heroine. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 2005.
  • Early, Frances and Kathleen Kennedy, Athena's Daughters: Television's New Women Warriors, Syracuse University Press, 2003.
  • Garner, Jack. "Strong women can be heroes, too." Democrat and Chronicle. 15 June 2001.
  • Heinecken, Dawn. Warrior Women of Television: A Feminist Cultural Analysis of the New Female Body in Popular Media, New York: P. Lang, 2003.
  • Hopkins, Susan, Girl Heroes: the New Force in Popular Culture, Pluto Press Australia, 2002.
  • Inness, Sherrie A. (ed.) Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
  • Inness, Sherrie A. Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.
  • Karlyn, Kathleen Rowe. "Scream, Popular Culture, and Feminism's Third Wave: 'I'm Not My Mother'. Genders: Presenting Innovative Work in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences No. 38 (2003).
  • Karras, Irene. "The Third Wave's Final Girl: Buffy the Vampire Slayer." thirdspace 1:2 (March 2002).
  • Kennedy, Helen W. "Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo?: On the Limits of Textual Analysis". Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research. 2:2 (December, 2002).
  • Kim, L. S. "Making women warriors: a transnational reading of Asian female action heroes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media. No. 48, Winter, 2006.
  • Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. New York: Vintage, 1975.
  • Magoulick, Mary. "Frustrating Female Heroism: Mixed Messages in Xena, Nikita, and Buffy." The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 39 Issue 5 (October 2006).
  • Mainon, Dominique. The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women on Screen. Pompton Plains, N.J. : Limelight Editions, 2006.
  • McDougall, Sophia (August 15, 2013) "I hate Strong Female Characters ." The New Statesman. (Retrieved 8-24-13.)
  • Osgerby, Bill, Anna Gough-Yates, and Marianne Wells. Action TV: Tough-Guys, Smooth Operators and Foxy Chicks. London: Routledge, 2001.
  • Rowland, Robin. "Warrior queens and blind critics." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 31 July 2004.
  • Spicuzza, Mary. "Butt-Kicking Babes." AlterNet. 27 March 2001.
  • Tasker, Yvonne. Action and Adventure Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2004.
  • Tasker, Yvonne.Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Culture. London: Routledge 1998
  • Tasker, Yvonne.Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre, and the Action Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, 1993.
  • Trickey, Helyn. "Girls with Gauntlets." Turner Network Television.
  • Ventura, Michael. "Warrior Women." Psychology Today. Nov/Dec 1998. 31 (6).

External links

  • Women Warriors from 3500BC to the 20th Century - Lothene Experimental Archaeology


  1. ^ "Plutarch • On the Bravery of Women — Sections I‑XV". Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  2. ^ Plant, I.M. (2004). Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 33.  
  3. ^ Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture
  4. ^ Athena’s Daughters: Television’s New Women Warriors
  5. ^ Book review
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