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Kristin Devine

Kristin is a geek, a libertarian, and a domestic goddess. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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  1. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    Frankly, I often see women beat me or fight me to a standstill, in jujitsu. OK, it’s not a “real” fight in the sense that no one’s life is in danger, but I’ve experienced women half my weight and strength resist my efforts to choke them or triangle them. They will never have the raw power of strength or cardio, but leverage, flexibility, and technique can often win the day. And men have “sensitive spots” to be taken advantage of. Nothing says a spy has to be confrontational. Sneaking around is what they do isn’t it?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Damon
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      says:

      One of the things I really enjoy about some of the higher-level women’s MMA matches is that their flexibility makes the jiu-jitsu sequences really interesting. Felice Herrig specifically comes to mind. She has had some ground sequences that were a thing of beauty.

      Agreed on jiu-jitsu being the great equalizer in a fight with rules or when a trained female practitioner is attacked by an untrained male.Report

    • Avatar Blake in reply to Damon
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      Semi-counterpoint: When I was training, my dojo had many girls/women, and when fighting them, they were oftimes fierce, clever, skilled and tough. Years later, I heard that they all complained about me hitting too hard. I was 5′ 11″, 145#—couldn’t put on weight to save my life—and pulling my punches so much that I actually had trouble punching full strength when I needed to.

      And I realized, also years later, that while I respected them, I was never *scared* by them. I never got the same frisson, shall we say, when facing down a big or even average-sized dude.

      I think “Fallon Fox” resolves a whole bunch of disputes, frankly.Report

  2. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    In horror movies, the girl almost always wins. The monster is all but unkillable, but she manages to find his one weakness and beat him. But I often find those movies uncomfortably misogynistic, because usually that girl will get tossed around and beaten up pretty bad.

    I miss Alias. That show somehow found the right balance. Syndey Bristow was a perfect spy, the child of two great spies and trained since birth. She used all the gadgets and could fight or shoot her way out of most anything. She took her share of punches, but the show was fantastic enough that I didn’t feel like I was watching a woman getting hurt.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    says:

    Two movies come to mind (okay, technically it’s three):

    – Kill Bill 1 & 2
    – Atomic Blonde

    In the Kill Bill movies she avoided the strength queetion by being a badass with a sword. But I never thought of it as a woman fighting well. I just thought of it as a great action movie. Basically, the made me forget her gender was even a factor.

    Atomic Blonde’s fight scenes are seriously some of the best I have ever seen and I am an action movie junkie (thank you 1980s). These are different because they are filmed in a way that shows she is the superior fighter but sometimes a guy will get a hold of her and his strength advantage will allow him to temporarily get the upper hand. She eventually gets the advantage back with more technique or pure rage. The fight scrnes tell this unspoken story that were it not for temporary biological advantage of her male opponents, she would never even have a tough fight. It essentially makes you hate Bad Guy #2 even more because you feel like he is cheating. Brilliant.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      Second Atomic Blonde, seriously one of the best action movies of late, because it’s pretty realistic.

      The more recent movie, Anna, might be in the same vein (haven’t seen it yet).

      As for fighting sideways, the two Equalizer movies were great for that. Denzel is not getting any younger, and the fighting reflects that. He doesn’t try to over power younger opponents, he employs dirty tricks to disable them or traps to kill them.Report

  4. Avatar JoeSal
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    says:

    I know it probably doesn’t count, but Resident Evil was a hell of a run.

    Also the tv show ‘The 100’ attempts to tilt to that direction.

    ‘The Americans’ had a strong showing.

    Even in John Wick 3, there was a issue with shooting Halle Berrys dog.

    Not sure of what the norm should be, or what the exceptions to the norm should be.

    I guess at some point there is a question of how maleness or womaness has a role in long standing roles.

    I know if the MRA peeps started demanding a dude play Wonder Woman, i would have the same subsets of bias arise.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to JoeSal
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      says:

      I think in general TV is way ahead of movies on making women badass. Agree on The 100 (awesome, awesome show). Also, Walking Dead, Z Nation, Alias (someone already mentioned this) all the way back to Xena, Warrior Princess.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Siegel
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    says:

    Another great post! Totally agree on the action movie stuff. It’s not just that it’s unrealistic. it’s that it goes on FOREVER with nothing being resolved, no one getting even seriously hurt and guys just wiping the sweat off and keep going. There was scene recently in Dare Devil (probably not recently) where he was shown panting and gasping for air during a fight. I found that much more interesting.

    Wrote about it a bit here: http://michaelsiegel.net/?p=6251Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    Somewhat related to our other discussion about mass shooters, why is so little of the world’s real life violence performed by women?

    As Colt said, guns are the great equalizers, so why don’t we see female criminals blowing away clerks and gas station attendants, or kneecapping local stores into paying extortion?Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy
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    Isn’t a related factor that — either in reality or in perception — what makes male action heroes strong (i.e., muscles) also tends to make them sexy while what would make female action heroes strong (i.e., muscles) tends to make them less sexy? This isn’t my opinion but seems to be somewhat of a consensus among men or at least the perception of men?Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I never thought Bond was a muscular guy. It was his swagger and confidence, and his aloofness that got the job done, I think.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Damon
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        says:

        I’m painting with broad strokes obviously… but the extreme male action hero is Ahnold. The extreme female action hero is digital dream/realistically impossible Lara Croft.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      While I think muscular women are just as hot as non-muscular (Demi Moore in GI Jane, Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, Jennifer Garner in Alias – all hot) I also don’t think it’s necessary. But you’re right that society at large might feel differently about that.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer
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        says:

        I agree but even those are women were still tiny… muscular and toned yes but not jacked. Add them to the poster for The Expendables and they’d be invisible.Report

      • Avatar Fish in reply to Mike Dwyer
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        says:

        Remember the pull-ups scene in Terminator 2? Shot to emphasize Sarah Connor’s (Linda Hamilton’s) back, shoulder, and biceps muscles.

        (Also reminds me of this: When T2 came out, we all went to see it and my friend’s girlfriend jokingly complained/asked if there were any love scenes. FFWD to the scene where the orderly is securing Sarah to her bed and, once she’s secured, leans in and licks her cheek (ew). My friend leans over to his girlfriend and whispers, “There’s your love scene.”)Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I think the changing perception of what is attractive in women and men negates this. Now, fit women are considered sexy, and the bodybuilder types like Arnold Schwartzenegger are not considered especially sexy.

      But 30 years ago you had a lot of Arnold or Stallone types on screen.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Aaron David
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        says:

        Well, just a few years ago super ripped Thor was the rage, but now the ideal body type is fat drunk Thor.Report

      • Avatar blake in reply to Aaron David
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        You have to go back probably 45 years to find unfit women, that late ’60s/early ’70s cocaine-skinny type. Remember the late ’70s was the beginning of aerobics, and the women of the ’80s were much buffer than before. (Think Linda Hamilton, Jamie Lee Curtis, sex romps like “Hardbodies”, etc.)

        Actually, prior to the ’60s, women were pretty fit as well, but they were expected to hide that. Or more accurately, the aesthetic was a layer of fat over the muscle. (Think Marilyn Monroe or any of the dancers of the day.)

        I think the more recent aesthetic of very low body fat ages women faster.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    In addition to the fight sequences, there’s a number of other standard scenes in contemporary action movies. One of them is the protagonist dangling over the big drop, then gather themselves, swing sideways hanging from one hand and reaches up a couple of feet to get another grip, then pops up to (relative) safety. Most male action stars show enough upper-arm mass and lat spread while they’re dangling to make it seem believable. Few actresses do.

    My wife watches an occasional episode of American Ninja Warrior for grins. She claims you can tell which women will do badly from the first moment when they come out and raise their arms to acknowledge the audience applause. Many/most of the obstacles require serious upper-body strength. My wife points out the women whose very first “pose” lacks the upper-arm and lat mass to handle those.

    Except for the few action actresses who look like they do at least some Crossfit, give them a way out of the perilous fall situation that depends on quickness or cleverness, not upper-body strength without the corresponding muscle mass.Report

    • Avatar blake in reply to Michael Cain
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      says:

      Yeah, kinda fun is that often in movies when they use stuntwomen, they’re so much bulkier than the actresses, it’s comical. I remember “My Alibi” (way back in the ’80s) when Paulina Porizkova was supposed to be a carnival gal. Uh huh. When it came time for her to climb the rope (just using her arms, mind you) they couldn’t find anyone CLOSE to her body type who was able to do so.

      It’s almost as bad as when Shatner climbs El Capitan in “Star Trek 5”. Good lord.Report

  9. Avatar JoeSal
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    says:

    Maybe there should be a show about some female democrat, and everytime someone surfaces that would create grief in her life, they suicide or die in a unfortunate accident.Report

  10. Avatar DW Dalrymple
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    says:

    Striking comment from my daughter who is well versed in action movies after seeing Capt. Marvel. She saw Wonder Woman and liked to female dominant character. She liked Capt. Marvel better “because the character wasn’t sexualized in the way she was portrayed”-her words.
    Great piece KristinReport

  11. Avatar Van Owen
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    says:

    I really enjoyed this piece, both because I just love action movies and because of the depth of your discussion. I don’t have a lot to add substantively, but I’d like to join in the folks offering recommendations. In addition to Atomic Blonde, which was directed by one of the directors of John Wick and really does have some of the greatest fights in recent American action cinema, I’d like to recommend Haywire. It’s a Stephen Soderbergh movie that stars Gina Carano, a former MMA fighter. It’s a spy action movie with various twists and betrayals, but importantly for this discussion it has some incredible fight scenes, all of them against men, that very much rely on her superior technique to overcome their strength. This fight from the beginning of the movie is a nice sample: https://youtu.be/PqoX5bSn_tY?t=186

    Also, I haven’t seen any footage from it yet,but I know John Woo is currently remaking The Killer with Lupita N’yongo in the lead role that was played by Chow Yun Fat in the original. I’m REALLY excited to see how that turns out, though it’ll probably be a lot less gritty than John Wick, given that it’s John Woo.Report

  12. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Started watching Wu Assassins on Netflix last night. Two of the female leads are both fighters and both use very different styles compared to the guys who fight.

    Also, Wu Assassins has the fight choreography you wanted to see in Iron Fist.Report

    • Avatar Anne in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      My husband pointed this show out to me the other day saying “It’s what Iron Fist should have been” How is teh story line so far? Its on our queue to watch.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Anne
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        says:

        Only on the 3rd episode, so it’s all still setup. One thing that bugged me at first was how oddly unflappable the main character, Kai, is. Until you realize he grew up in the Triads, so things that would probably phase normal people are things he has learned to deadpan.

        That, and he was a competent martial artist even before he got the powers of the monks.Report

    • Avatar blake in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      In Zhang Yimou’s “Shadow” (in my top 5 movies of 2019) the key to defeating the master comes when the general’s wife suggests a yin to his yang. The actual battle is fought by women–with umbrellas!

      Underrated gem!Report

  13. Avatar Fish
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    says:

    Not movies, but Karren Murphy from Jim Butcher’s Dresden series could be an example of a well-written female fighter. She’s Chicago PD and described as “blonde, cute, 5-foot-nothing, and tough as nails.” The series talks about the hours and hours of work she’s put in to become a master of firearms and multiple fighting styles, focusing on each style’s techniques for fighting larger opponents–and for Karren, they’re ALL larger. And far from being a woman who has to have a man to help her, she’s the one Harry calls when he needs backup. She and Harry get the snot kicked out of them all the time, but they win because they utilize their skills (Harry’s magic, Karren’s marksmanship and fighting) in a maximally complimentary fashion. And because love and good guys, I guess. Great piece!Report

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