Have We Taken Women's Strength Too Far?

Not sure it's the best way to depict women saving the world.

Posted Mar 30, 2011

Over the past several months I've noticed a trend.  It happened as I was watching television and realized that there were an awful lot of new cop/crime shows featuring women.  They weren't just any women though.  They were supremely feminine, anatomically perfect, centerfold-beautiful women who were playing tough, butch, masculine roles, in some cases, subordinated by men. 

Clearly, this is a change from days and years past.  But is it good?  Or is it bad?  Do we applaud the release of women from homemaking and maternal roles?  Or should we be frightened by our need to objectify women in order to make them interesting enough to watch?

On one hand, one could make the argument that women being depicted in power roles where they have the lead, are independent, strong, fearless and courageous is a positive evolution forward.  One might also argue that it helps shatter traditional roles and creates space for women to welcome new definitions and abandon old stereotypes. 

On the other hand, the images are at times offensively feminine; a woman dressed like a girl in pigtails aiming a gun at her opponent, another in lingerie and stilettos sporting the tag line, "Looks Do Kill," (a spin-off of a French film bearing the same name).  We have pumps with heels as high as their gun barrels are long and figure "enhancing" outfits to keep our attention, I suppose.  Effective, yes, but healthy or good for men and women alike, I'm not sure.  I am all for women who can take of themselves.  But when these leggy, waify, sexy creatures wielding pistols and rifles fist-fight men twice their size and throw them to the ground after one well-choreographed karate chop to the head, elbow to the face or knee to groin, I worry.  I worry that we've already got enough violence built into the male psyche that glamorizes fighting as a solution and positions war as heroic.  And look where it has gotten us so far.  Lots of pain, lots of suffering and farther way, not closer to, our desire for peace.

I'll admit.  I enjoyed Charlie's Angels who at the time were criticized for similar things; fighting crime in high heels, and a fabulous change of outfit for every scene.  Despite that, it was still a number one hit show.  Then Cagney and Lacy followed who were decidedly more masculine and realistic, certainly as compared to now when it seems that things have gotten a little out of hand.

Charlie's Angels

Cagney & Lacey

Rizzoli & Isles (TNT)

Burn Notice (USA Networks)

Nikita (CW Television Networks)

Covert Affairs (USA Networks)

In Plain Sight (USA Networks)

Chase (NBC Network)

And then, in a surprising departure, there's this from NCIS Los Angeles.  A reverse in trend, perhaps?


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About the Author

Donna Flagg

Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.

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