As most of you know, I have a vested interest in this subject. Why? First and foremost, I placed the survival of mankind on the shoulders of one Bethany Nitshimi. I did this knowing I might lose the attention of some fans of the genre — a fact I am perfectly fine with. Why? For so long, women in post-apocalyptic literature have been relegated to eye candy, relationship fodder, damsels in distress, or (on occasion) a ripped-dress wearing clone with unrealistic fighting abilities (played to the nines by Milla Jovavitch). Some may call “bias” on this; but, to me, the continued portrayal of women as a weakness in the apocalypse, is an insufferable insult.
Let’s take a look at The Walking Dead. I will preface this by saying that season four has been outstanding. The writers finally drifted away from the romance and the soap opera trappings and brought back the undead in full force. They’ve also stripped the show of the possibility of female leadership. From the perspective of the primary voice of the show (Rick), the strongest woman on the show (Carol), couldn’t be trusted — even though every act she committed was dedicated to the security of the group as a whole. She had no ulterior motives, no agendas, and she had yet to give anyone reason to give up on her. She simply did what was right — the one thing the men were not willing to do.
There are many profound differences between men and women. One such difference is survival instincts. Although men do have superior strength over women (in general), I would argue that survival instincts run far deeper in women. Why? In a word, motherhood. A mother protecting a child is a very different animal than a father protecting a child. Even without the strength to back up the instincts, a woman will risk her own life to save her child. That is strength and the will to survive.
My perspective for this goes well beyond the idea of maternal instincts. Women are also capable of attacking a situation without blinding rage or a testosterone-driven ego flat-lining their perspective. Most of all, women are able to offer a point of view that men cannot. Without them, a solution turns two dimensional…black and white. With them, the possibilities are endless.
That is not to say a group of survivors led by a woman is sure to survive. In the apocalypse, nothing is given. Period. But assuming a stereotypical stance, based on traditional models that are already being proved wrong, will only serve to trap you on the second floor of a house surrounded by moaners and screamers.
We live in a testosterone-driven society. But that is changing. Women are regaining a certain power (without losing their sense of grace) and proving they can not only lead, they can challenge the very notion that strength is not just derived from muscle and rage. Leadership and the ability to survive is derived from heart, instinct, community, soul, power, a sense of grounding, a connection to the past and the future — all qualities held strong by both men and women. Survival will depend upon a glorious mixture of men and women — and there is no reason why women could not be the ones leading the charge.
Concrete Blond rebooted the song made famous by James Brown with the lyrics “This is a mans world But it would be nothing, without a women or a girl”. That song, sung by a woman held so much more strength — by nature of gender.
I’m thrilled with The Walking Dead unleashing the undead hounds (so to speak). But continuing to present women as little more than fodder for madness and libido is an injustice. I hope a major turn of events occurs and we get Carol back, to play an even more important role. Even if that happens, the show has a long way to go before the scales of gender justice are tipped back to equal. Never-the-less, I’ll keep watching, thrilled that the genre I claim to be a part of is being represented so well on the telly.
Happy NOMMING everyone! And don’t forget — support indie artists. If it weren’t for us, shows like The Walking Dead wouldn’t happen. Of course, if it weren’t for fans like you…being an artist would be a very lonely career.