When Sailor Moon was imported into the U.S. in the 90’s, the kid-friendly Japanese series was heavily censored. As a kid, watching the show, I remember growing confused over the sudden holes in the heroines’ battles with evil monsters. As an adult, I compared the original Japanese version with the watered down, sugary American version and discovered that many of the scenes featuring the sailor soldiers getting battered and bruised around in the battlefield were cut. DragonballZ, though the blood was cut from the U.S. version, experienced much fewer issues with portraying violence. In fact, numerous shows featuring male warriors did not seem to have a problem with depicting them in dangerous situations.
Recently, someone indirectly suggested the Femme Schism was tolerant of violence towards women primarily because of a scene that involved Haydn striking Lozen with his fist. She noted, “I’d rather see self-control than hitting after a teasing comment, especially male to female.” Admittedly, taken out of context, the scene could easily be mistaken as some kind of abusive relationship between two intimate partners. But, if you know the story, Lozen takes Haydn as her hostage and treats him cruelly. Therefore, it is completely justified for Haydn to hit her. Despite this explanation, many people still take issue with this type of dynamic. For instance, I am a black belt in tae kwon do. I have sparred and defeated many people, mostly males (because the majority of martial artists are male), but I’ve also been bested by men in the ring plenty of times as well. When outsiders heard that I had been nearly knocked out by a male opponent, they shook their head in shame and looked at me as if I was a battered woman. This attitude towards women willingly participating in combat, violence, war, etc. is extremely frustrating and very sexist because the assumption is that women are physically limited and that their place is not in combat.
In light of such attitudes, I would like to explain the difference between Violence Towards Women and Women Involved in Violence. Violence towards women is a product of a systematic hatred directed at women. It is gender-specific and culturally accepted (unfortunately). In this context, violence is used to place women in a subservient position to men. If a husband/boyfriend is beating his wife/girlfriend, he is trying to control her behavior and force her into a position that is beneath him, an attempt to compensate for his sense of powerlessness, insecurity, and self-hatred. Usually women are blamed for domestic violence and rape as evinced in comments such as, “What did you do to make him mad? What were you wearing? Were you drinking? It’s for your own good.” When violence towards a woman is committed, it is an act of misogyny and hatred for women as a sex, specifically.
Women involved in violence refers to women participating in a combative activity on equal footing with men. In this context, a woman is empowered, strong, and capable. Her opponent perceives her as such, therefore, justifying his strikes against her. Reverse the situation. Would a female opponent ever say, “I’m not going to hit you because you’re guy. I don’t hit men.” Maybe sarcastically. It would be idiotic for a male opponent to refuse hitting a female warrior due to her sex because she is perfectly capable of maiming or killing him. When women are participating in violent situations as skilled fighters or simply as tough, street-smart chicks, gender is irrelevant. The attitude that you “shouldn’t hit girls” is misplaced under these circumstances because it assumes that, regardless of how physically intimidating, skilled, strong, and powerful a woman is, she stands no chance against the all-powerful man who asserts, “Stop fighting and let me rescue you. You’re supposed to be a damsel in distress, not my comrade!”
America’s issue with seeing women being kicked around on the battlefield may seem “noble” at first, yet American audiences have absolutely no issue with the damsel in distress trope. A damsel in distress is a disempowered woman who must be rescued by a male character. In this situation, the damsel is being held captive or is victimized by an antagonist. She is often abused and battered by the villain. This type of character is considered desirable and attractive because of her helplessness, and her peril is never censored. American audiences have no issue with the damsel in distress, yet when a woman warrior is injured by a villian in combat, they claim that the latter is promoting violence towards women.
The truth is that our culture does not like seeing empowered women engaging in combat on an equal footing with male heroes; rather, our culture prefers to see women crying for help from a male hero. Which situation is truly promoting violence towards women? The strength of a man should not rely on the weakness of a woman. A truly strong man loves a strong woman.