Breaking the Narrative Episode 24: Women Aren’t Violent….My Ass!


After touching upon male disposability and how superheroes were attempted to influence men to enlist in the military last time, I think what this conversation should evolve into now is how violent women actually can be and are if not taught to temper their own emotions early in life. This article will go to show how not only are women as capable of violence as men but how they are overall fiercer about their expression of it. I will mainly provide some Japanese examples of how this is but before I go into the historical instances I think I should recall an instance from my 8th grade days. I was in a stairwell with my class, including two girls we’ll call them Jen and Meg for speed and anonymity on their part.  Well one would expect this to be a story about slapping and clawing by unskilled wailing tween girls, right?  Far from it. They were in full blown fisticuffs throwing proper jabs and hooks up and down the stairs. So much so we started to call them Holyfield and Tyson respectively. Today one of them may be referred to as Rhonda Rousey, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that they weren’t messing around. They were out for blood and blood they got. We didn’t see them for the remainder of that school year and Meg was eventually committed to psychiatric care due to a massive hormone imbalance that led to her not only becoming overdeveloped physically but mentally unstable to boot, having a severe case of bipolar syndrome. Of course this is not a recent phenomenon as I had implied earlier. So Let’s Hammer This In!

I said I am going for Japanese examples of this practice, what I plan on doing is going into detail on every level of female participation in war from the lowest ashigaru to the height of Mikado. In fact part of this mindset does come from the fact that Amaterasu, Goddess of the Sun and prime deity in Shinto, has fought against her brother and technical husband  Susano-O in the past. I know, royal holy families and incest. We are talking about a fairly small set of islands compared to many mainland countries. Its a given the practice is not as taboo there in their history. But this is a digression, albeit a humorous one. There is a reason I open up mentioning the royalty here though, is that one of the initial female royal warriors is referred to as 女武芸者(Onna BuGeisha or “female martial artist.” These guards to the emperor and the realm predated samurai and were in service for hundreds of years before contact with mainland China and the recording of Japanese History. Granted, they were rare. However, they were deeply honored and respected, seen as some of the strongest on the battlefield. One of the most prominent was from the second century of the common era, Empress Jingu, stated to have conquered Korea without dropping a bit of blood. Granted, these events are most likely exaggerated considering the era, but her son Ojin is later deified as the god of war Hachiman. So our first example is the mother of the Shinto God of War. I say we are off to a good start.

Now we go into standard shogunate structure, particularly during the Tokugawa Shogunate that was in place after the Sengoku (Warring States) period. Namely with Tokugawa Yoshimune, not much was known in the English speaking world before 2014 but with Ooku, the Secret World of the Shogun’s Women not only are the docile aspects of the world of Japanese aristocracy but the aspect that shows their matriarchal center at its strongest. In fact one could and should read this entire book. I feel it gives some aspects of gynocentrism that aren’t typically explored, even by us at Honey Badger Brigade. So why even mention Yoshimune? Some may say this is as much of a legend as Mulan, an ancient famous female warrior of Chinese lore,  but the story states that when the smallpox hit Japan from the limited contact with the West that this was a female regent that took the look of a man to act as a full shogun to not show weakness to the West when dealing with them. At least that is my understanding of the original story, translations often vary between Japanese and English as you might notice in anime.

As a change of pace I think we should also show how Japan’s priestly class approaches the war culture that is Bushido. First it must be noted that there are different names for Buddhist temples (Tera – 寺) and Shinto shrines (JinJa –  神社).  These two paths evolved in very different ways but are in many ways intertwined. One is the astrological mystics Onmyou-ji, who eventually became governmental officials helping decide infrastructure and determining farming regulations but were primarily known for exorcism. Then the more peasant level of Shinto priests and priestesses started some same or similar practices. However in smaller villages that may not have a samurai assigned to them it wasn’t unheard of for them to fight against raiders using bows and arrows. This is because in Shinto practice archery was used by the Miko as part of exorcism. So its reasonable to think that the traditional weapon of the samurai which isn’t originally the katana as most think but the bow known as a yumi.

Part of this was due to the idea that as the samurai men were sent away during the Sengoku era to fight as part of unification efforts the wives of such samurai were meant to protect the homestead. However, it was far from unheard of for aforementioned Bugeisha and wives of samuri alike to take part in battle. The Smithsonian promotes as part of this the Battle of Aizu, however a much older example and the model given for such a samurai is Tomoe Gozen who fought as leader during the Taira-Minamoto conflict of the Genpei War. This is the time where a lot of matriarchal constructs in Japanese culture were solidified by showing that the previously masculine concept of Bushido was able to be fully embodied in both sexes equally, something that is depicted in Tsunetomo’s Hagakure, which I mentioned in my earliest article on this site.

These are all historical examples though. What about contemporary examples? This is where we go into the yankii culture previously touched upon when I reviewed River City: Tokyo Rumble two weeks ago. The sukeban punk girls, these aren’t just some tv and video game trope, these women are the real thing. Popularized in the 70s and 80s, such gangs of girls were forming when the yakuza of old started taking shape in their current form after World War II as organized crime syndicates. Some formed with the intent to protect their neighborhoods and the like from the yakuza bosses. Others were intent on getting recruited into the criminal underworld. These bitches are strict though, going against their codes of conduct results often in what translates to lynching. This consists of being held or tied down and burned with lit cigarettes, something right out of a prison drama. These transgressions could be something as minor as talking to the wrong person or getting caught doing hard drugs which was seen as ‘unlady like.’ That’s because most of these groups are purely made of women. If you ask me this makes feminist terrorist groups such as FEMEN look like children. Though I wouldn’t compare them to something as extreme as what the popular media has shown them as, which could be compared to groups like Rote Zora, a group I’m certain a LOT of the third-wave wishes we would forget as it betrays the fact that feminism and violence has always gone hand in hand.

So for this one lets review what we’ve looked at for this time around. We’ve shown how Japanese women all the way from the aristocracy down to the commoner priestesses are not only commonly trained to fight but even today Japanese women are some tough, can be crazy, and can be prone to violence when push comes to shove. To say that women aren’t as such is naive at best, delusional at worst.  I went for this Asian paradigm first because as I said its what I know best due to my prior studies, not to mention that it is a good balance to those in the Western world that are typically seen such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Jeanne D’Arc. To say I’m far from done would be a massive understatement. As such, next time I’ll be digging into examples in African and Middle Eastern culture because there are a few. Until then please remember to Game Freely!

Alex Tinsley
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About the author

Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.

By Alex Tinsley

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