One of the greatest aspects of homeschooling for me are the conversations i have with my daughter that explore topics of significance that flow and allow for both of us to share, imagine, and create together as we learn from one another. This is such a conversation:
Earlier this spring, my daughter and I were walking (with my son in his Ergo carrier on my chest). It was a rare warm, sunny day; a cool breeze set the trees dancing lightly, and the dappled light fell across our usual path.
My daughter asked me what armor — we talk often about reasonable armor for female characters — could be worn in the modern day that would allow a woman or girl to blend in. I pointed out that it depended on what a given woman did in her daily life, and used different occupations as examples.
A student could wear jeans, a shirt, and hoodie over form-fitting plate or a light chain mail. Leather wrist bands could be taken as a fashion statement rather than protection. The jeans could be reinforced with another material; the undershirt could be made of Kevlar. Steel-toes boots with retractable blades in the toes.
So, too, could a woman working in an office, hide her armor and weapons beneath a pant suit and silk shell.
“Where would she hide the sword?” my daughter asked. (In our discussion our CEO had a sword.) I suggested it could be a slender katana or sabre with a hidden sheath in her pant leg, or held crosswise along her back beneath her jacket (“I want a girl with a short shirt and a long jacket” came to mind). “Maybe it folds up or retracts somehow.”
I said, “What if she or he works as a camp counselor? Consider the counselors who take care of kids at the YMCA summer camps. He* could wear khaki shorts with caltrops in his pockets, hiking boots with a dagger in one of them; a high-tech mesh shirt beneath his t-shirt.”
*(I kept seeing a young man with a big, white grin and surfer-good looks a la Finnick Odair, but the outfit could equally apply to women.)
Daughter, after more scenarios of combat-ready, blended citizens brought up the Medieval-inspired battle gear for women as often drawn in comics, and we reimagined the outfits for male characters. Our favorite is the dwarf in stiletto boots, g-string codpiece, and a leather strap across his nipples to help deflect blows to the chest or heart.
Then she suggested we pair them up: the CEO in her pantsuit, now with twin swords across her back aligned with the dwarf in leather gear, complete with spine-breaking posture to show both beard and buns (see: The Hawkeye Initiative). We surmised among giggles that they’d be mistakenly assumed to be in a given relationship by modern day people.
This conversation was the precursor for our new rule:
All armor, uniforms, or superhero costumes worn by the women must also be worn by the men. (More details here.)
We’re both big fans of gender-bending and transgender stories (yes, there’s a difference); everything from Twelfth Night to Ranma 1/2. We’re also feminists who like to see equality in our stories. This rule is rather obvious, and it’s intended to be, because there are still so many comic, game, and film creators who continue to put women in ridiculous armor, impossible positions, and demeaning situations, in order to appeal to a narrow selection of fans.
So, geeky artist friends and colleagues, before you put her in the armor you’re imagining, try putting it on her male counterpart instead. You’re the creator, you can choose to create anything — so why perpetuate the status quo?