The Sex Appeal of Female Non-Submission

One of the more offensive, although thankfully increasingly disbelieved, pieces of patriarchal nonsense[1] is that women belong only in the domestic sphere and can excel only as obedient submissive housewives. I present as a counter-argument Katherine the Great of Russia, Isabella the First of Castille, Elizabeth the First of England, Joan of Arc, the Trung sisters of Vietnam, and Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba[2]. Most sensible people see this list as proof that women can excel in the public as well as the domestic sphere. Unfortunately, however, a few misogynistic numbskulls will use the facts that some of these women never married and that Elizabeth referred to herself as “The Virgin Queen” as an argument for the erroneous idea that heterosexual women must choose between public success and romantic fulfillment, because heterosexual men do not find non-submissive women appealing. Not only does this ignore Isabella’s success at marrying the man of her choice (an exceedingly rare event for European royalty) and Katherine’s numerous ‘conquests’, but it also ignores the numerous examples of non-submissive women being seen as highly desirable in both the ancient and modern world.

Super villains would hate to be tied down by Wonder Woman, but many men would love to be.
Super villains would hate to be tied down by Wonder Woman, but many men would love to be.

Characters like Wonder Woman, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), and Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) have no shortage of male admirers even though their forte is kicking ass, not keeping house. Anyone who thinks their popularity is due to modern political correctness should remember that the ancient Greeks worshipped beautiful and badass goddesses like Hera, Athena, and Artemis and also seemed to be quite captivated by the legends of the Amazons and Atalanta the huntress. An attraction to untamed women and goddesses also seems to have extended to Viking warriors who hoped to be whisked off to Valhalla by equally wild valkyries should they die in battle, to the Spanish conquistadors who were so enamored with the fictional gryphon-riding warrior Queen Calafia that they named California after her homeland, and to the ancient Hebrews who describe the biblical Judith as both a great beauty and a cunning assassin who helped to defend her homeland against an Assyrian invasion.

Oyá and Changó ready for battle.
Oyá and Changó ready for battle.

Anyone who thinks that only men who today would be considered white can appreciate the appeal of female ferocity should consider these examples from the African diaspora, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Santeros revere the Orisha, Oyá, who is both alluring enough to have attracted her husband, Changó[3], and sufficiently skilled with a machete to fight alongside him in every battle. Hawaiians revere the fiery volcano goddess Pele who has attracted many lovers over the course of her immortal existence, but is still believed to harshly punish those who don’t show the Hawaiian Islands proper respect. Hindus, meanwhile, worship the goddess Durga, whose name means “the invincible one”, and while known for her beauty was created to fight a demon that none of the male gods could defeat.

So to all the warrior princesses who may be afraid of missing out on romantic love, don’t be. There’s a good chance that your “prince charming” will eventually find you or that, given your can-do attitude, you will find him. In the mean time live, love, laugh and fight on!

[1] Nonsense has been substituted for a slightly different word.

[2] To counter the pedants: Yes, Isabella was married to King Ferdinand, but they ruled as equals. Yes, some of these women were not ultimately victorious, but if men like Robert E. Lee and Hannibal deserve credit then so do Nzinga, Joan, and the Trung sisters. No, all ‘equestrian rumors’ about Katherine the Great are completely false.

[3] Seen as the personification of male virility and clearly does not need to compensate by trying to ’tame’ his wife.

The Art of Losing Isn’t Hard to Master

Baboons enjoying the mist at Victoria Falls. I would have gotten more pictures if my camera hadn't flooded. It started working again, but was stolen in Ecuador later.
Baboons enjoying the mist at Victoria Falls. I would have gotten more pictures if my camera hadn’t flooded. It started working again, but was stolen in Ecuador later.

Travel comes with many perks. Seeing new sites, meeting new people, trying new foods, and having experiences impossible to replicate at ‘home’ like snorkeling on coral reefs, gazing at Victoria Falls, or encountering weird and wonderful high-altitude wildflowers. Unfortunately traveling also comes with certain annoyances including exotic illness, unexpected inconveniences[1], culture shock, and the disappearance and wreckage of possessions.

While I don’t enjoy shopping and try not to define myself by possessions[2] their destruction and disappearance while traveling has always produced a disproportionate amount of annoyance for me. I should be thankful for some of this, because it means I’ve never had an exotic illness that represented a serious health threat and that I’ve rarely gotten into serious conflict with other cultures[3]. Still, I feel like my exasperation at acacia punctured drybags and backpacks that ‘grow feet’ exceeds any justifiable irritation at either the cost of replacing those items or the difficulty of purchasing a headlamp in certain countries.

I have an unfortunate tendency to view my inability to retain and maintain certain possessions as a judgment on my character. For as long as I can remember I have felt that responsibility is one of the more important virtues and that la ropa sucia se lava en casa.[4] As such, every headlamp forgotten on a hostel night-stand, backpack stolen because it wasn’t hidden better, or jacket melted by standing too close to a bonfire serves as physical public proof of a gap between who I am and who I’d like to be.

Thankfully, while my anxiety over the fate of things that clearly do not feel pain causes me no small amount of annoyance it hasn’t stopped me from traveling. I know that I could certainly stand to be more careful about hiding valuables and gear maintenance, but I must also accept that every camera eventually floods, red wine will find its way onto the most carefully protected shirt, and that there will always be thieves who want some of my possessions more than I do. In the end I should just be grateful that experiences and relationships can’t be lost or stolen.

[1] I was once obliged to stay an extra day in Timbuktu, because the runway was covered by a sandstorm.

[2] I do name my surfboards though.

[3] Knock on wood

[4] The dirty laundry is washed indoors.