January 24, 2022

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

What Makes A Badass Woman?

There are plenty of Badass Women around. Do they need to be Badass in the same way Badass Men are?

Last May, Gabbing Geek attempted an experiment with something called “Geek Topics” where four of our writers would pen a short piece each month on a given topic.  Our first Geek Topic was “robots,” and that led to good articles from Ryan, Jenny, Jimmy, and myself.  The plan was to follow up “Robots” with “Badass Women” in June.  But life got in the way and that never happened.  I got a draft done, but then we had other problems.

Then Watson, who did not participate in Robot Month, came up with his own thoughts on Badass Women.

So, I know an opening when I see one.  Here’s my Badass Women post.

But first maybe we should ask ourselves:  what makes a woman a badass?

See, here’s the thing.  When we normally think of Badass Women, we think of women who kick literal butt and may or may not take any names.  The woman who wins fights, bests monsters and psychopaths in combat, and holds her own with the boys, that’s who we think of more often than not.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and such women are certainly Badass.  But can we see it a different way?

Ripley, you’re as Badass as they come, but let’s look in a different direction for now.

See, when I was in grad school many moons ago, I learned a bit about different forms of feminism.  American Feminism is what we’re all more or less familiar with here in the States.  It was primarily concerned with political equality and civil rights.  But then there was French Feminism.  That also pushed for political and social equality, but also had an artistic branch that asked if women were, if socially and politically equal, also not different in how they approached things.

Consider, if you will, they would say, a male-driven work of literature.  You have a big push through a problem or conflict, there’s a high peak at some point for a single, powerful emotional climax, and then the story winds down to the end.  The French Feminists like Helene Cixous would suggest a female-driven work might have many climaxes, much smaller, but more frequent than a male-driving narrative.

If that sounds like sex to you, congratulations, you picked up the gist of the idea.  Male = one, powerful climax.  Female = many continuous climaxes.

So, while Ellen Ripley can punch out an Alien Queen or numerous action heroines played by the likes of Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson can knock out all kinds of opponents without getting a hair out of place or smudging their make-up, let’s take a look at someone I consider to be a major Badass in an unconventional way.

I’m talking about Dr. Louise Banks in Arrival.

By the by, MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR ARRIVAL from here.  You’ve been warned.





Why is Banks a Badass?  Let’s look at what happens in the movie.  She saves the day without blowing anything up.  When we first meet her, she’s shy and withdrawn and quiet from the looks of things.  But she’s a language expert needed to translate an alien language.  Part way through the movie, Banks explains that learning a new language can change the way the brain functions.  This turns out to be true in her case.  The aliens experience time differently than we do.  They can see the future.  As she learns their language, Banks can as well, and using knowledge from the future allows her to calm tensions, end a potentially armed conflict with peaceful aliens, and set the human race in a direction where, we’re told, we will be able to assist the aliens in the future.

So, yeah, Banks is a Badass for saving the day, right?

Well, not really for that.  True, she’s tough and formidable when she has to be, and she manages to outthink the various military men and CIA agents around her with only scientist Ian Donnelly for help, but that isn’t what makes her a Badass in my mind.

No, that comes from her inner strength.  When the movie’s twist is revealed, when we see that scenes at the start of the movie where Banks is a divorced, single mother whose daughter dies young of an incurable disease are not flashbacks to before the aliens’ arrival, but actually scenes of moments yet-to-come, we see something of her strength.  She and Donnelly will get married, but it won’t work out.  Their daughter will die.  That knowledge seems to be what made Donnelly split.  He couldn’t handle it.  Banks can.  She not only knows it’s coming, but when we get to the last shot of the movie, she’s smiling as she accepts her fate.

She knows he won’t stay.

She knows her daughter will die young.

And she goes forward anyway, accepting the fate and looking to get what happiness she can out of it.  She doesn’t even seem to consider changing anything.

That’s strength.

That’s Badass.

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