Sunday 20 November 2011

Why Do None Of These Women Have Balls? Gender Roles and Killing Walkers

I have just one question for the writers of The Walking Dead: Why do none of the female characters seem to have any balls? I know I am not the only woman who feels this way. I’ve talked with dozens of female friends and we all agree. We want to see STRONG female characters that we can relate to. Thus far, few of us “real women” can see ourselves acting like the women of TWD. They are too much like 1950’s B-movie scream queens, cowering behind the men when walkers show up.

Women have come so far in our society and our entertainment since those movies were made. Many of the women who are fans of TWD feel cheated that the females on the show don’t seem aware of this development. Yeah, the show paid lip service to women’s rights and equality issues during the first season as the women complained while doing laundry at the quarry. Then they discuss what they miss most since the world went to hell, which included automatic washing machines and coffee makers - items of domestic importance. (I will admit the women were liberated enough to talk about missing their sex toys too. I didn’t really understand this dilemma as there have to still be batteries out there somewhere!)

Personally, I like to think that I would be a very different kind of survivor. I like to think I’d be trying to dispatch walkers if they posed an immediate threat to my survival or that of my children. If it were our lives on the line, I would not wait weeks for gun training. I would demand it as soon as possible. Firing a gun is not always the best option - Andrea showed us that - but it is a skill I would want to master as quickly as possible. Of course, unlike Andrea, I would be smart enough to know that you don’t take a shot from 200+ yards away when: 1.) you can’t get a clear view of your target in the scope, and 2.) four people less than 10 feet away from said target aren’t acting as if he is a threat.

Still, as it looks now, Andrea is our best bet for a woman with balls in this series. She’s decided she’s not going to be a victim anymore; she finally stopped whining and started doing something. Unfortunately, what she did was an exercise in stupidity. My husband tells me that the kind of bad judgment Andrea displayed, in his opinion, is very common among people who have just learned a new skill, especially those who’ve just learned to shoot. They are so eager to show others what they can do now that they often do it at inappropriate times. Yeah, I didn’t like having that pointed out to me by a man, even if I am married to him! I was busy screaming at the TV because of her idiocy; he was genuinely evaluating the circumstances of it.

Carol gets a pass on not having balls. I don’t expect her to have them. She was beaten down by her hellish husband, Ed, and as a result may never grow a set. An abuser often controls every aspect of a victim’s life. In some cases, victims can become unable to make even the simplest of decisions for themselves. Forget about a victim being able to stand up for his/her self. Long after an abuser is gone, serious damage to a victim’s psychological state can remain. So Carol gets a pass. She's earned one after what she's been through.

Since Lori is pregnant, she won’t be growing balls any time soon. I doubt she’ll do much walker-killing for quite a while. I can accept that as realistic. While pregnant or with a young infant to care for, she will be too vulnerable to be of much use in her own or the group’s defense. Granted, Mama Lion syndrome will kick in if a woman’s child is in danger, but it’s still hard to hold a baby and a rifle simultaneously.

Maggie definitely has the potential to have balls, but as long as she is sympathetic to the idea of holding walkers in the barn waiting for a cure, she won’t become a walker-killer.
Now I know that in a zombie apocalypse, it might be very likely that men and women would revert to traditional gender roles by default. (And trust me using the word “traditional” in relation to gender roles grates on me even as I type this. I hate to ever link the two concepts together, but I feel that I must in this instance.) It might be easier if we returned to the roles society seems to impose on all of us, no matter how independent we are. We can redefine those roles later if and when survival is longer our primary goal.

Even a feminist like me admits that the physical differences between men and women cannot be denied. Some things are just easier for men to do then women. (Shooting, however, isn’t one of them.) In a survival scenario, we are likely to revert to the men doing things that require greater upper body strength. Women who are doctors and lawyers in a pre-apocalypse society may well be fine with darning socks and roasting squirrels over the campfire while the men chop firewood and hunt game. I would probably be okay with that, but I would still want to be able to protect myself. After all, there would to be times when the men folk won’t all be there and I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck.

I’m not looking for the women to stand guard all the time while the men wash clothes and cook meals. I just would like to see the women take a more proactive role in defending the group and, more importantly, themselves. I don’t want the women to all suddenly become kung fu experts or sharpshooters. I do want to see least one of the women charge a walker, taking control of her own defense, instead of hiding behind Shane and Rick.

I know most decent men (i.e. not guys like Ed) are very protective of their wives or girlfriends and their children. Nature? Nurture? Probably some of both. My husband knows I’m no wallflower; he is after all the one who taught me to shoot. But if there was a clear and present
danger, such as a walker, his first instinct would be to shove me behind him in order to protect me. I’d likely let him because I know he is better equipped - both in physical strength and shooting skill - to do things like kill walkers. (I am independent, not stupid!) I could easily see the women doing the same thing in the world of TWD. It would just be easier and life if hard enough already.

I’m not unrealistic. I realize the characters on any TV show aren’t based on me or how I think I would act if faced with what they face. I realize there are dramatic elements that must be included to make a story work. I realize there are physical differences between the sexes that are simply givens in survival situation. I realize that we women who feel this way may just be getting our feminist panties in a bunch. But still…. Please give us some women who will stand up and fight when the need arises. Please give us some women we can relate to.


  1. Why are they even at this farm? If they aren't welcome - but it is inexplicably safe in this rural area - then why don't they drive 5 miles down the road and take over the old Johnson place? And move to the 2nd floor? And put up a windmill to pump water? ... and Yes, the women seem incredibly lame. Like why did Andrea fire that rifle when she knows good and well that gunfire draws walkers? I think the writers are being lazy. People this stupid shouldn't be alive anymore in a zombie wasteland. :P I know women can do better than this but so can men. I'm disappointed in everybody but Daryl. When Carol visits him and says he's "as good as" the other men - I think she totally missed it. In this scenario he's better than them.

  2. Yup Yup all the way! It would be nice to see a woman that can hang with the boys and take care of herself. Nice blog!

  3. Having only just finished season one and the last two current season episodes, I probably shouldn't chime in until I'm completely in the know, but I will anyway. I agree with Lisa on all points but one. Andrea has balls. She has big ones! As evidenced the first time we see her attacking Rick for "killing them" by bringing all the walkers to the department store they were scavenging from. Also the very idea that she left the safety of the camp and joined the boys to scavenge in a Walker infested city, says she's got the stones to fend for herself. Didn't she operate the gun well when she offed her reincarnated sister at point blank range?

    The problem with Andrea specifically isn't what she doesn't have, it's what she does have which is a hair trigger temper and shitty judgement. I think it's less that she was taught how to use a gun and is out to prove something; although I agree with Lisa's husband that this is often the case, than she is just one of those people who thinks it's all about her and now feels like righteous revenge should be hers. We all know some of those people in our daily lives now and it's only going to be worse if anything apocolyptic happens.

    Any yes, Doctor Atlantis, someone this stupid (i.e. recklass) wouldn't make the cut.

  4. Bonnie -

    Andrea proved in last week's episode that she does indeed have shitty judgment. I just hope it improves and damn soon! I agree about her mainly being out to prove something, but she's gotta get over that to be even the slightest bit useful or, to me, interesting.

    Last season, she was the most dangerous of all gun owners - one who didn't have a clue how to even operate her own weapon! (Remember the issue with the safety when she drew down on Rick?) But even now that she CAN operate a weapon, she is still dangerous and a long way from being in the clear.

    As you catch up on the second season, you will she see how she seemed to lose whatever balls she had after she had to put Amy down. I want a female character that balls no matter what happens to them. I'm hoping Andrea is my girl. If she is, I might even forgive her for damn near killing Daryl!

    Andrea is smart and I think she'll get through this major blunder and not let it drag her back down and regress her character development. I am hopeful that Andrea will instead keep this inner drive to live and take charge and turn her TV character into the character that she is in the comics!

  5. Very interesting blog and very well written. I agree with Bonnie in that Andrea does seem to have a set of balls, but more along the lines of an immature teenager, not those of a "man". Having said that, not all of the 'males' are "men" either!

    In a world turned upside down, the atypical stereotypes no longer apply, IMO. There are those physically, mentally and emotionally equipped to survive and then there is everyone else. Gender does NOT play a role in survival ability, IMO.

    It does matter in the pecking order of a society however and that's where I think the difference lies.

    Are the females you're writing about "mates, moms and/or life helpers", or are they "stand-alone survivors" capable of standing on their own, or contributing equally in an organized unit?

    Michonne is one of these types of people. Daryl is another. They just happen to be different sexes.

    None of the current female characters have what it takes to grow a set, much less know what to do with them. I think you'll have to wait for Michonne.

    BTW, on a personal note. We are starting to get away from Frank Darabont's influence and scripts....and it shows. :-(

  6. Excellent blog & I agree with you about the weak women! Andrea is a spoiled brat. Do not like her and hope her shooting Daryl will knock some sense in her. Lori... annoying and doesn't know what she wants. Carol, well I feel for her and think she may eventually come out of her shell. After years of abuse you either become stronger or give up. I see her becoming stronger. Maggie is a fighter and I enjoy her. Other than Daryl,who kicks butt, the guys need to toughen up,get a clue and leave that farm. Do not like Rick taking Hershels crap at all.

  7. Great blog & Comments.Totally agree with Sissy's view-points.I was wondering if Andrea was needing an eye test after shooting Daryl,the gun had a scope.Is she blind! Round of applause to Daryl who is showing his true survival skills. Thought the flower he gave Carol was a very touching scene. Lori's character I am still trying to like, something more has went on with Shane before Rick's accident. I think Carol will come out of her shell in upcoming episodes (I hope). Maggie needs to get a grip and open her eyes 'Zombies are not animals for keeping' no matter what Hershels opinions are.Oh and yes Rick needs to tell Hershel to **** *** and move to another location.Maybe they'll find a woman with balls that will give the women encouragement to have more oomph about them:0)