Feminine Power April 10, 2007Posted by kelly in Power, Tomb Raider 2.
I think that there is a lot at stake when we try to define “female power.” In defining it, we seem to agree that the type of power that women can have is different from the power than men typically wield. I think it would be better to call it “feminine power,” as feminine implies society’s ideals and characteristics or behavior, rather than sex or gender.
In our class discussion, we debated whether or not female power is linked to sexuality, and the exploitation of it by women. At first I agreed with this idea, as it is alarmingly apparent in the majority of our films in which women use their bodies and beauty to get what they want. But then I thought about many of the films in which men have power. What came immediately to mind were 300 and Casino Royale.
In both of these films, the main male characters have tremendous sex appeal. King Leonidas and James Bond have been undoubtedly gawked at by millions of moviegoers, yet their sex appeal makes them no less masculine than other men. In fact, their ability to attract seems to make them even more manly and powerful. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that their attractiveness often lies in their muscles. On the other hand, part of James Bond’s appeal is what can be said to be feminine – his expensive clothes, careful grooming, and intelligence or culture.
It seems to me then, that “feminine power,” while often derived from sexuality, is one that is used to manipulate or overcome others who underestimated them, often including the audience. Perhaps we mark it as feminine because it comes from a position of weakness. Even in the case of Lara Croft, who is rich and powerful, she is still a woman, which automatically places her in a position of assumed inferiority and forces her to contend with many forces that men do not encounter. It seems to be that those who possess this feminine power exploit the expectations of weakness and inferiority only to gain a power that is often even more powerful than masculine power, as it is unexpected and seems to require more intelligence and cunning rather than just brute male strength.
Of course this may not be the intention of those who seek to create stories of female empowerment. But I do believe that when we look for female power, we tend to find it when we define it as something that comes from a position of powerlessness – where it is not entirely expected and it seems that a character is reclaiming a power typically denied to them by patriarchal society. I hope this makes sense…