I have been thinking lately about tough chicks. Last night, I watched a bout of fighting between two female MMA fighters. In MMA, I’m pretty good at predicting the winner, because I can tell which one is more patient and better at preserving their energy. It’s usually the more strategic, intellectual fighter who wins, rather than the one who rabidly attacks full-bore right out of the gate. In this fight, I accurately predicted Purple Pants would beat White Tank Top, and I was right! Purple Pants had gotten socked in the eye early on by White Tank Top, and even though her eye was swelling nearly shut, she just kept going, jabbing and punching and waiting for her more fiery opponent to exhaust herself, which she finally did, rendering Purple Pants battered but victorious.
I’m fascinated by the female fighters. Physical fighting seems like a perfectly natural and even healthy activity for males to indulge in, but I’m old-fashioned enough to harbor uneasy feelings about women being physically violent: It’s not lady-like. It’s not elegant. We should, as the supposedly more civilized sex, be above such things. But these are just projections of my own discomfort with my inner savage, with my fear about my own deeply repressed capability for physical violence and what might happen if I uncork even a wisp of that energy. I once took a kickboxing class (we only hit bags, not each other), and the instructor was a formidable, Amazonian type—over six feet tall, with astonishing legs, wild blonde hair, and the mettle of a true athlete. She yelled a lot and said things like, “You ladies need to wear gloves because I’m not wiping your blood off the bags!” She was like a superhero. But I knew I could never make the stretch to actually kickbox a human opponent, as much as I admired her. The idea of hitting someone else, even in the context of a disciplined sport, is just too upsetting to me. But a part of me still thinks about it a lot. Maybe it would be good for me to do something completely antithetical to my non-violent philosophy. Maybe I should take up boxing and explore that savage I have locked away deep inside, to see what it has to teach me.
Last weekend, I managed to get in a few hours of play with The Elder Scrolls Online. In one quest, I had go into an underground realm and help a warrior queen who had been imprisoned and stripped of her armor. Each piece of her armor had been scattered throughout the realm and was being guarded by physical projections of her deepest pain, fears, and despair. The physical projections showed as monsters or wild beasts or demons. In order for the Queen to retrieve the pieces of her armor, she had to face down each monster and defeat it. With every piece of her armor she fought for and won, she got stronger. At the end, she was fully equipped again, standing tall in her gear, a true warrior. It was a very touching experience and I have to admit it left me a bit teary. I wish I could go back and re-play the quest. It was cathartic and, yes, I’ll say it—it was empowering.
The other category of tough chick I admire is the Sturdy Outdoors Type. I detest camping, but I do spent a great deal of time watching outdoor survival shows and marveling at the skill of those who can make a snare trap out of twigs and leaves and navigate by the stars. I recently got a binder of my family history on mom’s side, and I was fascinated by the number of Swedish farmers that populate my family tree. Tough, stalwart types who work the land and Do What They Have to Do. I seem to have been born with an instinctive distaste for working the land and doing things I have to do, so apparently those genes completely bypassed me. I’m going to do that 23 and Me test and find out exactly how much Swedish Farmer gene I have, which I will bet you is zero. Somewhere in my heritage there must be a Wimpy Neurotic Indoors-Only Writer. We’ll see!