What Women Don’t Want

Group of women soliders.
Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps from WWII Letters

I’m developing a theory. My theory is that women, or most women anyway, aren’t much interested in joining armies.  We prefer to join forces in more subtle ways. We join book clubs, Facebook, and meetup groups.  It’s a kind of small-scale subterfuge.

Increasingly, I live in a world of women. In part, that’s because women live longer than men and, because I am now sixty-seven, statistically that’s bound to happen. In part, also, it’s because I enjoy the company of women, so I tend to be with them more often.

As I write this I am watching Game of Thrones in which there are many admirable, surprising, scary, witty, vengeful, faithful, enterprising, and inspiring female characters. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the show so much. But tonight, I noticed that when you see women on this show, they are mostly alone or with only a few other women and men.  Significant men, on the other hand, are often seen in armies of men. Huge armies. Armies of thousands, ready for battle.

We all know some awesome women and we see some wonderful women on TV and in film, but we rarely, if ever, see them leading armies of women. If women, such as Joan of Arc or Daenerys,  lead armies at all, the armies are made up of men. (Or, sometimes the undead—but that’s a whole different issue.)

As the physically weaker sex we should probably join together in battle. It makes more sense than each of us individually trying to fight stronger foes. But we don’t. We offer empathy, nourishment, spiritual support, encouragement, and shelter to each other, but we don’t offer a militarized army.

If you were asked to think of any armies of women you would probably come up with the Amazon warriors, and then come to a grinding halt. Why is that? Those women were reported to have fought “like men.” What happened to the other women in all the other countries?  Did we lose our strength through inaction, and did we just defer to men because, well, we had the kids to take care of? Or, did we just not like physical fighting?

My guess is that women have evolved to fight in devious ways. We chose to stay alive and plan things. We plotted the rise and fall of all sorts of bullies, tyrants, dictatorships, realms, and civilizations, but we rarely did it as leaders of armies. We did it through networks of friends. Multiple individual women, influencing multiple individual women and men, have changed history.

Actually, that is probably one of our subterfuges, even if it doesn’t make great movies. We have allowed television and film to perpetuate the myth of the strength of military armies so that we can continue to do what we do unnoticed. It’s quite brilliant really, when you think about it.

But when you see me on Tuesday having coffee with a group composed mostly of women, please don’t be afraid. We are just talking about books and kids. Really.



Edit:  Since writing this, I have been made aware that there were many female warriors in history, and they have often been erased from the historical record.  Here are a few sites of interest.

A history of real women in combat.

Why was Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Reign Virtually Erased from History?

Powerful Women Warriors (1500 BCE – 1500 CE)





  1. A great post. I love Game of Thrones as well. I actually spent New Year’s Eve on my couch watching season six. The reason I love it, is because of the strong female characters, which in this day and age are still difficult to find. I can’t decide which one is my favourite – I even love Cersei in all her wickedness. 😉 yes, we women are definitely running the show and we are playing it brilliantly. Ha.

  2. I was actually searching for something quite different when I ran across this article. I was wondering how much men are like the birds of paradise doing their dance and having major body modifications just to attract women.

    Women have definitely had to plot behind the scenes for much of recorded history. Those in power seldom like to let it go and prior to laws and true education, physical strength ruled the world.

  3. It certainly seems that way. My knowledge of history is limited, but I definitely get the sense that aristocratic men have historically been peacocks (or birds of paradise!) and paid a lot of attention to hair, clothes, and shoes etc. Looking at military uniforms across time and various countries seems to show a similar need for ostentatious display. Physical strength does seem to have been rewarded with status and power, and in lieu of that, the ability to lead armies has the same result.

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