I had to bite when this one slid across my desk: What should one keep in mind when writing female warriors? A lot of my writing, published, unpublished, and even old fanfic, has to do with women who fight back, and warriors among them. So, what do I think about when writing women who are warriors? It’s such a good question, I posted the answer to the Vale & Sea patreon page and to quora — oh, excuse me, Quora (need to put that cap in there). Here it is, with hope, surfacing on my Amazon author page.
Well, I can say this much, there are some considerations when you’re writing a woman who is also a warrior. But let’s just get some things out of the way up front. A trained woman fighter (think Ronda Rousey or Holly Holm or, any of the many others) is going to mess up your day, potentially forever.
“The force of a professional boxer’s fist is equivalent to being hit with a 13-pound bowling ball traveling 20 miles per hour,” per the American Association of Neurological Association. ~ Jacqueline Andriakos (health.com)
These are big, powerful women with a lot of training and a lot of muscle fibre. In fact, it may help you to know:
Trainer and record-holding powerlifter Greg Nuckols puts it on his site, Stronger By Science, “Most of the major differences in performance and metabolism between genders can be explained by size and body composition, not gender itself.” Nuckols expands on that thought, noting that, “A woman and a man with similar training and similar amounts of muscle and fat will perform similarly.” ~ Dan Ketchum (http://livestrong.com)
So, you need to take into account the size, shape, and body fat of your character. I can tell you from experience (with very low body fat at one point and lots of muscle) that size does matter (also, small).
Underneath it all, there’s the fact that women, on average, have 30 to 35% muscle by weight and men (on average) 40–50% by weight. Women have more fat deposits in healthier areas (like the hips) than men. Women have more slow-twitch muscle too. So, being a strong, well-trained, woman, tall and big with muscle, will produce similar results to a male of the same composition. But even with a smaller woman in great shape, and corded with muscle, there are perks to the way muscles and fat work, and you can use these in your writing.
Women, who have more slow-twitch (type 1) muscle than men, recover faster. They have more blood supply in their muscles too, meaning more oxygen. Your male runner is faster, but he (on average) won’t be able to run for days like a woman will because their muscle design gives them a lot of endurance. They can pull on fat for fuel too. No doubt, this helps in lengthy childbirth as much as it does on an endurance run. I bet your girl can run for days. Moreover, in a fight, a man’s explosive strength is amazing, but the longer that fight goes, the more the advantage tips to your warrior woman, with her heavily oxygenated, fat-burning metabolism. She’s built for endurance and can keep dishing it out with less fatigue.
There are something like 3000 genes that express differently in muscles between women and men, and, the truth is, there are advantages handed to both men and women as a result. Mostly, you’ll hear about the advantages that gives men. Rarely, you’ll hear about the same for women, but that doesn’t mean those advantages don’t exist for you to write about.
Heck. I write about them!
So, it’s not a simple answer, really. And you need to do your research. If you have other concerns, research them too. One I can think of is ‘What if she’s on her period when the fight takes place’? Well, when your body weight is that low and you’re burning fat like that, your period is sometimes absent. If it’s there, it’s a blip on the radar, trust me. No. You will not get a ‘super-human surge of strength’ from your period. You won’t run from the fight, sobbing, because of some emotional turmoil, because of your period. If you don’t understand periods, please do look them up in a scientific or health journal and apply the learnings to all your women characters. Half the planet has a period. You should know what that means if you want to write women.
Another thing you should know is that the strength of women, in many cultures, is routinely underestimated and even actively disregarded, and that does something to the psychology and endurance of your woman warrior. It’s something you can research for your warrior too. It may lead your warrior to be formidable psychologically.
Lots and lots of juicy things for you to research and write on this topic.