Created By: ladygem on June 30, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on October 25, 2013

Weapons Are Unladylike

Using a weapon is a sign that she is more of a tomboy and less of a girly girl

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
[Note: Ladygem has stated that this is Up for Grabs. It was the more narrow, Tomboys Know Archery.]

A Proper Lady isn't a Lady of War. It doesn't matter how graceful of a weapon it is. Even if she's The Archer with a male companion who's a close range fighter, the people around her, probably parents, will have the expectation that a gentlewoman shouldn't be fighting. She doesn't care. It makes her feel like a strong and capable Action Girl. She probably thinks that Real Women Never Wear Dresses too. She might be seen as a Tomboy of her setting.

Examples

Film
  • In Brave, Merida is rarely seen without her bow, much to the dismay of her mother, who doesn't approve of ladies having weapons.
  • In Princess of Thieves Robin Hood's daughter wants to fight against Prince John with him wants but he wants her to stay home where it's safe.

Literature
  • In the Hunger Games series, Katniss is skilled with a bow, doesn't seem to like the idea of dresses or romance, and is terrified of appearing weak.

Live-Action Television
  • In the first episode of Game of Thrones, Arya shows Bran up at a archery. Though she later switches to swordplay, this serves as a very early indication of her rebellious spirit.

Needs More Examples, Needs a Better Description. Also, Do We Have This One?? I (Ladygem) have seen it a lot recently, Brave and Hunger Games are just the two most obvious examples off the top of my head. Rolling Updates.

Community Feedback Replies: 68
  • June 30, 2012
    trapraper
    • Emberverse, Astrid Larsson
  • June 30, 2012
    Bisected8
  • June 30, 2012
    MiinU
    Huh??

    From what I've seen, bows are most commonly used by females fitting either the Lady Of War, elves, and Nature Hero.

    In the case of the first two, it's usually meant to enhance their feminine quality; though The Hunter can occasionally be a tomboy as well. While the latter often uses the bow as an extension of the character's persona, since it's usually the weapon of choice for forest dwelling types.

    Most tomboys I've seen prefer either Good Old Fisticuffs or She Fu. And, when using a weapon, they'll typically choose Guns Akimbo, or swords, or staves.

    This one's a new to me.
  • June 30, 2012
    lexicon
    No, I think this can work. Both of the characters listed are unfeminine. Katniss isn't just skilled with the bow, she doesn't seem to like the idea of dresses or romance. She doesn't want to appear weak.

    The descripetion needs to be changed so it doesn't imply that the Lady Of War doesn't use a bow, as she often does.
  • June 30, 2012
    tfaal2
    • In the first episode of Game Of Thrones, Arya shows Bran up at a archery. Though she later switches to swordplay, this serves as a very early indication of her rebellious spirit.
  • June 30, 2012
    MiinU
    ^^@lexicon - I meant the YKTTW itself, not the examples listed.

    Most bow weilding female characters, that I know of, are feminine. Basically, I was just wondering if this is common enough, in fiction, to be tropeable?
  • June 30, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV

    So I'm not convinced this is a general pattern, but it might be valid for some series.
  • June 30, 2012
    Routerie
    In all these examples, the bow-woman is more tomboyish than if she played with a doll or whatever, but not more so than if she used a sword, or a gun, or a club, or virtually any other weapon. Less so in fact.
  • June 30, 2012
    nitrokitty
    Interesting historical point, but in traditional Japan it was considered virtuous for a woman to learn archery. Learning martial arts was considered part of the Yamato Nadeshiko ideal, where a woman needed to be able to defend the home while her husband was away fighting.
  • June 30, 2012
    Sackett
    Yeah, actually archery is usually considered a more feminine martial art. Not that Tomboys can't be archers, or that a fascination with archery can't be a sign of being a Tomboy, but it's not a hard rule.

    In fact bows are very common weapons for girls if you want an Action Girl who is feminine.

    If you look at the Tomboy page Action Girl is already listed as an element of Tomboyish behavior. I don't think being an archer adds to the Tomboy credibility anymore beyond just being an Action Girl does. (As compared to Cute Bruiser which is essentially always a Tomboy trope).
  • June 30, 2012
    HugoLuman
    Archer-Heroines seem to be on this rise as of late, though I'd say that it's more like Tomboys Have Weapons.
  • June 30, 2012
    Sackett
    See also Guys Smash Girls Shoot and The Archer

    I don't think this is really a trope.
  • June 30, 2012
    LittleLizard
    Instead of looking for examples, we shall answer this question: Is archery a trait that make a female character tomboyish?. For me, NO. In fact, IMO it's the other way round. Tomboyish action girls are more fond of martial arts and melee while feminine are, generally, ranged (See last Sackett post ^).
  • June 30, 2012
    Desertopa
    It's a matter of context. In settings where it's considered unfeminine to engage in combat or warfare related activities at all, archery will be a sign of tomboyish female characters, whereas in settings where women engaging in combat or warfare related activities is more normal, among female combatants those who use bows tend to be more feminine.

    I can attest that this pattern is familiar to me, and I'd contribute more examples, if it weren't so many years since I'd been immersed in YA fantasy.

    Edit: In the Tortall Universe, Daine's skill with archery is seen as particularly tomboyish in her own homeland, but less so in Tortall, where public opinion has shifted largely due to the heroine of the previous series, Alanna, who has already become famous as a female knight.
  • June 30, 2012
    ladygem
    removed reference to Lady Of War, and added a bit more elaboration to the Hunger Games example. Judging by the trope page for Legend Of Dragoon, Shana sounds a little too girly for this trope, although context is important and if there is another important female character that is more girly than Shana, I'll add her. As it stands, she sounds more like a Lady Of War.
  • June 30, 2012
    lexicon
    Another connection between Merida and Katniss, in terms of their archery skills, is that they are in tune with nature, like an Outdoorsy Gal, another Tomboy. Maybe they should be added to that.
  • June 30, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Note that the "Game of Thrones" example is something that was added for the tv show. I seem to recall Arya noting that she didn't know how to use a bow in A Storm of Swords.
  • June 30, 2012
    planswalker
    The trope itself probably exists, but you KNOW that this trope is rare enough that you KNOW that there will be a TON of examples put here that amount to "a woman has a bow" that has nothing to do with archery as a symbol of being a tomboy. Do we really need ANOTHER trope that's doomed to become hopelessly bogged down with bad examples?
  • July 1, 2012
    MorganWick
    Hmm. Maybe this trope should be about the odd relationship between archery and femininity?
  • July 1, 2012
    swallowfeather
    I've considered for a long time adding a trope that's basically "in fantasy/historical movies, women who fight almost always use bows." To me, that's what's going on here. Some are ladies of war and some are more outdoorsy/tomboyish/badass... but how many fighting women have you seen with any other weapon in a fantasy/historical movie? (Or--to include Katniss--any movie where guns are not on the weapons list.) Definitely a minority.

    It's a paradox because, like so many The Archer characters, the women in those movies are generally slender, and it takes way more upper body strength than people think to draw a bow heavy enough to kill people at a distance. So it's not that realistic. I don't know how to make a trope about this without sounding sexist though. (And I'm a woman. Who can't draw a hunting bow.) The first time I tried it I clearly failed.

    There is an odd relationship between archery and femininity. The question is what to call it. I don't think this trope is quite it, but it's a start. Would ladygem consider adjusting?
  • July 1, 2012
    kjnoren
    Here's a stab at it. Please feel free to shoot it down - I've drawn heavily from Action Girl and The Archer. This trope would mainly be a fusion of the two.

    The Bowwoman

    Want an Action Girl in the story, but not too much of an action girl? Enter The Bowwoman.

    The bow seems like a more graceful and elegant weapon than the sword or the spear, and it keeps the user safely away from the enemy or getting her hands dirty -- and it opens the possibility of having The Hero rescue the bowwoman if the enemy manages to get close.

    At the same time, the bow is a weapon, and wanting to learn to use a bow is one way to show that a woman is a Spirited Young Lady, especially if the people around her disapproves.

    One of the common variations of a Lady Of War. May be an Acton Girl, but as noted this is often a way to put limits on "action" and emphasise "girl". See also The Archer.

    Examples:

    Literature
    • Birgitte Silverbow in The Wheel Of Time. She subverts the usual form of trope, since she is a skilled fighter with most weapons and a capable leader.
    • In Narnia, Susan fights with a bow, while the boys use melee weapons.

  • July 1, 2012
    acrobox
    I feel like Bow Woman is a necessary subtrope of The Archer for a lot of the aforementioned reasons. And we can put in a clause about how in settings were warfare is expected bows are feminine, but when warfare is not common bows are tomboy, but bows are more likely to go to female characters regardless.

    There is a disproportionate amount of female archers to their male counterparts so there needs to be a trope somewhere.
  • July 1, 2012
    swallowfeather
    I like all of the above. Bow Woman sounds better than Bowwoman. Agreed about the clause about tomboyness.

    Incidentally, Artemis should definitely be in the examples list.
  • July 1, 2012
    RossN
    Not sure about Artemis - wasn't her brother even more known as an archer? The Amazons might be a better example.
  • July 1, 2012
    swallowfeather
    Artemis was meant more as an example of the Bow Woman than the tomboy trope. I think she's important, in spite of her brother, because I think a lot of the more Lady-of-War, graceful-feminine-archer imagery in Western culture comes from her.

    The Amazons would fit the Tomboys Know Archery trope quite well. Should we have both, with Tomboys Know Archery as a subtrope to Bow Woman? kjnoren, I kinda think you should go ahead and YKKTW that.
  • July 1, 2012
    kjnoren
    Artemis (and Skadi, as the other well-known goddess archer in western mythologies) was the goddess of the hunt, not of war. The Greek goddess of war was Athena, who was a full-fledged Lady Of War fighting with shield and spear.

    Also, I think this is a quite modern trope. I view Artemis more as a possible inspiration.
  • July 1, 2012
    kjnoren
    Ok, I can take the lead in that.
  • July 1, 2012
    RossN
    Which is sort of interesting since per the original myths Artemis is very much a tomboy - she comes across as far too passionate to fit the Lady Of War trope.
  • July 1, 2012
    kjnoren
    I'm going to avoid using the term tomboy in the new YKTTW - I think it's too vague and mutable to be usable in this context.

    As for the amazons, I don't think they're this really. They might have been mounted archers, but so were quite a bit more peoples living on the steppes in central Asia. Again, a possible inspiration, but not necessarily fitting the trope in their original form.
  • July 1, 2012
    swallowfeather
    Cool, thanks, kjnoren. I thought your text worked quite well.

    Yes, Artemis is more of an inspiration; she's certainly not an actual Lady Of War. But many of the later idealizations of her are very feminine.

    ladygem, apologies for kinda rabbittrailing your comments section in a different direction. I'll stop doing that now.
  • July 1, 2012
    lexicon
    You can use the archery = tomboy concept if you broaden it to any weapon. Weapons Are Unladylike.
  • July 2, 2012
    lexicon
    Is this Up For Grabs?
  • July 2, 2012
    Routerie
    I kind of like the switch in focus. This trope isn't about archers being tomboys. It's about tomboys knowing archery - about girls, in a setting or subplot that requires no fighting, showing their rebelliousness and strength through their use of a bow.

    So if this is some fantasy adventure where everyone goes into battle and our heroin is given a bow, that's not this trope. The bow doesn't paint her as a tomboy; if anything, it paints her as feminine. But if we just see a girl in her family or whatever and she shows off her archery skill, well, that's a tomboy right there.
  • July 2, 2012
    kjnoren
    @lexicon Ladygem was active here just day before yesterday. Far too early for the trope to be up for grabs - the Up For Grabs guideline is 2 months.
  • July 2, 2012
    lexicon
    I know the guideline but Ladygem seems to have abandoned this for Bow Women. I just want to make sure before I make changes.
  • July 2, 2012
    kjnoren
    No, Ladygem hasn't abandoned this for Bow Woman. I know that since it's swallowfeather and I who started on Bow Woman.

    Better to PM Ladygem, or simply be active in the comments thread here.
  • July 3, 2012
    kjnoren
    There has been quite a bit of discussion in the Bow Woman YKTTW, which I think might be of interest here as well. It would imply a four-way split of The Archer, and one of those splits would fit nicely to the Tomboy.
  • July 3, 2012
    CosmicRock
    • In the 1963 Italian Hercules rip-off "Colossus and the Headhunters"(also riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000), Queen Amoa greets Maciste, the hero of the story, by accurately planting an arrow in his shoulder. She is a surprisingly tomboyish and determined heroine for a Hercules swords and sandals type adventure movie.
  • July 3, 2012
    kjnoren
    @lexicon It is seriously uncool to make edits to another sponsor's YKTTW, and these edits are really big. If you have been in contact via PM with Ladygem, please state so explicitly. And make clear which types of changes you've done.
  • July 5, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Is it all weapons or just bows? the laconic and the title clash.
  • July 5, 2012
    planswalker
    that's because someone other than the author of the YKTTW seems to have hijacked it.
  • July 5, 2012
    lexicon
    I sent ladygem a PM and he said that it's Up For Grabs, as I have noted at the top. I should have said it before I made any changes. Sorry.
  • July 5, 2012
    planswalker
    yeah, it definitely looked like a YKTTW hijacking from my screen. You have the author's permission, I guess, so it's fine with me. How is this going to be different then the established tropes over what's considered "ladylike"?

    I'm more asking so I can know the direction you're going so I can help provide examples.
  • July 6, 2012
    lu127
    Anyone can edit a YKTTW draft, regardless if they're the sponsor or not. It is perfectly within our guidelines. It is not uncool. The sponsor should be contacted for big changes, but you can make tweaks anytime.
  • July 6, 2012
    lexicon
    I've made some edits. Does it work now?
  • July 6, 2012
    CalamityJane
    Since the laconic specifically mentions a bow and arrow, I've changed the title to something that fits better.
  • July 6, 2012
    planswalker
    @ lu127:

    the issue I had was that someone else had taken the YKTTW and made significant changes without any heads up that they'd gotten permission. The same one who claimed it was Up For Grabs after two days without the original author. My suspicion of a YKTTW jacking seemed reasonable at the time. Since this isn't so and has been explained to me, I'm okay with things.

    I'm kinda confused from the description, though. It sounds to me like Weapons Are Unladylike is a trope, while Archery Is Unladylike is a Same But More Specific version of that trope. Instead of changing the name to fit the laconic, I'd recommend going the other direction.
  • July 6, 2012
    lexicon
    That's true. Archery is too specific, especially since a bow is the most ladylike weapon, often used by a Lady Of War.
  • July 9, 2012
    lexicon
    I've added a second film example. I'd like to launch this soon so if anyone has anyting to add I'd appreciate it.
  • July 9, 2012
    planswalker
    um... you have a short, dense description and only four examples. You're five hats away from being close to launch. You'll need to get more examples before you can realistically launch. Also try to pick someone's brain to help with the description to be more thorough.

    Comb through this discussion and see how many examples from the old "archery" part you can recycle with a little tweaking. If it were launched as-is, it'd likely get lost in obscurity before going to the TRS to either be cut, rolled with a popular clone that arose, or overhauled and the YKTTW work done there.
  • August 7, 2013
    InTheMirror
    ykttw bump
  • August 7, 2013
    KingZeal
    Yet another Sub Trope of Women Are Delicate.
  • August 7, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Okay, broadening this brings it down to nonsensical levels. It's like "guy with a weapon is a warrior." It's not shorthand, it's basic cause and effect.

    And with the name, it makes me think that it would be ladylike for a woman to be a Bare Fisted Monk.
  • August 7, 2013
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • Used in The Lord Of The Rings. Despite Eowyn's line "The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them," and Aragorn describing her as a shieldmaiden, everyone tries extremely hard to keep her as far from the front lines as humanly possible. Justified in that she was also Rohan's regent and in charge of the Rohirrim logistics branch.

    EDITED per the guy below me (it's been a while since I read the books).
  • August 7, 2013
    jatay3
    With good reason; someone had to be Regent. For some reason people seem to forget that when they mention Eowyn and think the only reason was "no girls allowed." No one ever thinks about what happened to the army of Rohan's logistics system with no one to run it.
  • August 7, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Plus that's less "weapons are unladylike" and more plain Women Are Delicate or Stay In The Kitchen.
  • August 7, 2013
    DAN004
    So... can someone make the "Bow Woman" YKTTW and be done with this one? Pretty plz?
  • August 7, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Well this could be Super Trope if defined better, or redefined to "acceptable weapons for women", which can include archery, Frying Pan Of Doom, Parasol Of Pain, etc.

    EDIT: But yeah, I can make a ykttw for women using bows, but it would be in the context of "it's okay for women to use bows". Otherwise it would just fall under The Archer but it's a woman.
  • August 7, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I do think that there's a very prominent trend for women to be The Archer, which would be tropable.

    But I really like your idea for a Weapons For Women supertrope/index.
  • August 7, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ I'm just stating it wouldn't have examples where there are also male archers, as it would just be archers in the cast.

    Brave could be noted as an aversion of the trope, as even using a bow is too much for Merida's mother to allow.
  • October 25, 2013
    DAN004
    I'm still a bit confused. If a women carrying weapon at all is called unladylike, then how would they defend themselves? Does that mean people will ignore the lady's more ladylike qualities when she happens to carry and fight with a weapon? Then should she be a Bare Fisted Monk?

    I kinda think that this is closer to "woman fighting at all is unladylike" aka Stay In The Kitchen.

    And I guess this is a viewpoint/opinion/culture trope. I'm not thinking about this going "meta" (i.e audience thinking that "weapons are unladylike"), but just in case, In Universe Examples Only.
  • October 25, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work names, capitalized the first word of two examples.
  • October 25, 2013
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • Princess Cimorene of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles categorically refuses to be a "proper" silly, girly storybook princess. By the time she's eighteen her father has successively banned her from studying magic, swordplay, cooking, and a few other activities.
  • October 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    At this point, isn't this Stay In The Kitchen?
  • October 25, 2013
    StarSword
    ^That's more men seeing women as weaker and in need of protecting by keeping them out of danger.
  • October 25, 2013
    lexicon
    Brave and The Hunger Games are not Stay In The Kitchen because in Brave she didn't use her weapon to put herself in danger and in The Hunger Games Katniss was never told to stay out of danger. Katniss was just a fighter who didn't like silly feminine things. Ofcourse this and Stay In The Kitchen can overlap.
  • October 25, 2013
    DAN004
    Oh I see... so women who fights at all must be tomboyish? Opposite of Lady Of War, then?
  • October 25, 2013
    KantonKage
    In Girls Und Panzer, Hana's mother was horrified and disowned her for taking up Tankery.
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