antifeminism facepalm gender policing irony alert mansplaining men who should not ever be with women ever misogyny patriarchy patronizing as heck reactionary bullshit

Is Rey from Star Wars an affront to God and a terrible role model for women?

An affront to God, apparently?
Beating up dudes with a stick is not very ladylike, young missy!

So the question on the table for today is: Are asskicking women in action films an affront to “godly, awesome, beautiful, feminine women” and, well, now that you come to mention it, our heavenly Father too?

According to Christian cultural critic Nathan Alberson, the answer is “yes.”

That’s the short version of his answer, in any case. The long version is a rambling 3000-word diatribe that Alberson casts as “AN OPEN LETTER TO REY FROM STAR WARS.” Originally posted in March on Warhorn, a site I’ve never heard of before, his post is now being passed around by irritated feminists, many of whom aren’t quite sure whether his argument is real or an elaborate parody.

Having poked around Warhorn a bit, I’m pretty sure that Alberson is sincere. He genuinely thinks that characters like Rey in Star Wars are an affront not only to his own masculinity but to God, for whom Alberson seems to think he’s a spokesman.

Alberson starts out his “open letter” by addressing not only Rey but an assortment of other heroines in science fiction and fantasy films, including, among others,

Princess Leia. And Wonder Woman. And Sarah Connor and Trinity and Imperator Furiosa … and Katniss Everdeen and River Tam … And Feminist Elf-Kate from The Hobbit. … And the godmother of them all, Ellen Ripley.

The problem with these fictional women? They’re strong. And women in the real world are weak. Because God made them that way. So kickass women in action movies (and the women who play them) not only “look ridiculous,” they’re also

behaving … in ways that do not befit your sex or glorify God. … Your friends and family and fans may not laugh at you. But the angels do and history will.

I’ve seen this same argument made by antifeminists I don’t know how many times — though generally without all that stuff about God and the laughing angels. Women in the real world are, on average, weaker than men, all these guys say. So it’s unrealistic to think that any female heroine could beat up a man.

Here’s my open letter to Alberson:

Dear Mr. Alberson, 

Have you ever actually seen an action movie?



I mean, dude, seriously, you’re mad that Trinity from the Matrix can jump high and beat up dudes?

The Matrix movies are about a dystopian future in which humans “live” in a computer-generated virtual world while their bodies in the real world are used to generate electricity. And the part of the movie that seems the most unrealistic to you is that Trinity, while she’s in the video-game-like matrix, can jump high and beat up dudes?

You do remember that by the end of the movie Neo can slow down time, repel bullets with his mind, and, you know, FLY?

In the original Star Wars, Darth Vader strangles a dude with his mind, by using a mysterious force called, you know, The Force. But the unbelievable thing to you is that Princess Leia knows how to use a blaster?

It’s true that in the real world women can’t do all the amazing things that fictional women in science fiction and action films do. But, as I pointed out the last time I wrote about this goofy argument, neither can men.

Seriously, have you seen any movie with Jason Statham in it? Sure, Statham could kick my ass, and probably yours, in the real world. But he can’t actually do all the unbelievable things his characters do on film.

I mean, the first Crank movie, as unrealistic in its violence (and its physics) as a Roadrunner cartoon, ends with Statham’s character, Chev Chelios, dispatching his arch nemesis, then calmly calling his girlfriend and leaving her a message — all while plummeting to earth from a helicopter without a parachute. SPOILER ALERT: he lives.

No, really.

And here’s a sort of greatest hits compilation from all his films:

I eagerly await Alberson’s Open Letter to Chev From Crank.

And then he’ll need to write open letters to James Bond, Jason Bourne, Rambo and John McClane. And practically every character Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever played.

But of course, Alberson isn’t just worried that kickass women in action films are unrealistic. He also think they send the wrong messages to women — and to men.

[T]he cumulative effect of watching movie after movie wherein fine ladies … suddenly crunch the bones of a dozen bad guys at a time is that some silly people get the idea there’s no real difference between men and women’s bodies … .

Really? I don’t think that’s the message being sent by, oh, Tomb Raider.


Or any of the innumerable action films in which the heroine wears skin-tight, often fetishistic outfits that sexualize her in a way that most male action stars aren’t.

I mean, sure, Bruce Willis wore that cute orange tank top in The Fifth Element, but Milla Jovavich wore, you know, this:

Get that woman a Multipass!
Get that woman a Multipass!

Hell, in the Underworld movies, Kate Beckinsale wears a corset while fighting the werewolf menace.

This outfit doesn't look very practial
This outfit doesn’t look very practical

But apparently all these women look pretty manly to Alberson.

Movies and TV were a big part of how I learned who women were. And they lied to me. They told me that women were glorified boys who tagged along on adventures, took care of themselves, and wouldn’t let you have sex with them until sometime late in act 2 when, for no particular reason, they would.

These are terrible things to learn about women.

These movies, he thinks, should have been teaching him that women were frail flowers who need to be protected by men like him.

What I need is something to fight for, someone to fight for, someone to protect. If you rob me of that, you rob me of my dignity as a man.

Because men are supposed to be the white knights who rescue women (mostly from men who aren’t white knights).

As men, we were born with bodies and minds crafted for war. We are the warriors, the peacekeepers, the protectors—the bloodshedders, when the time is right. Every man is a father, whether of his own children, or the people that work for him, or the folks he leads at church. As such, he must be ready to uphold what is virtuous and punish what is evil.

And so Alberson has decided that his white knight quest for the moment is to take on the “wicked men” who make action movies with kickass heroines. He feels he needs to stand up for “all the girls and women out there who want to be godly, awesome, beautiful, feminine women,” who “feel beaten up” every time they see a fictional heroine beat someone up.

If only, he laments, the fathers and/or husbands of the actresses who’ve played action heroines had “loved them enough to tell them they weren’t allowed to do what they did.”

Alberson is pretty big on the whole “men telling women what to do” thing, urging his male readers to

Protect your wives and mothers and daughters and sisters. Honor them. Make them feel special. … When you see them trying to be like the ladies in those movies, tell them no. Tell them that isn’t what you want.

Indeed, Alberson seems to think that women trying to be like kickass female action stars is one of the leading causes of divorce.

Men lie to themselves and women about the sort of women they want. Women are gullible and believe the lie and become the women they think men want. Then men reject them because men never wanted those sorts of women in the first place.

And men do reject them. Look at the divorce statistics, look at the TV shows and books and articles by women desperately wondering why it’s so hard to hold on to a man. That’s a bigger problem than the purview of this letter, but you fictional female warriors are part of it.

I’m pretty sure no man has ever divorced his wife because she reminded him too much of Milla Jovavich in The Fifth Element. Or Sigorney Weaver in Aliens. Or Charlize Theron in anything. Well, anything except Monster.

Alberson’s argument really needs to have a stake driven through its heart. Buffy, can you do the honors?

171 replies on “Is Rey from Star Wars an affront to God and a terrible role model for women?”

I remember, back when I was taking Aiki-jujutsu, one small Chinese female student casually judo-throwing a male student who must have weighed over twice what she did, while he had some issues performing the same manoeuver on her.

Granted that’s mostly because a judo hip throw, done properly, just rolls the already-moving opponent across your hips. The person with the lower centre of gravity tends to find such throws a lot easier because they don’t have to lift the other person upwards to throw them; the larger person usually does have to lift their opponent. It was still a wonderful demonstration of why you don’t dismiss someone’s combat capability just because they’re small.

I’m getting really sick of this biblical idea that God made women weak and feminine and submissive.

Esther was brave enough to go before her husband and tell him what his advisor was really up to. Judith put a tent peg through the forehead of a dangerous war combatant while he was asleep then cut off his head. Deborah lead the Isrealites into war. This is ALL in the Bible!! This was back when women were passive chattel!!!


Ok, rant over. Sorry for using all caps. I just get so tired of these idiots using The Bible to keep women and men in these neat little boxes because “God made them that way.” Because obviously you are nothing but your womb/upper arm strength.

Off topic: One minor issue I had with Buffy was that there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of female vampire minions. I mean, I get it, there probably weren’t that many women actors trained in stunt fighting. But you know, we’re talking supernatural strength here (even if the typical neophyte vamp didn’t appear to be that much stronger than a normal human, just better at utilizing it effectively). And there’s no real reason to “protect their wimminz” (a male vamp can sire more just as easily as a female one). So, it just seemed off, somehow.

I guess that a lot of the older, more powerful ones had sexist attitudes and considered male vamps to be more imposing-looking and disposable? That might justify it, sort of. But it still feels off.

Every argument like this is already premised on the fallacy of women as a “type.” That there are lots of different types of men, and then there are women, and they are (or ought to be) just one type. The battle for good representation, in my view, is not about whether female characters embody anyone’s specific ideal of femininity or feminine empowerment or feminine morality, but whether the cultural landscape as a whole offers as many diverse female character types as fiction can.

I have trouble deciding whether to appeal to the “realism” argument when I have this discussion. Whether fiction should – or can – represent reality is pretty debatable. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the real-life diversity of women’s lives be reflected in character range, and then expanded, feeding an even wider model for people of any gender in the real world. Cyclical expansion of art-life ideas. Yay.

To make a (probably reductionistic) appeal to Stuart Hall’s “burden of representation,” if you have loads of different female characters in your film and your wider discourse, you don’t have to worry about the morally repugnant one or the domestically servile one or the sexually manipulative one making women “look bad.” Nor about the moral paragon or the stoic ass-kicker making women “look boring.” Having a few kickass women (yay) is not a serious threat to stereotypes – having tons of different women is (more yay).

@Snowberry Agreed. Buffy was groundbreaking and we should all be eternally grateful for it, but it’s not without its default masculinity moments, bi/pansexual erasure, gender essentialising, and gratuitous rape references (though I found the way they handled it with the Trio hypnotising Katrina fairly compelling – you can see Jonathan’s shock at the realisation that forcing consent is not zany mischievous fun, but indefensible assault). I’d blame the 90s if we didn’t see a lot of the same stuff today. I think I saw James Marsters say something in an interview about how the super sexual nature of bloodsucking (rolleyes) means that straight male vamps only sire/eat women (which is patently untrue, even in Spike’s case), ick. But still, bless those people and that show forever.

@Clo (et al.) Good points. Maybe I haven’t given the Bible enough credit in that respect.

Also, wombs are strong as fuck. Holy shit.

It’s funny that Marsters said that. There’s a whole lot of homoerotic subtext in Spike and Angel’s interactions. Particularly in season 5 of Angel. That’s probably why there’s so much Spangel slash.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his pronouns)says:

It’s funny that Marsters said that. There’s a whole lot of homoerotic subtext in Spike and Angel’s interactions. Particularly in season 5 of Angel. That’s probably why there’s so much Spangel slash.

Wasn’t there an episode were they silently admitted they slept with each other once? I never got to see all of Buffy so the internet might have been lying to me.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his pronouns)says:

Why I would give some serious side-eye to guys who claim that they’ve learned everything about women from movies and TV.

CN: Domestic violence disguised as love, victim-blaming, fucked up things.


‘The battle for good representation, in my view, is not about whether female characters embody anyone’s specific ideal of femininity or feminine empowerment or feminine morality, but whether the cultural landscape as a whole offers as many diverse female character types as fiction can.’

This is why I love Game of Thrones, problematic as it is–I can’t think of another show with so many different female characters and personalities, including the weak and manipulated ‘damsel in distress’ (although she’s evolved through time, as has everyone else).

What I need is something to fight for, someone to fight for, someone to protect. If you rob me of that, you rob me of my dignity as a man.


Let me get my nerd-rage out of the way first. Galadriel was in “The Lord of the Rings” not “The Hobbit” and she was, with the exception of Sauron, more powerful than any other immortal in Middle Earth. She was played in the film by Cate Blanchett (not “K”). Arwen (played by Liv Tyler) was also a kick-ass woman and able to face the Ring Wraiths.

On his idiotic idea that women are victims and need men to defend them. Perhaps he might like a visit from the Night Witches or Ludmilla Pavlichenko or Lozen or Nakano Takeko or Grace O’Malley or Agnes Hotot Dudley or … but you get the idea.

Judith doesn’t use a tent peg. Jael does. Judith beheads the dude with the help of her servant woman. There are some unforgetable paintings depicting it.

@ lea (& clo)

The best Judith painting is the one by Artemesia Gentileschi (I should add ‘in my opinion’ I suppose, but I’d argue it is objectively)

Interestingly she painted it as a way of highlighting her feelings towards the man who raped her.

Penis != male dignity

I know you’re just telling a joke, but it’s harmful to men without penises to equate the two.

@weirwoodtreehugger @Pandapool
Whoa, awesome!! I guess I need to give Angel a watch.

@guest And Game of Thrones.

How dare women actually do things and be cool instead of standing around looking like bimbos? Don’t they know that the Bible says men are the only ones allowed to be cool?
Perfect summary of this guy’s argument.

Thank you @LuckyChant for this clear articulation!!

So glad I live in a place where I can read
this misogynist’s ranting, enjoy the intelligent responses, and go live the exact, ass-kicking life I want ☺️

Late as heck, but @Playonwords, I believe “Elf-Kate” was a reference to Tauriel–Evangeline Lilly made her break playing a character named Kate on Lost.

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