Zombie Feminism

One time, I was thrown from a moving vehicle while being chased by zombies.

The story becomes slightly less impressive when you add in surrounding circumstances, but I just want you to appreciate that for a moment before I disillusion you about my epic-ness.

This is not exactly what I mean by Zombie Feminism.

This is not exactly what I mean by Zombie Feminism.

The zombies in question were actually friends of mine who had been turned “undead” in an elaborate game of group tag at my college. The “zombies,” marked with red armbands, had to track down the “humans” and attack them with Nerf weapons, until there was only one human remaining. This human was either A. the most reclusive, B. the most paranoid/sneaky/willing to get up at 5 AM to sneak into the academic buildings, or C. the best shot with a Nerf gun.

During the game, I carried around my impressive Nerf axe, borrowed from a friend because my personal arsenal is, regrettably, nonexistent. People stared. Professors raised eyebrows. I kinda sorta tried to explain. Sometimes.

It was not actually this axe. But this is from a related post on strong female characters.

It was not actually this axe. But this picture is from a related post on strong female characters. Also, this is my zombie-killing face, in case you were interested.

That particular day, my roommate was trying to smuggle me into the dining commons, pulling up to it in her car while I crouched in the backseat. Another human went for one of three entrances, and the zombies took off after him…I thought. So I started to get out of the car.

But they weren’t really gone. Oh no.

My roommate, seeing zombies pop out of the bushes and thinking I was still safely inside the car, gunned it, and I fell out onto the pavement. My options, I realized in a flash of adrenaline-spurred insight, were to get caught by the zombie…or get run over by the back tires.

I chose zombies.

What did I have to show from the incident? A great story, a pair of bloodied (but, miraculously, not torn) tights, and a very sharp craving for braaaaaiiiiiiins!

A detail-oriented reader might say, “Wait…you were wearing tights when you fell out of the car?” Yep. Tights and a dress. Actually, on the second day of the Zombie Hunt, I noticed something very interesting: every day I took my giant Nerf weapon out in public, I wore a dress or a skirt.

This was the axe in question.

This was the axe/mace I used.

Now, I like wearing skirts. But every day that week? Really? Even when it was raining? Even when I knew I could be forced to flee from hordes of the flesh-eating undead? Even when there was a chance I might fall out of a moving vehicle onto asphalt? This is not even remotely practical.

Even I knew something was up. So I asked myself why.

Step into my makeshift psychologist office. Here’s a fake lab coat and permission to eavesdrop on an analysis of my motives.

If you are more traditional, you could say that I wanted to feel like a woman despite my impressively manly Nerf weapon. I was responding to my instinct that femininity means something, and that something is opposed to violence. Even when there are exceptions (like a fake zombie apocalypse), those hard-wired codes of what it means to be a woman as distinct from a man are still important. Maybe even important because God thinks they’re important. The point isn’t whether women are brave, as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe says, but simply that “Battles are ugly when women fight.”

And then in Prince Caspian, the writers were like, "Silly C.S. Lewis. Susan is totally going into battle. She just won't make as many strange faces as the guys."

And then in Prince Caspian, the writers were like, “Silly C.S. Lewis. Susan is totally going into battle. She just won’t make as many strange faces as the guys.”

If you are less traditional, you could say that it’s probably the way I was raised, and that I felt a sense of guilt for carrying around a weapon, something traditionally labelled as masculine. To appease that guilt, I wore the most stereotypically feminine things I owned. Which would be totally fine, because what I choose to wear is my choice and shouldn’t be dictated by men…as long as my zombie-hunting apparel was not something I did to make others happy. What God wants is the equality of persons that he established at creation, man and women made in His image.

My thoughts? I came to the conclusion that I wore a skirt with my axe because, as a woman, I want to be both strong and beautiful. A weapon seems to accomplish one but not the other, so I overcompensated by my choice of clothing. It wasn’t something I did from guilt or an attempt to please others or to make a statement about gender roles. Manipulated by society or not, that was how I thought.

I’ve already talked about how stories are important for how we think about tricky issues. So, what’s the takeaway value here? What did I learn about feminism and stereotypes from my zombie attack? A few things…

  • We are complex people, and how gender affects our lives is going to be complex too. That’s okay. This isn’t supposed to be something you can make a nice, neat conclusion about after seven minutes of thought, two Bible verses, and a Mother’s Day sermon.
  • It’s good to think about why you do things (and if you are doing something motivated by shame, that’s a pretty good indication something is wrong).
  • We are more the product of our culture than we realize. Sometimes, this is a very bad thing (materialism, anyone?). Other times it’s a good thing (valuing freedom and justice). And sometimes it’s a little harder to tell what values and stereotypes and traditions and reflexes are harmless and which ones are not. I think it’s worth the work to sort out, though. Not conforming to the world is a Biblical concept that has been misused a lot…but it’s still important to identify the various cultural values that pull our thoughts and actions in different directions and get rid of the ones that are bad.

And, finally, I learned that skirts are not a particularly good choice if you’re planning on falling out of a moving car. Just for the record. Mark it down for the next zombie apocalypse.

5 comments

  1. It’s funny, but growing up as a tomboy I have always had a soft spot for weapons and never felt the need to feminines them, but would have made the same choice except with jewelry instead of a skirt. It would have been too tempting to wear a long coat, jeans and look very action flick-y. 🙂

      1. Hey! You found them! Yes!
        That had to be one of my strangest request of all time to ask Heather to tell you they were probably going in spam. I have no idea why that happens and how to make it stop. But, now mine comments should show up. 🙂
        And trench coats are awesome!

  2. I never thought of it that way… and looking back, I do like wearing skirts if I know I’m going to be chasing animals on a farm or wielding a leather dagger.
    This is an excellent explanation for that tendency, thank you so much for this post!

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