This is the first of an ongoing series of research blogs. Writers often stretch the bounds of imagination to bring you to wild, exciting worlds of high adventure and high stakes. We take time to do research and develop plot in a sensible way. Unfortunately, fiction (especially genre fiction) can be recursive, and there are certain errors that continue to appear. Readers are becoming more educated all the time, and these kind of technical details shouldn’t be glossed over anymore.
Today we’ll discuss: FEMALE ARMOR
I have a great appreciation for fantasy female armor. I think it’s gorgeous, takes a lot of design and crafting know-how, and is far more interesting than your standard business-casual attire. It has its place, but that place is not on the battlefield.
Armor, n. Metal coverings formerly worn by soldiers to protect the body in battle.
Coverage: One of the requirements of armor is that it must cover weak spots. While the ribcage protects human organs from everyday bumps and bruises, a metal sheath does a better job against a stabbing. CollegeHumor.com released a wonderful video that demonstrates this weakness. While breasts are important, women can die from wounds in other places as well.
Structure – Breasts: Adrienne Wilkinson (Eve/Livia on XWP) once commented at a con that the armor she wore was uncomfortable and pinched. Armor was never snuggly in the first place, but did you know that sculpted breasts on a breastplate could be fatal? Convex curves on a metal breastplate were meant to absorb the shock of a blow. According to Asher-Perrin’s article, Time To Retire Boob Plate Armor, the divot separating the breasts counteracts that design. In fact, sculpted breast armor prevents strikes from glancing off. Worse, if the warrior falls or gets hit with sufficient force, that divot will split her breastbone.
Structure – Overall: Plate armor deflects blows; but just like Kevlar, it won’t absorb all the shock all the time. Soldiers, mercenaries, and the Chosen will need padding under their armor to help absorb the shock, keep them warm in cold climbs, and prevent chafing. When you’re wrapped in under-layers, you’ve essentially erased the figure of the person underneath. Armor wouldn’t need to be custom-made for women any more than it would need to be custom-made for especially broad or slender men.
Historical Precedent: When women went into battle, they wore proper armor. Sometimes the armor intentionally hid the fact that there was a woman inside by adding a masculine details like a moustache. In some cases, noblewomen like Countess Jeanne de Penthièvre became military commanders. There is also emerging evidence that women went a-viking more frequently than we originally supposed, and that burial with a weapon didn’t mean the skeleton was male. There’s definitely a precedent for women in combat, which brings me to my point about writing…
Write True to Character: If you’re writing a character who makes a living through violence, they would know their tools. UFC fighters don’t wear a lot, but they don’t need to because their opponents don’t use blades. As professionals, they pick the tools that fit the job. Factors like weight, the need for stealth, mobility and how expensive gear is would determine your fighter’s armor. Utility first.
Entering a fight without protective gear is worse than unrealistic – it’s amateur.
Sex-appeal can and should be expressed, but don’t force your smart characters to make dumb decisions.
Am I wrong? Did I miss something? Please let me know!
What kind of technical details in books and movies make you twitch? What kind of technical details are you having trouble researching? Leave a comment and I’ll look into it.