I’m planning for my second go at a panel on Women & Warriorship, when I started chatting with an editor about the concept of specialization and platform.
Strong female protagonist isn’t enough, we agreed. But then she suggested, “what about women vs. women?”
It struck a chord. While my surrounding characters range across the spectrum of age and gender, my hero and villain are almost always both women. I’ve heard it said that heroes are measured not by their own deeds; but by the power and temptation they must resist in order to not join the villain’s side. There have always been parallels between my hero and villain. Some part of their journies parallel one another so that their conflict, once avoidable, is now inevitable.
A friend of mine is an activist. He told me that whatever issue I take on, it has to be close to my heart. It has to be dear enough that the constant losses and frustration only serve to galvanize me. It has to make me want to chew rocks and spit sand.
Many years ago, my Sensei put me through a trial. He put me through many trials, but this one was different. This one ended with a sword at my throat, glinting in the light of two candles.
“For you, Setsu, your greatest obstacle will always be your inner demons,” he said.
For others, perhaps the word ‘demon’ could be replaced with ‘self esteem.’
There are some circles that say women are more closely attuned to our intuitive nature. It’s what makes us more understanding and nurturing. It also makes us much crueler in battle, because it’s our last and most final solution. When we have exhausted all other methods of negotiation and compromise — truly desiring peace — we go to war with steel in our hearts and ice in our veins. We do not seek victory, we seek utter destruction of the enemy.
Even if that enemy is ignorance. Or small-mindedness. Or a child’s inclination toward self-harm.
Great intuition resigned to a single purpose — subduing inner demons. Those that refuse to be harnessed shall be destroyed. It is Frank Herbert’s Kwisatz Haderach in reverse — living in the place terrifying to us, to women, mindfully and by choice.
Women against women. Women of high intelligence and accomplishment struggling against each other for pursuit of their goals. Women who could have been allies. Each character a mirror-self of our own struggles. Women who, with the merest word, or gentlest nudge, we could have become.
This is the nexus point between warriorship and art; between compassion and fury.
Ladies and gents, I think I’ve found my platform.