“I am a warrior, but I’m a girl, too.”
– Suki, Avatar: The Last Airbender
Season 1, Episode 4, “The Warriors of Kyoshi”
Among the many things the original Avatar show got right: the strong female characters. 🙂
When Sokka first meets the Kyoshi warriors, he is just at the beginning of his development in so many ways. Indeed, meeting them is pivotal to how he matures. At the start, he believes his role as a man will be to do the hunting and fighting, and a girl’s role as a future woman will be to sew, mend, cook, etc. Now, while the division of labor between the sexes has generally served to good purpose, these are not inherently what define a man and a woman. Sokka comes to learn that women are, in fact, capable of fighting by a man’s side, and he is regretful of his earlier disdain towards them. He treated them like girls when he should have treated them as warriors, he says.
Suki responds with the above quote, and it rings true.
Sokka learns this too, in time, but it’s a mistake to think in terms of either/or. That’s the mistake he was really making, earlier. He thought “girl” and “warrior” couldn’t be the same person. But men aren’t all warriors either so why should being a warrior exclude a girl from being a girl?
Now, what makes a girl a “girl” and a boy a “boy,” that is something I am not going to go into right now. My point is that we often disconnect things that don’t need to be, putting up barriers we don’t need. Once that barrier is there, it’s only overcome with great pain and personal cost, all of which could have been avoided. Better to realize that there is no real barrier, only what exists in the mind.
Do men and women generally have greater strengths is certain areas? Yes.
Should men and women be strictly confined to these general areas of strength? No.
A boy, a girl? These are what we are. But warrior, healer, scholar, nurturer, leader, parent? These are who we are. It is foolish and hurtful to act as if one can only be one or the other.
A girl can be a warrior, a warrior can be a girl, and there need be no separation between the two.