I am not sure which word I hate more, "badass", or "Kickass". Both, and often the situations where they are used, make me feel like we are celebrating being aggressive and mean rather than being strong. Why is being successful always equated with winning over others? Why do people encourage someone with "go kick some ass'. Speaking for myself, I would love to make a success of things but I would rather do it without hurting any asses or feeling like my ass is "bad". And by reading some fiction I discover another negative dimension to the word, as usual, women being asked to be strong are asked to be manly. What a sad way to be a feminist. Were I a woman, I’d not aspire to be more like a man. I’d aspire to have the same rights and opportunities as a man, and to be strong in my own way. But that’s just me talking. I understand we must keep in mind that unfortunately the world we live in is a competitive and aggressive one. Whenever someone’s gets to the top it is because he/she has kicked some ass in the road. Of course, there are a few exceptions given certain conditions and circumstances. Because this is the way language develops and changes over time, just as how 'gay' became shorthand for 'homosexual'. 'Badass' might still mean something negative for men (not least because it suits some people to imply as much). It also explains why there have been so many feminist attempts to 'reclaim' words. Or is 'badass' going to join the list of Words-You-Must-Never- Use-to-Describe-a-Woman such as 'feisty'?
Is “badass” the only way to be?
No. Women are diverse that way.
The whole “women mustn't behave like men” line relies on the idea that the behaviour is innately gendered, in the same way that boys supposedly mustn't behave 'like a girl'. So by all means we should find a synonym for 'badass' that means confident, successful, swaggering or whatever. But that's matter of using a thesaurus, or just one of human behaviour, which is as confusing as Bjork sang about, rather than thinking that one side can have all the 'positive' attributes and dump the 'negative' ones on some other group. It's not a question of women behaving like men, it's a question of people behaving how they wish to behave, without reference to their sex. Some people are forceful, aggressive and competitive, whilst some people are quiet, contemplative and unambitious. You can't predict who will be what by looking at their genitals.
I remember seeing a comment from a co-worker along the lines of "If women ran the world it'd be a better place", so I mentioned Angela Merkel and Hilary Clinton, and asked if their world would really be so much better. I got the response "No, not women acting like men." The idea that holding political office is a purely male behaviour surprised me considerably.
It's a great shame that the author has so internalised sexist stereotypes about what constitutes "male" and "female" behaviour that her characters are unable to conceive displays of strength and self-possession as anything other than acting "like a man". This is the same kind of pernicious lie that is used, for example, to attack persons of colour who display academic ambition as "acting white". The reason these "badass" qualities are praised is not because they are intrinsically "male". That is a ridiculous, sexist slur, and one that utterly betrays the many women who naturally possess these qualities, not to mention the many, many men who don't possess them, as being somehow inferior or less-worthy examples of their gender. Also, the idea that they imply some "gun-toting, bullying ass-kicking" stereotype is an absurd fantasy, entirely from the author's imagination. Nobody who is praising "badass" female sports stars is doing it because they are gun-toting bullies. The very idea that they might be is delusional.
That’s why I think this is a false question. It is not about being empowered being victims, but how do we empower ourselves. I, for example, would consider a nurse who works with terminal patients a strong and empowered woman, but is she a badass? No, she is not, because her strength stems from empathy and poise. I do not understand why empowerment must be equated to ruthlessness and even violence. This unconsciously draws from the idea that feminine is somehow weak. Is childbearing and rearing something weak people do? When I see women who are single mums and work and put their kids through university, I think those are strong brave women, yet there is not a hint of toughness and disconnectedness in them, and they are also not victims at all. Think of the grandmothers of Plaza the Mayo, aren't they empowered? They are, looking for their grandchildren for 30 years, but you don't see anybody calling them that. Female empowerment in media, and in fiction in particular, is shown as women kicking ass with violence, instead of shaming whole governments and bringing people to tears due to their courage. "Badass characters", as used in fiction simply implies a healthy amount of self-confidence, and a cool and unpretentious attitude. It is a way of behaving that appeals particularly to the Western psyche. These qualities are praised not because they are "male", but because they are considered objectively praiseworthy, at least within modern western society. And, in moderation, they are praiseworthy. Of course, we should be careful not to denigrate those who do not naturally possess them, just as we shouldn't let admiration for intellectual, academic, physical or societal achievement degenerate into contempt for those who fall short. But we also shouldn't be so afraid of alienating someone that it stops us from offering praise where praise is deserved. Particularly in the case of women who demonstrate the kind of confidence and self-possession that exemplifies being a "badass". While there is nothing intrinsically "male" or "female" about these qualities, it is true that, on the whole, women have not enjoyed the same encouragement to express them as men. Now that is changing, we should not feel ashamed or worried about celebrating them when we have the opportunity.
Female badassery, in SF at least, seems to be reaching the formulaic stage that car chases and sex scenes have long since undergone, so that there's something perfunctory and obligatory about its presentation. Every time there's a fight scene in which there's a female present, novels seem to go out of their way to show that "hey look -- women can fight too!" There's also the influence of Hong Kong action flicks, in which every fight scene must be some ridiculously choreographed acrobatic and gymnastic tour-de-force in which people take multiple kicks and punches to the head, smash through plate-glass windows, and fall several stories without winding up in a major trauma unit and being paralyzed from the neck down, with major brain damage on top of it all, assuming any real person would survive such violence to begin with. I define "badass" as having the courage to be yourself no matter what. You can be a badass and also cry, falter and doubt yourself. All badasses - male and female - are whole people, with weak spots like anyone else. What makes you a badass is having the wisdom and the courage to nurture what needs nurturing. You can also be a badass for fighting lifelong battles that maybe only a very few around you are aware of: mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, poverty. We won't win the Nobel Prize, but that makes us badasses too. We wake up another morning, and some days it isn't a fight, and that in itself is a victory.
Hard SF means more that writing a story about Cowboys, or, in this case, Cowgirls, and giving them ray guns (or absolute mental powers in this case). Or producing a political drama - with aliens (it's still only a political drama). Or making a film about military conquest ... and setting it on other planets. To be true SF, a work must take a theory, observation, scientific or technological phenomenon (real or imaginary) and say "what if ... " What if the world's population rose to 20 Billion? What if the sun exploded? What if we discovered the secret to immortality - or mind reading - or AI? It's that analytical journey told through the medium of fiction that makes SF. Not some guy or girl and his or her "companion" goofing around in a police box. Too many present-day SF authors either lack imagination or feel compelled to write more "accessible" stories. Space-opera is a case in point: an entire genre created just so authors don't have to trouble themselves with thinking up any decent future science, and actually try to imagine and create future tech. Instead, they set stories in futures with less science than we have now, but still have the gall to call them "science fiction". Disgusting. What will they think up next to sell SF?
SF = Speculative Fiction.