Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture

Sherrie A. Inness, Author University of Pennsylvania Press $47.5 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8122-3466-4
While ""tough guys"" are pervasive icons of American culture, images of tough women have been hard to come by. The dearth of strong female role models, argues Inness, who teaches English at the University of Miami in Ohio, makes it difficult for girls and women to take active control of their own destinies or to imagine themselves departing from traditional gender roles. Lately, however, tough women, like Ripley from the Alien films and Xena from TV's Xena, Warrior Princess, have become more of a presence in the media; the coded messages these characters hold for female audiences are Inness's primary subject matter. Even as toughness has gained wider acceptance as a feminine trait over the last few decades, she contends, tough women are still presented as being less capable than men and are frequently relegated to roles as sidekicks. Examining, in sometimes clumsy prose, how female toughness has evolved from The Avengers's ice-cool kick-boxing female agents to the heroines of Charlie's Angels, Thelma and Louise and the X-Files, Inness discners a broad cultural ambivalence about changing gender roles. The influence strong heroines hold in young women's lives, she argues, is not to be underestimated. ""The female hero can rescript stereotypes about what it means to be a woman. Just by being, she suggests that the male stranglehold on the heroic can be subverted."" (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!