Note: This has been inspired by the articles, images and fallacies that have assaulted my eyeballs this week

Here is the list of what it takes to be a member of Phoenix Swords. If you have read this, you’ll notice that nowhere in that writing is gender mentioned. Yet, whenever we go to certain festivals or events it becomes a hot button.

A friend of ours who taught us a few things with swords has a sense of humor that comes under the heading “Acquired Taste” and often if most people within a 10-foot radius haven’t been provoked then he feels it is a failure. The first time I was being taught he cracked
“And we all know women have no business with swords.” But what I came to realize is that he actually specializes in working with women and it was meant to make me laugh. Sadly, most people who have said this were not giving a proverbial yank to the chain.

This same friend and I often banter back and forth about  gender and weapon use and agree that although women using swords in history was not common, it did happen and we have historical evidence of it. (This is not a manifesto or a research paper so no, I’m not linking here) And I am fully prepared at shows  to present my sources. Sometimes it is like swimming against a riptide, but I always seek to keep my composure, use humor when I can and just walk away when I have to do it. (And by the way, you swim  perpendicular to it)

I have often worked in fields that are considered to be “non-traditional” for women and I found that when I set people straight that I was there to do the job, that set a tone that made it more pleasant for everyone. I am not saying that every woman has great muscle mass or that every man is a bodybuilder-(and I object to sexism no matter which way it flows) but if we take it like a tide-some skill sets in, some skill sets out I think we all benefit.   And if you ask the women in our troupe, we hold them to the same standard and they can use swords right up until 8.5 months of pregnancy, if they are comfortable with that.  I know that I state over and over that I don’t engage in stupid physical threats. 1)I’m tired and somewhat out of shape 2) I have a very indiscriminate temper and limited self-control 3) I don’t spar regularly.

And as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like mocking or sexist behavior from anyone. If a woman wants to be all “Grrl power” that’s cool. But this does not include baiting people, or engaging in the same bad behaviors as misogynistic jerks who do it. I don’t need to see war wounds to know how tough you are, there are a lot of tough people out there with a high pain tolerance-that doesn’t make them skilled or particularly smart. And in some ways I am sexist, I expect better of women and that reflects in how we treat our troupe members, my husband has to rein me in sometimes.

When we do shows we don’t go all “Hai look at the Lady fighters!” we just go out and do our thing-we take punches, we do rolls, we come home occasionally with bruises and cuts. I have seen a long term change in a certain venue when our group calmly and dispassionately went about our business-because I strongly believe that is how you do it. And If someone (male or female) wants a “sexy” look, that’s fine too, because that is about their personal comfort and not about their competency-I just remind them how much it stinks to move messy gear in nice clothes and uncomfortable boots.

Let’s stop talking about role models and just be them. Like Europe after the Black Plague, sometimes we need to put aside old or just idiotic ideas and make use of talent, no matter the plumbing or packaging.

Some folks who hold to this idea of “just do it.”

Old Dominion Fechtschule



Esfinges Hema