21st Century Amazon: The Power of Female Collectivism

By Jennifer Snow

I had an interesting childhood, as I'm sure many of you did. My mom, a Canadian-born relatively progressive woman toting major skills in sarcasm, encouraged me to grow up in ways that made sense to who I was becoming. My father, a Greek man raised in Egypt carried deep traditional ideals around the roles of women, expecting me to follow that ideal. Growing up, I felt pulled to both sides: to be an independent woman while also embracing traditional ideals around my role as a woman. The polarizing worlds left me feeling confused about pretty much everything, from school trajectories to my career, from my political views to my sex life.

I was confused about why women tended to be competitive with each other in regards to their bodies, the business world, and especially when it came to men. References to “a man's world” and the “boy's club” left me puzzled. Confused about girl gangs in schools and why they were so mean to one another, why were there so many arguments about things that don’t matter? I am bewildered by women’s involvement in getting Mr. “Grab ‘em by the pussy” elected.  

As we grow into who we are at each stage of our lives, we spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out our roles in the world, exploring what want, who we want to be when we grow up, and finding our tribe(s). Personally, I’ve been delving deeper into interests around the roles of men and women, social injustices that go beyond gender roles, all while further exploring Greek mythology. I'm trying to connect my personal interests and confusions together to make the predetermined narratives floating around make some sense. Most recently, these interests have piqued into one interest that ties so much together. Enter the Amazons. More specifically, enter the concept of the 21st century Amazon.

The Threat

Since 2500 BC, most stories clearly demonstrate that the Amazons of any century, of any area, are a threat. The Amazons have been noted globally, but most commonly their fame comes from tales told of Ancient Greek battle grounds. While there is much speculation around whether or not they actually existed as traditionally described, it’s clear to me that 21st Century Amazons exist now – albeit quite different than they were in the past. They’re different from Hollywood’s recent Wonder Woman but equally as threatening.

Why the threat? Aside from being female, they were a collective led exclusively by women fiercely trained in combat from a young age. Above all, they symbolized the ultimate threat to traditional ideals by rejecting concepts of hearth and home, having sex, and they were not to be pushed around. There are even stories of the queen of the Amazonians arriving at Alexander the Great’s door to do the nasty to make a strong heir. A female child would be for her, a male would be sent back to Alexander. Pretty radical tales.

I want to express that I do not think a 21st century Amazon giving up babies, impaling enemies, specifically male enemies, with swords or anything even remotely along those lines is okay. I also am not suggesting they rock cool outfits like Wonder Woman (although more power to you if you want to). What I am doing is making a case for the 21st century Amazon, an invitation if you will, to draw parallels between the past as motivation and a lesson for the present.

2500 BC, Meet the 21st Century

The typical picture of Amazonians are strong women. Their crew of warriors are curvy and they wield their swords atop their horses with epic elegance. However, bad ass as they are, what makes them epic is that no one woman is an Amazon on her own. What makes them Amazon is the collective and how the collective part is what makes them strong.

They were as highly politicized then as they are now by acting as a direct threat to the patriarchy. Unbeknownst to them, the Amazons were challenging ideologies of women and their role in society that would live to 2018 and beyond. I think the Amazons are some of the first versions of feminism, women’s liberation, the women’s movement, whatever you would like to call it. The 21st century Amazon can be understood as the group that fights for the rights of equity and equality. They're a group that does not fight with a cast iron sword but with their words, their bodies in spaces, and their keyboards.

They’re the sea of pink hat rockers and picketers. They’re the girls, women and other victims, the allies who made #metoo a storm that brought thunder into government halls when they marched on Capitol Hill. They’re Ni Una Menos and they’re the women marching in Spain. They are social justice workers and great teachers, who illuminate and educate. They are a growing force to be reckoned with and are increasingly realizing how much strength they have in numbers, much like their predecessors. They’re the Silence Breakers, they’re the Person of the Year – they’re you, they’re me, they’re the person beside you who is taking a stand against oppressions of their fellow humans. The more people speak, the more people feel safe, the more opinions are heard – and that’s for all opinions, feelings, and needs, not just those of the well-educated, the white women, the privileged.

The Amazons of the past, the rising phases of feminism throughout the early twentieth century, the work of those prior to the term ‘feminist’ being coined, have all been flawed. There was (and is) violence-- physically, spiritually, and emotionally. There is a history of racism, unequal spaces for diverse sexualities, diverse understandings and experiences of self that still exists today. There is a lack of intersectionality within feminism. Social progression can never be perfect because humans are imperfect beings. Beings who really don’t know what they’re doing half the time and Google cannot answer everything.

When building the concept of the 21st century Amazon, we can look at the past few hundred years to gather inspiration with a strong dose of caution. Think of the Suffragettes fighting for the women’s right (for some women) to vote, the first Russian female pilots during WW2 led by Maria Rosalov fighting fascism, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s bringing women’s voices into the public sphere (by banning substances). These groups were flawed in many ways that are still harmful in today’s society (mostly around their white lady goggles) but what they were able to accomplish as a group is sensational – especially when you consider the times they were fighting in and who they were up against. In 2018, continuing on the work these women started, we are the most equipped to make change right now than ever before.  

These women warriors are remembered because they fought tirelessly for their beliefs. They went against the grain and roles they were given. Their individual characteristics were not what mattered; what they did and how they did it as a group is what mattered. While the Amazons would often turn brutally violent if provoked, I deeply disbelieve in physical violence as a means by which to create positive societal change. I do believe, however, that the current state of social injustice and inequality in the world is increasingly provoking the collective. In 2018 we watch as the oppressed are swiftly embracing the power of numbers. A strong example being the sweep of #metoo across all social media platforms into conversations over dinner in many households.

While there are an abundance of issues within what we attempt to understand as feminism and its previous phases, all movements are flawed. Not everyone is represented, some are overly represented, some skew views, some don’t view the overall goal as gender equality for all. I don’t have the perfect answers, no one does. We’re imperfect beings who cannot see the future. What I do think we need are collective movements that embody sets of actions that are shaping culture and ideology into fairer spaces for all.

Much of this article was written thanks to the book, Amazons, the Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World (2017) by historian John Man. Thank you for your writing and for spreading this important information to your many readers.

Ps. Have an Insta account? Get a period? Check out @yourperiodcalled for some giggles and relief.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Margherita Sgorbissa