Amazons are as Mythical as Centaurs II

Part of an ongoing discussion begun here.

All sane folk with a passing familiarity with human life on Earth, recognize that putting a female swordsman into medieval-style combat, to fight hand to hand against the trained male soldiers of the enemy, is not merely unrealistic in the way that unicorns or dragons are unrealistic. It is unrealistic in the way that Zatoichi the blind swordsman is unrealistic.

The counter arguments, such as they are, are weak.

Sporting events are no analogy to combat, since there is no artificial rule of good sportsmanship to handicap the male swordsman in battle.

Even so, look at the results of mixed epee events. Women are usually in the bottom half even if they’re A or B rated fencers. Fencing is segregated by sex because males possess advantages of size, strength, speed and power.

Referring to  situations or individuals so rare as to be absurd where women took up arms proves, by their very rarity, that something other than winning the combat was the motive – for, if there were any practical reason to put female swordsmen into war, it would have been done each and every time defeat loomed.

There are those that argue that the sole reason for keeping women out of combat is to preserve the childbearing members of the tribe to  the next generation, hence the lives of maidens are less expendable than the lives of bachelors.

This assumes defeat in war will not lead to plunder, rape, murder, enslavement, and other things even less desirable than a loss of childbearing numbers in the tribe.

That assumption would prove true only if the attacker were particularly more chivalrous and kindhearted than anyone in history has ever been — with the sole exception of the Americans, who will rebuild your nation after destroying it.

If your medieval country has a trained cadre of female swordswoman, and you to not send them into combat against the Orcs or Huns or Mongols or Turks on the theory that womenfolk are needed to mother the next generation, all that will happen is that your carefully preserved female swordsmen will be disarmed, and carried off, Sabine-women style, perhaps to suffer an unspeakable outrage, perhaps to be a kitchen drudge, perhaps to be sold into a harem to bear children for the Sultan.

In such cases, it were better to expend them on the battlefield, if they could make any difference on the battlefield, aside from wasting field rations.

Likewise for the idea that women were kept out of battle, in every culture and in every age, by a conspiracy of patriarchs, eager to suppress the equality of women. This is an insane conspiracy theory unworthy even of rebuttal.

Even to state it clearly rebuts itself: for it is the theory that all men who ever had command in wartime, from prehistory onward, ignored or dismissed the contribution female warriors could make in war, preferring instead to loose the fight, suffering defeat, loss, slavery or death at the hands of the merciless victor, rather than give the girls a chance to get their swords and spear and join the melee. It assumes all men everywhere would rather die than win wars, provided it kept the womenfolk in subjection.

Women have joined in desperate last stands, along with children and old men, for precisely the reason that their contribution to war was so slight. If the contribution were significant, or even noticeable, female sword and spear platoons would be called up whenever the supply of young men ran low.

That this has rarely or never happened in history is a sufficient witness to the fact that it rarely or never is practical or possible.

Armed women, old men, and children desperately defending a castle under siege? Sure. Why not? There is no retreat, so one might as well die in one’s tracks. Armed women leading the charge, sabers whirling, spears hoisted high? Not in real life.

Saint Joan of Arc was more of an icon than a military chief. She did not lead, but she did, on more than one occasion, urge a tactic or a target that seemed unlikely, and the English were confounded. Michael the Archangel was helping her. At one point, she took an arrow wound, but the seventeen year old peasant girl never actually fought a knight in hand to hand combat.

In any case, even to have the Maid of Orleans on the battlefield in that capacity was enough of a miracle to have her recognized as a saint.