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Feminism and the weapon-wielding women of The Walking Dead: spoiler alert

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Andrea continues to become weaker as the series progresses and almost hands the stick of female empowerment over to her rescuer, Michonne. Which leads us onto the wonderful Michonne. This woman entered the show oozing with power. She’s fantastic.

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Michonne is introduced when she saves Andrea’s life from walkers. Interestingly, the show disguises her sex by leaving her in shadows at first and not revealing many of her physical features, which gives audiences an opportunity to evaluate this newly powerful and mysterious character without any preconceptions of gender norms.

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Michhonne wields a katana sword, and she works it with a skill that hasn’t been demonstrated by any of the dudes on the show. Apart from having such a skill with a blade being unusual, another interesting aspect to using a sword is that it predates the weapon of choice that has primarily been used on the show up to now, the gun. Her ownership of such a weapon indicates a more traditional sense of power. Moreover, Michonne’s weapon can be wielded silently, thus drawing less attention from walkers, and therefore giving her more of an edge, and more power, than the other characters.

So how does Michonne utilize her power? Well, the most striking thing Michonne uses her weapon for is to disguise herself by cutting the limbs and lower jaws off two zombies and chaining them to her. This is incredible in a few ways, as it not only allows her to move unseen in the world of zombies - adding to her stealthy sword swinging abilities already, she’s practically invisible to the walkers now -,  but it also shows her intelligence and fearlessness. For some reason, no other character had figured out to use zombies as a disguise, even though they used zombie parts in Season 1 to get out of a tight spot.

Michonne is always aware that her katana provides her with power and safety and her preoccupation with maintaining this power is evident throughout the series. This is clear when she's taken to the “safety” of Woodbury. Even though she initially had nothing to be suspicious of, she constantly demands for her weapon back. In the beginning her wariness is depicted as a general mistrust of others, but Michonne’s keen eye means that her suspicions grow and grow until she is finally proven right about just how evil these particular people are. Michonne proves time and again that having access to a weapon is the only way to remain safe in this  apocalyptic world.

Andrea has unfortunately left our screens for good, after being killed by a walker at the end of season 3. One can only guess at whether she would have regained her power as the series progressed if she had stayed alive. But one thing is for sure, Michonne will be around for a while longer and I cannot wait to see how the show portrays this powerful woman.

So, do I think the The Walking Dead is a feminist-friendly show? No. While the world of The Walking Dead is one where the rules of our current society no longer exist, it fails to dislodge old gender norms.  Its female characters are often reliant on men to protect them and are often seen doing household chores as if it were the only way that they could possibly contribute. The society of The Walking Dead is nothing new, it is the same old patriarchal society set in an apocalyptic world. Men still rule the roost, and women still dote over babies, and don't even get me started on the white washing of the characters (there's an awesome piece written here about that). Still, I am thankful for characters like Andrea (kind of) and Michonne (completely) for shining a beacon of light in an otherwise rigidly un-feminist series. 

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