Another Women's History Month has come and gone, and men in positions of power are still trying to define what it means to dress like a woman, and most white women still don't know (or seem to care) that Susan B. Anthony was a flagrant racist. And speaking of racist, a 13-year-old white girl named Danielle Bregoli gained almost seven million Instagram followers and however many dollars for her poor imitation of African American Vernacular English during her appearance on Dr. Phil—and BuzzFeed advocated for her. Meanwhile, someone like Alice Wong, the disabled Asian American woman who founded the Disability Visibility Project and co-founded the #CripTheVote campaign might never get as many views on her entire YouTube channel as one low-res clip of the "Cash Me Ousside" girl. And speaking of Asian women, Scarlett Johansson is playing Japanese cyborg Motoko Kasunagi in the live action film adaption of Ghost in the Shell, because colonization is alive and well in Hollywood. And speaking of colonization, novelist, feminist, and role model Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie disappointed us by not quite understanding the experience of transgender womanhood. And speaking of womanhood, women are still paid less than men and are still subjected to mansplaining about the ways in which this fact is not accurate or demonstrable. How many women were victims of domestic violence during Women's History Month this year? We might never really know. Yes, women have made a lot of progress throughout our history, but our work toward equality is not even close to done.
It's enough to make a girl want to lay hands on someone. Or body-slam them into their IKEA coffee table.
But we don't need to resort to real-life violence, because some of our favorite Strong Female Characters have already done it for us onscreen. Here are 10 satisfying girl fights that might help us get it out of our system.
Diana Guzman in Girlfight
This list could not exist without including pretty much the entire film Girlfight (2000), written and directed by biethnic Brooklynite Karyn Kusama, who went on to direct Æon Flux, as well as episodes of The L Word and The Man in the High Castle. Michelle Rodriguez (in her first role) plays Diana Guzman, a Latinx teen from pre-gentrification era Brooklyn whose tumultuous family life reveals her talent for boxing. Her butch swagger and piercing glare would make any femme blush, and never mind that she has a boyfriend, her left hook makes this film worth watching, and watching again.
Gamora and Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy
The most prominent female characters (besides Glen Close and her amazing hair as Nova Prime) in this film adaptation of the mostly-male Marvel comic were buried under make-up, and that put some audience members on the defensive. But the relationship between adoptive sisters Gamora (Zoe Saldana in green make-up and latex prosthetics) and Nebula (Karen Gillan in blue make-up and even more latex prosthetics) is full of tension, and nothing makes that more apparent than their fight scene in the third act. Alien though these characters might be, their rivalry is human and relatable—even for those of us who don't have sisters.
Luminara Unduli and Ahsoka Tano and Asajj Ventress in Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Once again, audiences looking for female characters in onscreen science fiction have to settle for seeing them obscured by alien features, while male characters are allowed to look like the human actors portraying them. In this three-way duel from Star Wars: The Clone Wars (season 1 episode 9: "Cloak of Darkness"), Jedi Master Luminara Unduli and Anakin Skywalker's Padawan Ahsoka Tano fight aspiring Sith Asajj Ventress. And, because there are lightsabers and midi-chlorian enhanced gymnastics involved, it's literally dazzling. We rarely see female Jedi ignite their lightsabers in the live action films, but in the animated series, we get a well-choreographed glimpse of how powerful Force-wielding women really are. And not being able to see them fight this hard on the big screen is enough to make us want to give ourselves to the Dark Side. "Help us, Rey! You're our only hope!"
Ice Witch and Beauty by the Lake in Ben-to
Access to basic human needs like food, housing, and health care is too difficult for too many people in the world, and unflinching capitalism only makes it that much more difficult for us to survive. So the premise of the light novel, manga, and anime series Ben-to—in an overcrowded, overpriced city, a group called the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club fight competitively for half-priced bento and other sustenance—is not as absurd as it might seem. In this gorgeously animated scene, Sen Yarizui (nickname: Ice Witch) and Ayame Shaga (nickname: Beauty by the Lake) knock each other senseless to get the best price on their groceries. If you've ever thought of Fight Club or Hunger Games while trying to budget for your meals after covering your medical costs, this anime might be cathartic for you.
Furiosa and Max in Mad Max: Fury Road
Although Charlize Theron is not actually an amputee and CGI was used to create that effect, Laura Vaughn, a real-life fetal amputee described the way in which seeing Furiosa was empowering for her. Laura cosplays Furiosa with a functional screen-accurate prosthetic arm, and since the release of Mad Max: Fury Road has created FictionAbility, a Tumblr blog about positive representations of disability in fiction. As an actor only portraying disability, Charlize Theron still gives us a Strong Female Character whose every movement is mesmerizing. Yes, she gets help in this fight from the wives (one of whom is pregnant, because awesome), and yes, this scene ends with Max on top, but spoiler alert: Furiosa wins.
Buffy Summers and Faith Lehane in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy and Faith fight. A lot. More than Buffy and Angel, more than Buffy and Spike, more than Buffy and Dawn. But their hand-to-hand combat is at its most memorable in the two-part season 3 finale "Graduation Day." In the employ of The Mayor, Faith tries to kill Angel, and like any Chosen One who is also a Capricorn, Buffy charges right over to Faith's place to demand that she make it right. With blood. This is their hardest hitting fight, motivated by love and anger. They're not fighting for their boyfriends, they're fighting for their places in the world. And, all right, Buffy is also fighting for her boyfriend's life, which to be fair, Faith tried to take. Stunt coordinator Jeff Pruitt has shared his personal video of his choreography for Buffy's stunt double Sophia Crawford and Faith's stunt double Karen Sheperd, for those of us who want a behind the scenes look at who hit whom and how.
Beatrix Kiddo and Vernita Green in Kill Bill: Volume 1
Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd.
The expression "hell has no fury like a woman scorned" is a choppy paraphrase from Act III Scene VIII of the play The Mourning Bride by William Congreve, first produced in 1697. Sources, ladies! And speaking of brides, this fight scene between Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo (AKA The Bride) and Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green gives new meaning to "a woman scorn'd." It took six months of training and four days of filming to create their three minute fight scene in Kill Bill: Volume 1. Their fight is full of rage and hurt and suggests the desperation with which women confront each other when their rage and hurt is caused by other women. There's also an unexpected tenderness between these track-suit clad, knife-wielding women who once worked together as assassins named Black Mamba and Copperhead, when Vernita's daughter Nikkia walks in on them. It's the most intimate and immediate fight in this two-part film's total runtime of 247 minutes. Also, Quentin Tarantino's white male entitlement to make rape jokes and use N-words in his scripts makes us want to throw him into furniture, but this fight, with choreography by Yuen Woo-ping, helps us process those feelings a little.
Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
There are many scenes of magical action throughout the seven books of Harry Potter, and many more in the eight film adaptations, but one of the highest points in all the drama was during the Battle of Hogwarts, when Molly Weasley took down Bellatrix Lestrange, who was coming for Ginny with a killing curse. This scene was disarming enough in the source material (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 36), but seeing Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley straighten her posture and charge toward Helena Bonham Carter as the most volatile of the Death Eaters slays us every time. "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!"
Yu Shu Lien and Jen Yu in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
There is no scene of two women fighting that's as full of precision and frustration as this one from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien and Zhang Ziyi as Jen Yu. In this martial arts romance, directed by Ang Lee with ornate choreography by Yuen Woo-ping, Jen is an aristocrat's daughter arranged to be married the worst kind of Manchurian rich kid, and is jealous of Shu Lien's freedom as an unmarried professional bodyguard-for-hire. What Jen doesn't realize when she acts out and starts stealing priceless artifacts is that one of them is the sword called Green Destiny, which belonged to the man Shu Lien (secretly) loves. When Shu Lien confronts Jen about the theft of this precious weapon, the impetuous younger woman defies the judicious older woman, and their balletic fight begins. Shu Lien is the better fighter, but Jen wields the more powerful weapon. They share the same exasperation and stamina though, each trying to deflect the other long enough to be understood. For any woman who has ever had to confront another woman at a different life stage, it's also strangely relatable.
Michonne in The Walking Dead
The Brazilian-born, Italian-raised transgender fashion model Lea T once said, in regards to coming out and transitioning: "It's really difficult, because you fight with all the world. You fight with your family, you fight with yourself too." And although trans women face unique challenges, this struggle for existence is something that every woman faces, every day. We fight with the patriarchy, we fight with misogyny, we fight with transmisogyny, we fight with misogynoir. But like a herd of walkers coming our way, it doesn't stop there. We fight with beauty standards, we fight with body image, we fight with our assertiveness being perceived as bitchiness, we fight with our non-heterosexual orientations being believed at all. If only we had the katana skills of Michonne, we might fight a forest full of woman-hating zombies, motivated by nothing but our desire to be ourselves and be respected. In this episode of The Walking Dead (season 4 episode 9: "After"), Michonne remembers that she doesn't want to resign herself to complacency and death. So she fights. And in the end, the most satisfying girl fight will be the one in which we too are left standing among the corpses of our own domination and oppression.