The Gift Economy, Anarchism and Strategies for Change
Terry Leahy's website
Lecture: What is Conservative/ Respectable/ High Status Dress?
Lecture: The Media as Dominant Ideology
Lecture: Postmodernism
Lecture: Can Ads Ever Be Radical?
Lecture: Types of Media Analysis
Lecture: Is Xena a Feminist Heroine?
Lecture: Radway's approach to Romance Novels
Lecture: Popular Media as Patriarchal Ideology
Lecture: The Debate About Madonna
Lecture: Soap Operas and Feminism
Lecture: Walkerdine on Rocky
Lecture: Feminist Arguments Against Pornography
Lecture: Is Xena a Feminist Heroine?

Lecture Media and Society Week Five

Atara Stein : Xena Warrior Princess

Is Xena a Feminist Heroine?



She is a sex object and is popular with men who fetishize her.

She is not a passive object of desire but an active agent, both romantically and politically.

Her body type is robust and strong and does not suggest the waif thin feminine ideal which is normally related to men’s power over women.

She is popular with women who identify with her as a capable and effective woman.

Xena is also attractive to lesbian women and the plots suggest she may be a lesbian.

Her physical power and leather outfits make her attractive to lesbians in terms of norms of the lesbian erotic subculture.

The plots often mock men’s sexual objectification of women, and of Xena in particular.

In so far as there is a lesbian subtext it just allows men to fantasize that they are having two women. Gabrielle is equally a sex object for the male viewer.


She uses violence to gain her objectives and in doing this takes on a male role, rather than showing how negotiation and peaceful solutions are the way forward.

While she uses violence, she also shows an emotional nurturing side which is part of women’s culture. What she represents is a blending of characteristics normally associated with both sexes.

The violence shown in Xena is rarely serious or grim, but more often playful and ironic.

Her violence is often used to defeat various forms of patriarchal power.

Her violence shows that women can hold their own in political conflict with men if they choose to do so - even if violence is involved.


Her relationship with Gabrielle is a lesbian butch/femme relationship which is modelled on heterosexual relationships in which the male is the dominant partner. It does nothing to show the viewer how an egalitarian romantic relationship might function.

This relationship and others like it show that inequalities of power are also possible in lesbian relationships. Relationships should be viewed on their merits, not in terms of the gender of the parties involved.

Her relationship with Gabrielle shows that women can be important companions and even lovers and do not need a man, either romantically, or as a strong support.

Women in heterosexual relationships are often at a disadvantage because of the social power exercised by men. This disadvantage does not operate within lesbian relationships. Consequently the defense of lesbianism as an option for women is a necessary aspect of the feminist program.

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