What myths of warrior women tell us about identity and gender politics

From Amazon warriors to pugilistic matriarchs, stories of female fighters abound. Where do they come from and what can they tell us about gender equality, past, present and future, asks Laura Spinney


| Columnist

9 February 2022

MF9C84 London. England. British Museum, Relief from the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos (Halicarnassus or Tomb of Mausolus), Section from the Amazon Frieze, detai

Adam Eastland Art + Architecture/Alamy Source: www.alamy.com

THERE can be few myths as ingrained in our consciousness as that of the Amazons, an ancient caste of warrior women whose marksmanship struck fear into the hearts of their enemies, who chose sexual partners freely and who sacrificed their male offspring to preserve the matriarchy.

I have been musing on this while watching tensions rise on the Russia-Ukraine border. At the beginning of that conflict, in 2014, a Ukrainian biathlete and sports minister called Olena Pidhrushna was falsely accused on Russian TV of shooting Russian-speaking civilians in eastern Ukraine. Historian Amandine Regamey recognised this image of a gun-toting …