You would be spot on with that assertion. Not only does ATLA master Bechdel bending it’s has fantastic female role models of all persuasions.
Top 10 feminist moments in ATLA!
#10. Ladies Showing Off Their Skills
If there is one thing ATLA is overflowing with, it’s ladies absolutely walloping the shit out of everyone. Nothing says gender equality like breaking people’s bones. And while there were many exceptional fights involving ladies, Suki channeling her inner spider-man is a definite highlight. Plus she made Sokka really hot while doing it.
#9. Ladies Performing The Ultimate Sacrifice
Yue’s sacrifice in the season 1 finale is one of the most outstanding moments of the entire series. Excellently foreshadowed, emotionally poignant and above all heroic. Up until that point her narrative arc had been rather traditional and romance focused, but in her final moments it completely transcends that as she makes the noble decision to give her life back. It’s heartbreaking and she’s rightly remembered throughout the series for the choice she makes.
#8. Ladies Outsmart Everyone
Politics is more often that not dominated by men, but that doesn’t mean they are better at it. It’s a fabulous moment in the series where two villains face off, and there was only ever going to be one winner. Azula absolutely wiped the floor with Long Feng with her superior cunning, wit and ruthlessness. In return she gets control of an army of well dressed men. Oh and it should be mentioned that it took men 100 years to try and defeat Ba Sing Se, Azula does it in less than a week. You go, gurl.
#7. Ladies Choosing Their Romantic Destiny
This may seem an odd choice for one of the most feminist moments, but I actually think it’s crucial. So many people completely misinterpret this scene and write if off as ‘The Hero Getting The Girl!’ It implies that Katara is a prize and has no agency in this decision. Utterly and completely missing the point. Katara makes a big statement in 3x17 about how she and Aang are not ready for a relationship with a war going on and that he should back off. Aang respects this decision and promptly gets lost (literally, actually). When the war is done Katara turns up on that balcony and makes the clear decision that she wants him. She initiates the kiss. They make a massive point of this on the DVD commentary about how it’s Katara that properly starts their relationship. It sends a great signal that ladies should operate on their own romantic schedules and that if the dudes worth it, he’ll still be there.
#6. Ladies Beating Up Fully Grown Men
What is more feminist than a 12 year blind old girl emasculating and then promptly beating the shit out of a fully grown man. Nothing I tell you. Nothing.
#5. Ladies Defying Gender Norms And Expectations
There’s a whole lot of this in ATLA of course, but one of my favourite moments is Kyoshi’s whole philosophical attitude. It’s really unconventional for a hardline consequentialist philosophy to come from a woman. Avatar Kyoshi is just a brilliantly fascinating character that show upmost conviction in her beliefs and fulfills them with great assurance. Her speech about killing Chin the Conqueror and what that meant to her is a lesson in great character writing. Plus she’s the oldest ever Avatar, ladies represent.
#4. Ladies Having Excellent Friendships
So many outstanding female friendships in this show, all with different dynamics and nuances. And while the relationship between the Azula/Ty Lee/Mai is fascinating, I think the interaction between Toph and Katara is in the end obviously more satisfying. They represent polar opposites in terms of gender norms. Katara with her traditional girly tendencies, while Toph with her far more masculine rough approach. They clash over their perceived differences but in the end they find common ground over mutual admiration for each other’s strengths.
#3. Ladies Being Both Girls And Warriors
If there was a tagline for ATLA’s feminism, this would be it. It’s a complete inversion of the pervasive line of thinking that warriors have to be masculine. ATLA was fantastic at showing that being a girl and being a warrior are not mutually exclusive.
#2. Ladies Being Dangerous
The Dangerous Ladies are everything that I could have wanted and more. An elite hit squad filled with intricate and well written ladies that have hugely satisfying individual and cumulative plot lines. Not only do they beat virtually everyone they come up against, they always to do it with such style and great punch lines. “Don’t you know fans just makes flames stronger?” or of course Mai’s eternal classic, “Oh well, victory is boring.” The Dangerous Ladies might not have won in the end, but they certainly made a fantastic team.
#1. Ladies Fighting Patriarchy
A defining moment in Katara’s character arc and the series as a whole. The whole of season one had built up to Aang and Katara finding a powerful Waterbending Master, only to realize they were trapped in a society that had institutional sexism. Despite her male peers telling her to find another solution, Katara takes matters into her own hands. What follows is nothing less than a sensational battle where Katara proves definitively that actions speak louder than words. It’s a groundbreaking moment in the series, both highlighting that the “good” guys are not always that good and equally that change can come despite the odds.