I think we can all agree reenacting is a blast, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t think so. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to find your niche, and being a woman it can be even harder. I don’t speak from personal experience of course, however I have seen it. Women who don’t want to cook and clean are often not welcome because the kitchen is where women were traditionally. Reenactors often don’t see it as sexism to point out that women should be cleaning and cooking for the camp and possibly doing seamstress work, and I get it, I really do. Historically those were female dominated roles, but they are not the only roles open to women who reenact.
If you are a woman who wants to fight in a reenactment, do some research and do it, no need to be in the kitchen if that’s not what you enjoy. Women have been fighting in war since the dawn of time itself, depending on the period they may have had to cross dress and hide their femininity, but there have always been women on the front-lines, fighting the bloodiest of battles.
J. R. Hardman and her crew on Reenactress the Movie have done extensive research on this area for civil war reenactments. Their research indicates between 400-1000 women fought in the US Civil War dressed as men. These brave women fought for their beliefs, and considering what they had to go through to keep their true identity hidden they clearly really believed in their cause.
Females dressing up as men to fight isn’t relegated to US history, there have always been women willing to hide behind a fake mustache and fight for their country. Wikipedia has a page dedicated to various famous females who fought as men.
Now often I have heard people say that this is an area that is over represented, this is partially true, as a percentage perhaps there are time periods that women fighters are depicted in reenacting more than would be historically accurate. That being said, I have to ask, what other areas are over represented, the over 40 balding over weight fighter (as a over 40 over weight, but luckily not yet balding man I am not picking on anyone I swear). Those who reenact for the public, if there are 30 female fighters and 20 male fighters I’d say you may have a point, but is this really even an issue? I have never heard of a reenactment issue where there were more than two or three women in non traditional roles.
Of course there are a ton of other roles a woman can fill, for civil war reenacting check out this link, which provides an interesting list of roles for women reenacting. As far as medieval reenactments go, the roles were often pretty similar, but add to it brewer (brewing mead and wine was often a woman’s job), artisan, fishwife, and more.
Unfortunately some reenactment groups still have trouble with women reenacting non traditional roles for women, so it may require more documentation than would be required for a man to fill the same role. However I think it is important that the general public sees these non traditional roles for women throughout history, it is part of history, and a part that is often underrepresented in the history books and in the reenactment world.