Why “badass”?

The badass female is on the rise! As I’ve been thinking about this project, the first question that comes to mind is: What is a badass, anyway? Sure, you know it when you see it— someone’s in full-on fight mode, kicking ass and taking names, and you watch, awe-struck. What a badass! But what makes a badass different from a villian, or a soldier, or a bully? I did some reading (because that’s what I do).  Megan Garber wrote in at Atlantic blog, pointing out that the term has shifted beyond big tattooed guys with guns to also include women with swagger. Jim Taylor wrote on Psychology Today about different kinds of badass— the macho and the humble. And Tyler Protano-Goodwin has a Thought Catalog piece suggsting the softer and more complex charactaristics of the female badass.

Dictionary.com says badass is vulgar slang for a person who is difficult, mean-tempered, or touchy— OR, “distinctively tough or powerful; so exceptional as to be intimidating”. Similarly, Merriam-Webster suggests two definitions: one suggesting a troublemaker, and the other a person of “formidable strength or skill.” These second definitions— strength, power– are closer to my meaning.

Better still: urbandictionary.com suggests a badass is “fearless, authentic, compassionate, and ethical.” Now we’re talking— add that to the strength and power, and we’re in business.

How about: A person who channels her strength and power into value-driven, authentic, and compassionate action.

This has a tinge of Paolo Friere’s definition of praxis,too, doesn’t it? Transformation through action and critical reflection. A distinct willingness to stick it to the man when called for. Grit.  That, my friends, is badass.


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