In defense of Winona Hawkins and strong female characters everywhere
I don’t understand how anyone could hate ‘Justified’s Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea). She’s a strong female character who had the common sense to do right by herself. Yes, she once left her husband of six years, Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), for their realtor. But she’s human and she’s allowed to make some mistakes. But as we’ve all seen, Raylan isn’t necessarily the best husband, or person for that matter, either. Yes, he is a lawman and lives by a code. Yes, he aims to do the right thing and tries to create a sense of justice in this far from perfect world. But his code seems to often veer off course from what I imagine the Marshal service decrees as the right course of action.
Raylan is an angry person. He is stubborn. He never listens to people, even when they’re trying to help him or have his best interest at heart. He doesn’t do anything by the book. And he will shoot someone if he thinks it’s justified. I can’t imagine being married to a man like Raylan was easy for Winona. Is he a bad person? Hell no. He’s a damn good man, doing good things, but in a less than admirable way sometimes. And you can see that everything he is and everything he does is, in part, a reflection of who his father is. Raylan is not Arlo. Raylan is a good man, but a man who makes a lot of mistakes. But for some reason, we let Raylan’s (and even Boyd’s) transgressions slide, but hold Winona accountable for the things she’s allegedly done wrong.
I think Winona is an intelligent, independent woman who wants to be happy, and she recognized that she wasn’t happy with Raylan the first time. But that doesn’t mean she’s a bitch or a slut or a terrible waste of human flesh like some people make her out to be (and I think a lot of this hate is people projecting some misplaced hate for Natalie Zea on to her character – which again, is not right either). I’m sorry if you preferred Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) to Winona, or if Winona is getting in the way of your Boyd/Raylan slash preference, but she’s not going anywhere. She’s a strong woman who loves, and is loved in return, by Raylan.
I think a lot of people confuse the idea of personal strength with being physically strong. And that’s not what it means. You can be strong emotionally and mentally as well as physically. I think Winona is definitely strong mentally. She stands her ground with Raylan, and you better believe that I don’t for one second think she’s forgotten about his assurance that he would get out of the field. Especially with that baby growing inside her.
Being a strong woman doesn’t necessarily mean you have to also be a violent woman. Do the two sometimes coexist? Yes. Look at Ava. Look at the character of Gemma Teller Morrow on Sons of Anarchy. These are two strong females who also tend to rely on violence to prove their strength in this world – but that character trait is also a reflection of their environment and their presense in very misogynistic societies. Yes, we look at them and call them badass when they take various objects to the faces of their foes, and we chant their praises for not taking shit lying down. But there is no denying that their strength comes from a very violent place. It is a defense mechanism born out of living in an unjust world in which women are treated as weak and unequal to their male counterparts.
But then there’s another side to that; there’s a side where strength is not a reflection of your environment, but comes from within. And that’s where we find Winona. And if Winona is Ava’s counterpart on Justified, Tara Knowles is Gemma’s counterpart on Sons of Anarchy. I don’t think many people could successfully argue that these are not strong women. They’re both independent women with respectable and steady careers who value and place importance on things like happiness, honesty and love. I think both of them had the strength to leave situations that were toxic to them, and even if they’ve both returned to the men and the situation, it’s clear they’re strong woman who speak their mind and refuse to be walked on. They both recognize that these situations are poisonous to their families, but have chosen to stay – for now – because of the love they have for these men who are trying to do right in their respective worlds, and because they have more at stake than just their own happiness now. They have families to think about.
Winona isn’t Ava, nor is she Aunt Helen. Is she going to shoot her husband because he beat her? No. She’s going to leave him and have him arrested. Is she going to take a frying pan to someone’s face to prove a point? Not unless it’s Raylan’s face. Is she going to take on two intruders in her house alone in the middle of the night? Probably not, because that’s just not the type of woman she is. But she is going to stand her ground when it comes to Raylan, especially when she’s worried about his safety, and the safety of their unborn child. I think anyone who has the common sense to recognize their problems and actively try to fix them or rectify them in some way, is a smart, intelligent person worthy of admiration, both by the fictional characters they exist with, and by us, the viewers.