Obviously I use humor to cope with anxiety. If I can be light-hearted about something that, in the moment, is very intense then suddenly it feels manageable. So, what is really happening when I go into the bathroom at the movies by myself? I am afraid. As a woman I feel vulnerable, and I fear the bad intentions of someone else.
I grew up on TV—in fact the most common response I get when I share this story is, “You’ve seen too many scary movies!” It’s true, I have (thanks Dad!), but that doesn’t negate the reality that I am vulnerable. That acts of violence against women are commonplace and that in our culture there is almost zero sensitivity about it. I have seen a lot of scary movies but I have also seen A LOT of not-so-scary movies, and when I walked out of The Revenant recently the only thing I could say to my husband was, “I am so tired of seeing women being raped.” I wonder how many other people that saw that movie had that reaction? I wonder how many of you even remember which scene I am referring to. It is so commonplace, so absurdly normal, for women to be abused in our entertainment that for the most part I don’t think people even notice it.
John has been wanting to see Sicario for months. I kept making excuses not to rent it because I can be sensitive to violence and suspense—it makes me anxious. But I finally caved because I love my husband and Emily Blunt got her ass kicked by a man who wanted to have sex with her. It was such a sickening scene. Her character is, like, an FBI agent or something, so she was far from completely helpless but I sat there and watched the camera push in on her purpling face as this bastard STRANGLED her, and I just kept thinking, I am so sick of this.
I am weary. My spirit is exhausted from these images. I am a woman and I watch women be overcome, over-powered, forced, and injured All. The. Time. This stuff stays with me, guys. I remember these images, the look on Emily Blunt’s oxygen-deprived face. Hashtag real-talk, this stuff affects my intimacy with my husband. How can we, as women, be free and fully empowered in our feminine selves when we see this stuff all the time?
It’s probably true that my mild-moderate anxiety attacks when I go into the bathroom at the movies (which subsequently have gotten a LOT better since I shared my last post) are a disproportionate response to a relatively low threat. Even so, the reality is that I feel vulnerable, and I am afraid. I have never been violently raped or beaten by a man but I have seen it again and again and again… And not just scary-movie style! We live in a world where people walk into packed movie theaters and open fire—that’s a real threat! We live in a world where blame is shared between victim and abuser. Where there is little incentive for sexual assault victims to reveal the truth about what has happened to them. And NO ONE seems upset about that.
My body’s reaction to the vulnerability that I feel when I am alone in a public place is a visceral experience. Instinctively I know that I am the prey animal in this potential scenario, and that is a horrible, sickening, helpless way to feel. I never have the luxury of assuming I am safe in public. To be fair I live a life full of freedom but what I am trying to say is that part of womanhood—at least for me—is this awareness. How many 25 year old, white men feel the way I do when they go into the bathroom at the movie theater? Hell, I’ve felt the bone-deep violation of a male gaze from within the safety of my locked and moving car!
This is not paranoia. This is the product of culture. We are saturated with the idea that women are for men (or at the very least that men can have women). Even depictions of rape whose message is “this is a despicable action” are STILL DEPICTIONS OF RAPE! What woman is helped by seeing this? From where should my sense of security come when I walk alone into an enormous, empty bathroom where no one is watching?