Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Walk The Line

|this may trigger - hugely|

I was originally not going to comment on Melissa Bruen. Then I learned that there was backlash.

This story seems like a graduating journalist's cry for fame. If I'm mistaken, then I am sorry, but I don't buy into any of it. Sweet picture on the front page, and nice "swimmer's build," but I feel sorry for anyone who is actually a victim of assault and doesn't have such a romanticized story to tell

It's ok, you can look. That link includes comments rebutting such a statement as romanticizing.

But I don't suggest you go scrolling through the comments here from Shakespearessister's blog. It might infuriate you.

Or at least, I hope it would.

It should.

A young woman on a college campus walking back to her dorm is assaulted. She fights back. OTHER random men in the area then group assault her in retribution for her fighting off the first asswipe.

When I first read the story last night, the moment I read her taking more than one swing at the first guy I knew what had happened. You see there is a line women are supposed to walk without ever falling over. Comic bloggers and other fiction bloggers (women) talk about it all the time. We say "Madonna/Whore Complex" until those who aren't getting it, just get sick of seeing it and tune it out.

Big deal they think, so what if this superheroine or that superheroine is walking around showing that much flesh; walking around not protecting her most vulnerable parts (bare stomach, uncovered thighs). It's comics.

Only it's not.

Comics are escapist fantasy. And Super Hero comics are POWER FANTASIES.

Do you have ANY idea how difficult it is to have a Power Fantasy when heroines in the books I read don't pay attention to the Madonna/Whore Complex?????

Oh, that again. Yes, THAT. AGAIN.

During the first assault, Melissa Bruen was just a woman; faceless, without personality or autonomy of her own.. She was an ass to rub off on, an object that should just stand there and take it.

With the first swung blow of self defense she was MADONNA. She became a good girl who was suitably disgusted. The problem is, the MADONNA must be perfectly feminine and submissive while insisting that raw, unwanted sexuality not touch her. She must cajole and coax decent behavior for the sake of PURITY.

Women who're trained in self-defense do so / can do so in order to give up having to play the MADONNA. Playing that role leaves you in the shower for hours trying to scrub away not just the touch of the invader, but something akin to self-hate, that you had to mollify an assaulter in order to survive. Survival is everything. It is the ONLY thing. But it can leave a film.

Melissa Bruen took a second swing and a third. She wanted this asswipe to know his advances were. not. welcome. And she fell, tumbling across the line to WHORE. The whore is not a good girl. She can be a virgin and she's still not a good girl. Good girls know their place. Good girls don't claim power. Good girls don't say no and follow it up with pressure and physical hurt.

I realize this is Frank Miller logic, and you may think I've gone crazy. But please, try to hold on until the end. Cause I KNOW this.

Let's break it down:

Not! A Good Girl = WHORE.



How do men who feel emasculated react? By re-affirming their power.

What's the easiest way to re-affirm that power? Sexual humiliation.

It doesn't matter that they weren't the original assaulter. They witnessed it. Their world view was shaken. A good girl isn't violent. A good girl would have let them pull her off her attacker, would have let them mollify her. Would have let them make her apologise to him; for hitting so hard, for getting out of control, for making it a big deal and not taking it as a joke.

So they gang assaulted her. And she had to fight and fight and keep fighting just to get clear.

This turning of the tides? This group/mob mentality? It's not an isolated incident. It's not a one off. You think women are surprised by this? You think it's not going through our heads everytime we resist a group on the corner throwing cat calls? Or anytime we're on a well lit street, but it's late at night and there's more than one man lounging somewhere who feels free to say something, or make some motion in reference to our bodies or sex?

You think, for those of us who read comic books, that we're not damn well aware that our heroines fucking teeter on that Madonna/Whore line? That there aren't bad guys from street thugs on up to Supervillians (Except Doom, who's too self inflated to feel emasculated) who don't want to 'teach a bitch a lesson, just who does she think she is, strutting around, fighting back???'

You think we complain about heroines fighting in their damn UNDERWEAR because we're just trying to ruin your fun??? Your little bit of titillation?

No. We think about this. ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME. We're fucking geniuses at figuring the odds, some of us. Meta class geniuses, those of us who've dared say no with more than words. And don't say "Well what about Melissa". This was her first time using more than words. Why should she be thinking of rules no one tells you until you face the consequences?

Except for WoC. We know those rules at a pretty young age. Why? Well most of the time we never hit MADONNA. Jungle fever, and jigaboo and Jezebel and more; White Men are often convinced they have a fucking right to just reach out and touch us however they want. The days of slavery (and dominating colonialism) are gone, however, so they'll put a polite fiction over it:

* You're so exotic.

* I've never seen hair like that before

* You have the loveliest complexion

Has Misty Knight ever broken an idiot's hand for him? Because if she has, I need to read that. How about Betsy Braddock?

I get that vigilante/super heroic heroines are playing on the prey factor to draw in bad guys a lot of the times. I get the theory. But where is the moment they throw off that illusion and show strength? Why must the fighting ALSO be sexy and inviting? Why must the after fight resting be submissive and alluring?

We ask these questions over and over and over and over again in the name of the Melissa Bruen's, past and present. And in the name of those deemed Jezebels, past and present. We want to see strength that doesn't have to be tempered by mollifying fellow heroes by showing them skin and ass and tits so they don't have to feel emasculated.

Yes, I do seriously believe (read fanwank) that PJ's boob window is so that some individuals can comfort themselves with views of the goodies when she power smacks evil across town.

But remember this the hind end of a series of posts where I first did genderswitch after trying to explain that it wasn't about cat-fights? The conversation about heroine clothing wasn't about jealousy? That it was about wanting my heroines to be able to swoop in and be feared immediately, without pulling a bait and switch, without having to dance on that line?


Does explaining things like this make a difference? How masculine attitudes (perceived and experienced) and the ever present objectification and the realities of dark actions and implications in every day life, wear down a woman? How power fantasies shouldn't have those things wearing it down? How many women are always aware, from issue covers to panels that their hero is ever one step away from being used to re-affirm some male character's masculinity and power?

Cause it's there in society. It's there in the subconscious of the artist and the writer. It's THERE. We see. We don't seek it out. We see it because we KNOW it.

Do you understand now?

Does breaking it down like this make a difference? Are you thinking?

Or did you tune out at Madonna/Whore ?

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