Rant pants are on. You’re warned.
I want you to think of your favorite movie hero right now. Male to start, if you would. I’m guessing he’s at least a handful of the following:
Doesn’t flinch from duty.
Good under pressure.
Good with the ladies.
Now I want you to think WHY your hero’s that way. Born that way? Trained? Sometimes there’s a back story there, but a good chunk of the time there’s not and we just accept that Jack the Alpha Male is awesome because he’s awesome. Other times, Jack the alpha male had a good Jedi master. Or he shot first. Or he was the best pilot and he misses Goose. Or . . . something. The point is we blindly buy into these heroes being heroes because they have some combination of the traits listed above and we accept that Jack is Jack and Jack is Awesome PERIOD.
You know what never happens to Jack? He’s never raped so that he can rise from the ashes like some vanquishing phoenix. And do you know why Jack is never raped? Because that would immediately weaken his position as our hero. It would put him BENEATH and we don’t want our heroes BENEATH. We don’t want to pity them.
Jill is written into any number of novels, television shows, movies. Jill would like to be some or all of the things in that list, but in an alarming number of cases, Jill is not blindly assumed to have the same qualities as Jack. We buy into Jack’s superiority because we’re told that he has all of those hero-like traits. But Jill? Telling us that she’s awesome is not enough. There’s no assumption of strength. It’s like she is biologically wired to NOT be brave or tough so we have to prove it in the most foul way possible. She is a creature that is, by birth, DEMURE AND DELICATE. Because that’s what we’re saying when the only way we can think to present strong female characters is by victimizing them before they “blossom” into heroines.
Stop raping women to empower them in fiction, people. You’re doing an entire gender a huge disservice.
It is seriously fucked up to assume that this is the only way women can rise to an occasion. By using this literary device, you are selling readers–the world–on the idea that women are frail flowers who must be DESTROYED PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY to become . . . everything we immediately appreciate and respect in Jack? What the hell? And to the argument that it’s to make Jill more sympathetic, why isn’t she automatically sympathetic on account of being a human being? Why do we need to make her more relatable by breaking her down piece by piece? Why can we as a society blindly relate to Jack and his causes but then feel we have to justify our allegiance to Jill the Alpha Female and have a pity party?
Yes, rape happens. Yes, it’s a terrible thing. Yes, women may change after the trauma and in some cases, the women may become tougher than they were before their victimization. But that isn’t a staple of strength. Strength is strength. It exists because people have that particular quality. Men have it. Women have it. Women don’t need “circumstances” to have it. We don’t require something terrible to happen to us to develop it. It’s not like raping us gives us a magical strength power.
Stop feeding into this incredibly backwards paradigm. Stop accrediting men–IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY–with giving women strength. Yeah, sure, we hate the rapist, but you’re still saying that women wouldn’t have the quality of personal fortitude if it hadn’t been for the male that compromised her in the first place. That’s messed up. So just stop. Please. Or I’ll throw your book/television show/movie through the goddamned window and never look back.