Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sob, I can't pull the trigger - are non-violent women part of a male plot?

When the Western was in its heyday, one of its more clichéd scenes was the one in which a woman aimed her rifle at the big, strong male hero, warning him to back off. As she threatened to blow him away, we all knew that within the next thirty seconds the hero would edge forward until he could gently take the gun out of her weak, feminine, unprotesting hands. The message was simple: if you want shooting done, better get a man to do it because women are inherently incapable of that sort of thing.

Today I still feel a little shock of disbelief when I read about violent female teens, or girl gangs or women who are violent and abusive towards men or children. I guess that shock of disbelief explains why the murder of a man by the women who have become known as Ireland's scissors sisters transfixed the nation during their trial - had they been men the trial would have lacked a certain startle-value.

Yet the sanitising of women, of which the Western provides just one example, I suspect was in the service of keeping women 'in their place'. Their 'place' was in the home raising babies or, perhaps, doing 'women's work' such as nursing for which they could be underpaid because they were, after all, women doing it out of the goodness of their little hearts. Needless to say, these gentle creatures couldn't be expected to run countries or companies or even sales departments.

So in a perverse way the stories of violent women that we now hear more and more frequently serve to rebalance our view of reality in a way which sees women just as capable of taking on aggressive roles as men.

You know what? Every time I saw that scene in the Western I prayed for the woman to pull the trigger. Is there some female director out there who will make my dream come true?

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