I’ll Watch Anything is an Autostraddle TV Team series in which we tell you what type of movies and TV shows we’ll watch, no matter what. This week, Heather Hogan’s here to tell you why she’ll watch anything about women bullying cis men.
One of the great gifts of my young life was the fact that my parents had no idea what was and was not appropriate for a child to watch on TV — so when I was in kindergarten, I convinced my dad to rent the VHS of 9 to 5 for me. I was too young to understand that it was a movie about three women raining down justice on an amalgamation of the sex pests who dominate corporate workplaces; all I knew was that I loved Dolly Parton with my whole heart and Dabney Coleman’s Franklin Hart, Jr. was making her very uncomfortable. So when she walloped him, kidnapped him, and tied him up in her house with the help of her friends, I cheered as hard as when She-Ra fought the eeeevil Hordak. From the video box, I learned the words ” sexist,” “misogynistic,” “egotistical,” and “bigot” — and, thus, a baby misandrist was born.
As a grown gay woman, my fondness for stories about women who bully cis men has only grown over the years, to the point that I could, at any moment, rattle off a seemingly endless list of movie moments, TV episodes, and book quotes on the topic.
Period dramas? How about in Gentleman Jack, when Anne Lister shoves her walking stick in the face of an abusive minister and snarls that he better leave town and never look back. Comedies? How about when Elle Woods eviscerates her ex-boyfriend, Warner, after winning her law professor’s court case and saving the day, with the very words he used to break up with her at the beginning of Legally Blonde? Reality cooking competitions? How about when Padma Lakshmi snaps at a male chef to “clean up his station and his act” and when she wheels around and mocks Richard Blaise’s bird nest of a hairstyle when he condescends to Top Chef‘s current contestants. (“I’m worried about them cooking these birds,” Blaise says. “I’m worried about your hair,” Padma looks over her shoulder and quips. “Speaking of soaring to new heights,” judge Gail Simmons giggles.) Romance? When Carol Aird sarcastically salutes Richard when he tell her to get Therese home safely, when Carol asks Therese if she misses her boyfriend and she says, “I haven’t thought about him all day,” when Sarah Paulson slams the door in Harge’s face. Action? Mad Max: Fury Road and Set It Off; you don’t even need the dialogue.
Sappho’s sacred socks, even Jane Austen couldn’t help herself”: “Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor. Which is the strongest argument in favor of matrimony.wp_postsAnd: “In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels.” And: “What are men to rocks and mountains?”
If there’s a story about a woman bullying a man, I’ll watch it. If it’s a genre I don’t care for, I’ll watch it. If I have to sign up for yet another streaming service, I’ll watch it. If it happened 50 years ago and I have to acquire the DVD, I’ll watch it. If it’s past my bedtime, I’ll watch it. If I have a migraine, I’ll watch it. If it’s sixteen seasons and I need to see them all to fully appreciate it when the moment of feminine bullying arrives, I’ll watch it. I’ll watch anything, any time, any place, any season, forever wherein a woman bullies a cis man.
Because most stories, like real life, aren’t like that. Our stories are about white men. Heroic white men we should idolize. Terrible white men who did “great” things, and with whom we should sympathize. Movies and TV and novels, sure, but also statues and monuments and songs and legends and history books and sermons and lectures and the names on every building on every college campus around the entire country, on every bridge, on every highway. There is an entire mountain where I grew up dedicated to some of the worst white men in history. Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, leaders of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. It towers above the smog of the city of Atlanta, over Cop City. We humanize white men over all other people, we reward those who tell their stories — and so they get more stories, and more humanization, and more power, and more stories, and and and.
The real Anne Lister lived her gender nonconforming life out loud, and was attacked, endlessly — sometimes physically — for it, by men. Padma Lakshmi heard the reverent “yes, chef” directed at white men in every kitchen in the world a million times before she clowned on Richard Blaise’s hair. Only 27% of the United States Senate, Elle Woods’ ultimate goal, are women. I don’t need to tell you how many women were forced into the closet or psychiatric institutions for their Sapphic leanings in the 1950, by men. And I don’t need to tell you how many women are flattened to a vagina, or a womb, like they are in Mad Max, by men. And I don’t need to tell you how many times Jane Austen — Jane Austen! — was shut out of publishing, by men.
I watch women bully men in stories the way I watch dragons fly in stories: with awe and longing, a fractured dream, an out-of-grasp fantasy.
My family was Southern Baptist, in rural Georgia, in the 1980s when I watched 9 to 5: Witches were off-limits, but I couldn’t help myself from replicating Judy, Violet, and Doralee’s majestic imaginary tea party where they dressed as sorceresses and toasted goblets to Mr. Hart’s demise. I roped my friends into playing it at recess. “I’ll be danged if I let myself be stopped by three dim-witted broads!” imaginary Mr. Hart would say. And we’d whack him with plastic baseball bats, covered in foam. We were little girls, drunk on Capri Sun and the hope of our own power. Oh, how we cackled.