This post is a good time to remind folks that if you think I’m talking about you, you’re probably wrong. It’s also worth noting that when I say crazy, I’m referring to people like my first ex-wife, who was diagnosed with (and refused treatment for) borderline personality disorder. K? K.
I’ve had my share – perhaps more than my share – of crazy, stalker, or just otherwise drama-inducing people in my life. And they are the perfect example of how privilege impacts every facet of my life.
One such person messaged me for the first time in several years on Facebook. The message that they sent was … uncomfortable. I deflected the message, politely, and left it at that. And then I told my girlfriend about it.
To paraphrase her response: “Why haven’t you blocked them yet?”
After a brief minute where my brain stuttered along trying to justify itself, I realized there is a one-word answer: privilege.
While I’ve encountered a large number of crazy and/or stalker type people in my life, few of them get labeled as “threat” in my head. Perhaps “I don’t want to run into them” or “socially uncomfortable”, but not “threat”.
My girlfriend – and pretty much any woman in our society – does not have that luxury. They have to parse any potential threat as that threat. The crazy-talking ex can just as quickly become the crazy-acting ex, and then you’ve got a real threat to you and yours.
This concept is firmly embedded in our culture. Security guards regularly give rides to the parking lot to women who want an escort – but look down their noses at a man who asks for the same. The idea of a woman being threatened by a man is so cliche that an entire cable channel is known for producing movies with that theme… and the idea of a man threatened by a woman is rare enough that Fatal Attraction immediately embedded itself into our cultural consciousness.
And yet, it’s completely bullshit. It’s a narrative we (and particularly men) tell ourselves to reinforce a cultural paradigm that’s built on a falsehood. And that gives us a new way to make our stories fresh.
Think about this, writers. We are tool-using. And that means that your protagonists (and antagonists) can look past the cultural narrative and use tools. Why should a man feel safe if threatened by a woman? Women are better shots. Force projection and amplification are at the point where pretty much anyone in the United States can be a deadly force to any other person.
Any. Other. Person.
The first step is to tell the stories that reinforce the paradigm. Lifetime did that. The second step is to tell the “exception” stories where the paradigm is reversed in unusual circumstances. Michael Douglas’ career did a lot of that. The third step – the step we’re at now – is to strip away the falseness of the paradigm and leave our characters what the hell to do after that.
Because we help shape our society. And right now, my girlfriend is right. My privilege as a male blinded me to potential threats. And that’s stupid.
So, probably by the time you read this, I’ll have cleaned up and locked down my Facebook account again.
And then I’ll start writing.