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Would You Hit a Girl?

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 10, 2022

So hitting a girl (or a woman) is extremely tropey. Regardless of how progressive your story is, a man hitting a woman runs a high risk of being considered lowly or less than heroic. That's because generally, women are considered weaker than men, thus an easy target. A woman hitting a woman runs a high risk of being considered sexy (mud may be involved?), catty but not very serious, or something to be amused over. That's because women are considered generally equal in strength between them (but still weak) so a fight can be taken as ‘harmless’ and thus amusing, which of course couldn't be further from the truth, but that's for a different article.

These tendencies become even stronger if instead of a woman there's a girl.

When does a male character get a pass for hitting a woman?

In my experience, if the situation or context falls within these lines:
a. the woman is quite overpowered, so the man is at a disadvantage in a physical fight
b. the woman “deserves it”, in that she's been very obnoxious and abusive for a very long time
c. the woman poses as a man and the male character isn't aware of it yet
d. the woman is a danger that trumps her gender, making it necessary to use violence (e.g. she's shrieking or panicking and will give away a position, causing death, or she's about to hit a nuke button, etc)

It is never okay for a man to hit a girl, because it's nearly impossible to convince an audience a girl can be sufficiently threatening to a man or can't be dealt with without violence. The same goes for hitting a boy (falls under ‘who would harm a child’, with the exception of stories where the kid is the antichrist or something… eventually).

Sometimes, a male character hitting a woman will get a pass because not excusing her from it implies respect for her abilities, genuine, true equal treatment, or a rite of passage, one way or the other.

The whole context of it all, of course, hinges on whether the audience believes the woman is weaker than the man, so the man is quite literally punching down, and nobody likes a character that stoops to that. A female character that punches a woman that is clearly unable to fight back for whatever reason will also get a negative tint in the eyes of the audience, even though she has the same gender as her target, for the same reason.

This is why this scene is so impactful and the stepsisters look so evil.

The same goes, in essence, for if a woman hits a man, in a context where the man is unable to fight back and therefore is vulnerable.

It looks terrible and the aggressor looks like a butthole.

In the end, it's not the gender that makes it okay or not okay, but the context and how ‘even’ the field is between the one who attacks and the one who is attacked. The audience will give a pass to hitting a girl if the context is right, and refuse to do so if the context is wrong. Like in so many things, context is king.

That said, don't hit girls. Or boys. In fact, don't hit anyone if you can help it.

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EssayBee at 6:56PM, Sept. 16, 2022

No film has done this topic better than Airplane ( Back in the 90s I watched a lot of Hong Kong action films. Royal Warriors (with Michelle Yeoh) had a brutal fight between her and the villain that goes beyond just hitting. The guy bounces her off a support beam, and it made me jerk in my seat with empathy pain. However, unlike many American films that love to showcase "girlpower" in fights, the violence in Royal Warriors (and many Hong Kong movies) was pretty much treated as if it were just another fight without the bravado and "coolness" of many American movies (and was much better because of it).

Tantz_Aerine at 1:40AM, Sept. 11, 2022

Amelius, no worries, I didn't think you were accusing me of anything :D We're just discussing here (and I love it when a post generates discussion). I've seen that happen live, unfortunately. Granted, not in a black vs white woman context (Greece is still 90% or so white/med Greeks, as opposed to diverse Greeks racially speaking though that is quickly changing and it's pretty awesome to see), but definitely in an 'easy bias' context. It's despicable when it happens (and a character can be painted in a negative light in two panels flat doing this!) and it preys exactly on that 'optics' rule. As humans we're wired to make quick assessments of rapidly developing situations and it's the one thing manipulators quickly learn to use, as you've described. I train people not to fall into that trap, but it's not always easy if they know what buttons to push. Optics are everything in those first few moments, unfortunately. Context comes after.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 11:16PM, Sept. 10, 2022

@Jason Moon - So what you're saying is that your cousin started off as Harry Potter and then he grew into Ethan Hunt (MI2 version). Awesome^^

Jason Moon at 6:00PM, Sept. 10, 2022

oh man the "Would you hit a girl?" title totally reminds me of like 10 years ago. My little cousin Eli (He isn't little anymore, he's actually pretty ripped and loves rock climber now) but back then he was a tiny little guy that totally looked like Harry Potter. And I remember him coming over and telling me how there was this giant mean ass girl who would prey on him and his friends. I guess she was really nasty and would beat them up and throw them in the trash. But I remember there was this one night he came over for dinner and he had some face wounds and I asked him what was up? And he told me that big girl was attacking one of his friends and he ran up and punched her in the face. After that story I never heard about the girl again. Only time I've personally heard of a single girl beating on all the boys on the schoolground.

Amelius at 12:36PM, Sept. 10, 2022

Absolutely, context matters and a lot of videos like that tend to get posted without it just for the purpose of drawing out people's bias. But on the matter of defending himself or not, bullies do that all the time-- get someone riled up to the breaking point and when they snap, weather a few blows so now they are the victim, and they face no consequences for their actions that led to it. There's a whole video where a white woman was about to assault a black woman at the mall but the moment she turned her camera on right as she was about to hit her, she was suddenly scream-crying about the black woman bullying her, and people were siding with assaulter after seeing only the white woman crying. Though I wanna be clear I'm not accusing you of being racist at all, just offering a little insight because it's a bit different social climate in America when it comes to the dynamics at play here. I shoulda been more clear who I was responding to in my second post though, my bad!

Tantz_Aerine at 12:21PM, Sept. 10, 2022

Ah, not really Amelius, at least not for me. I'm not saying whether she's in the right or in the wrong, because that is not the point of the usage of the gif. It's purposefully out of context right now as my example, because it's just the optics of the matter that I wanted to draw attention to. Someone beating someone else who isn't even defending themselves is a BAD LOOK for the one doing the beating. Can context change that? Absolutely. But that's what the first impression is. Racism has nothing to do with it. As a girl that fought off bullies like that girl (they were white btw, or mediterranean, YMMV), I'm not prepared to be charitable at all just on the optics of this. If I get suitable context, I'll change my view. But that was beyond the scope of my example. That's why my caption reads "looks" terrible/ "looks" a butthole, because I'm not saying they are or aren't. Just what it LOOKS LIKE. Thanks :)

Amelius at 11:21AM, Sept. 10, 2022

I think you're favoring the guy just because he doesn't fight back, as though that makes him innocent. In the end we don't have context and what little I can find discussing this video has been drenched in horrifying racism toward the girl for how she looks. The only reason I think her response was a bad look is because white people with a victim complex use it to try and "gotcha" toward anyone who defends the girl in this scenario as pro-violence and "the real racist/sexist". I was bullied by a girl who looks like her in school and I'm still willing to be charitable toward her due to how society treats girls like her. I'm willing to admit "I don't know" what this confrontation is about, but knowing what I know about the world we live in absolutely paints my view and who I'm more willing to defer to in this scenario.

marcorossi at 10:28AM, Sept. 10, 2022

@Amelius and cdmalcolm1 I think you are exagerating, you can't just see A beating B and assume that B is at fault, and anyway there is a big difference between nasty words and literal beating, it is an odifferent level of aggressivity.

marcorossi at 10:23AM, Sept. 10, 2022

In my opinion, we do have a certain attraction to violence, because it is an archaic instinct of alpha maling. However this only makes sense when the hero heroically beats someone who is stronger than him/her. This is the reason we often have convoluted plots where the bad guys kill the hero's family/dog/are terrorists/whatever, because this justifies the hero's violence (that otherwise would be immoral). But a big syrong man beating a delicate woman wouldn't be very alpha, even in situations where objectively the strenght difference isn't important (e.g. if both have a gun).

Amelius at 10:09AM, Sept. 10, 2022

I agree with cdmalcom1 about the .gif, in that there's a nonzero chance that boy didn't say something that warranted a dustpan smackdown. Considering it's a scrawny white boy in a hoodie, and she's a fat black girl-- for her that's 3 things in a row that get savagely picked apart and criticized especially in the USA. Sure, it's easy to sympathize with the lion when you get a clip that starts with the lion getting kicked in the face, but don't discount the fact that it's a lion and the zebra probably didn't start it.

dpat57 at 8:34AM, Sept. 10, 2022

There was a really tough girl in my class who liked to start fights and punch people super hard, she scared me, I was relieved when her family moved away, I think I hid on her last day in school. Sometimes I wonder where she ended up, and who with. She would have made a great henchwoman.

Ozoneocean at 7:05AM, Sept. 10, 2022

It's one of those things where people get too involved in the justifications or lack of them to realise that that gender is actually irrelevant to the argument- physical violence is just wrong in all cases, it doesn't matter if the victim is male or female- You address this in your conclusion I think. That's the ethical view- but what we've got here is the cultural view of course, and what it means in fiction- you've addressed that well.

cdmalcolm1 at 5:22AM, Sept. 10, 2022

For the record, I don’t think it was right what she did to him. He didn’t even try to defend himself.

cdmalcolm1 at 5:17AM, Sept. 10, 2022

As for the last GIF. It looks like he might have done or said something to her. For her to get up, pick up a plastic dustpan, walk towards him and starts beating him. It tells me that he must have started it. Why? As he was being beaten, the person to his right did not move other than to straighten out their leg after the beating was over. I mean they did not flinch. The other thing is that he did not attack back or got up to move after she stopped… he knew he was wrong. She sent a message to him, “I am tired of you hurting me and im here to let you know I will hurt you back.” I don’t know, im speculating but I think he might have deserved it. (And again, if he would have got up to hit her back, he would look like the bad guy. He even knew hitting a girl or woman is wrong.)

cdmalcolm1 at 4:52AM, Sept. 10, 2022

Now, I’m assuming that this article is about hitting a woman, child and or defenseless creed of some kind in comics, TV shows or movies. The Hallmark channel is notorious for this type of content. I use this to show how much an asshole this character is towards others. It is never right to hit, hurt or kill. Everyone below has a point. As a creator, sometimes we will use abusive acts for characters that calls for it. Bullying is going to show its head in one form or another in stories that call of it. I’m pretty sure everyone here is on the same page when it comes to a male hitting a female. It’s not right. Like the first GIF show above of Rob hitting the holy hell out of her friends is because she forgot that she is a he. It was a set up and the audience knew that. But just watching the GIF having not seeing the movie is hard to watch. Again, I’m not going lie, I do use these highly abusive tactics to show a male being violent towards women because that’s what he is.

bravo1102 at 3:14AM, Sept. 10, 2022

With your research of partisan warfare I'm sure you know how various militaries have responded when it came to fighting women. And there's a line in a movie I saw recently when a female alien is fighting humans and finally face to face with one of heroes she asks, "you wouldn't hit a woman?" And the character (a hardened soldier type) replies, "yes, yes I would" and socks her.

PaulEberhardt at 2:47AM, Sept. 10, 2022

Let me stress that I was referring to clichés in fiction only and never said they were all OK just because they're there.

PaulEberhardt at 2:43AM, Sept. 10, 2022

There's also this jolly old teasing phrase "You hit like a girl", which is probably terribly sexist by today's standards but still funny, especially if it's the girl who says it... Anyway, "good" characters have a definite Achilles' heel here. The ultimate defeat is practically guaranteed if she starts to cry (and being a great multitasker - to insert another cliché - is at the same time able to stealthily ready the derringer hidden in her handbag) - which fictional female characters seem to do much more often when fighting a man, than when fighting another woman. So acting as the "weak sex" can be a stealth weapon in itself. It's a bit like the way it's not cool to hit anyone wearing glasses, even if that person happens to be a 7 1/2 foot bodybuilder who practises Thai kickboxing in his/her free time. Similarly, a "good" female character can get away with more unfair fighting methods than a man, even with today's enlightened audiences.

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