What's the deal with women slapping?
I first noted it when watching the movie The Holiday several years ago. Then I saw it again and again: in TV comedies, in movies, in reality shows. Women, in fits of despair and rage, would slap men--usually their partners who had deceived them in some way. This scenario was not limited to one type of woman, either: bitchy women, crazy women, sweet, docile women, smart women, trashy women--the slap was an equal opportunity form of revenge. Their male targets almost always had done something despicable and seemed to get what was coming to them, but still: dd they really deserve physical violence?
This trend concerns me. We are talking physical abuse here, and yet no one is registering it as such.
When a man slaps a woman on public media, we immediately cast the man as abusive, dangerous, and in need of help. But when the roles are reversed, we cheer for the woman for standing up for herself or dismiss her as cute, miffed, and maybe a little crazy. She is not genuinely threatening; she is trying to play tough. She does not have anger issues; she has every right to put her man in his place.
As this scenario becomes increasingly common, we are becoming desensitized. We are forgetting that slapping is still violent, abusive behavior no matter which gender is on the giving or receiving end. Whether or not the behavior is repeated or threatening, it is inappropriate. The permissiblity of women slapping men (and other women, for that matter. because that often happens too) teaches us that hitting is a valid form of self-expression and conflict resolution.
It concerns me that young women are growing up with the image of a strong, empowered woman as someone who may hit in order to assert herself. We do not want our female characters who have been wronged by another to be doormats, but we can do better. What I'd rather see is these mistreated women responding in a third way which affirms their self-worth, denounces the wrongful behaviors, and either looks for opportunities to communicate authentically and effectively with the perpetrators or to sever relationships that are toxic.
Because let's be real: did we not learn this lesson when we were two? Hitting never gets us what we actually want.