I found myself in a heated discussion concerning the X-men promotional billboard that features Mystique and Apocalypse. The billboard shows Apocalypse holding Mystique by the throat. This image has proven to be triggering to some people. Our society is focusing on women being triggered stating that it glorifies brutality against women that is being inflicted by a man. I agree that brutality against women is a very important issue that we need to raise awareness for… but the particular discussion I was in showed me two things which I will attempt to dissect. First, that male v. male violence is acceptable while female v. male violence is unacceptable. Second, and more disturbingly, that only women who have been abused can have an opinion on the topic. Both of these are absolutely wrong.
Everywhere I look there are people arguing that what makes this billboard problematic is that a man is attacking a woman. It isn’t so much that people have an issue with the violence, but the violence against women. So let’s get something straight. Women can abuse men, men can abuse women, men can abuse men and women can abuse women. Now that we’ve cleared that up I want you to ask yourself if you worried that people might be triggered by an image of Wolverine fighting Apocalypse? Of course not! You would think that you were about to see a superhero movie that was going to feature fight scenes between the hero and the villain and guess what THAT HAPPENS IN ALL SUPER HERO MOVIES. In one article Rose McGowan was upset by the tagline “Only the strong survive” well I have news for you Rose, “the strong” refers to the X-men! Even if I take off my nerd glasses and assume that you don’t know the back story of Apocalypse, I have to assume that you do know the basic premise of every super hero movie/comic/television show which is, the hero wins. If you want the Joker to beat batman, or Green Goblin to overtake Spider-man you are going to have to start writing fan-fiction because in the comic book world it just doesn’t happen that way. In all honesty it makes perfect sense to have “only the strong survive” right next to Mystique because she is arguably the strongest of the X-men. Did you hear that, a female character is the strongest and one who can beat the villain. Listen, you cannot have it both ways. If you want to have a female protagonist you have to be okay with her battling against evil in the form of both genders. How anti-feminist of the feminists to take a perfectly good example of what a female lead is capable of and imply that she isn’t capable of winning against a man. The discussion made all these points and counter points and then it took a nasty turn.
One woman decided that my view of not being offended by the billboard must mean that I have never been raped. As if rape is a trump card that can be played whenever you need to be right. While myself and another person were discussing the many violent roles Rose McGowan has played (like her role in Jawbreaker where she kills her best friend and then stages her corpse to look like she was raped… yay feminism!) a woman named Sarah decided to ask “Hey, you two. Have you ever been raped?”. I told her that yes, I had in fact been raped and that it is completely irrelevant to the conversation. This woman, who so clearly felt the need to defend women was now shoving abuse against women in our faces… just like she said the billboard did.
Listen people, just because I was a victim of a sexual assault that does not mean that the assault gets to follow me around and dictate the rest of my life. No one is going to tell me that being raped has to make me feel a certain way about a billboard, or anything else for that matter. What happened to me that night is not a badge of honor or a source of shame. It is something that I have made peace with and not something you get to judge me on. I am sorry if you think that my night of pain should always be front and center in everything I do, but you are wrong. I refuse to let my abuser control my life. I also do not believe that as a victim of sexual assault my opinion is somehow more important than that of one who hasn’t been assaulted. Not to mention the fact that unless you are a cold-hearted soul like Sarah, you aren’t going to survey everyone on their abuse history before deciding if they are worthy of an opinion. I do not believe that a mutant on a sign promotes abuse because the type of person who has it in them to abuse does not need a fictitious deity like Apocalypse to tell them it is okay. No amount of censorship is going to take away the fact that people hurt other people everyday… and maybe, just maybe, victims of abuse would like to believe that “only the strong survive” because it doesn’t take strength to hurt someone, but it does take strength to persevere.