In the 1989 film Fields of Dreams, a young man hears a voice telling him: “If you build it, he will come.” With a bit of tweaking, a similar motto could be applied to 2017: “If you organise a cool women-only event, the whiny men’s rights activists will come.”
This week, a lot of men with too much time on their hands have been getting their knickers in a twist about a women-only screening of the new Wonder Woman film. The Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Austin, Texas, had organised the event with the promise that everyone there would be female and female-identifying – from the audience to the staff working behind the scenes.
“Apologies, gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’ for one special night at the Alamo Ritz,” the cinema’s promotional spiel reads. “And when we say ‘Women (and People Who Identify As Women) Only,’ we mean it. Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”
Cue guttural howls of rage from certain sticky corners of the internet.
Things were even funnier over on Facebook – thanks mainly (OK, thanks entirely) to the pitch-perfect responses of the Alamo’s social media team.
Despite the angry claims that the event would flop because women don’t care about comic book films, the first special Wonder Woman screening at the Alamo Drafthouse sold out. They added a second screening, which sold out too.
Morgan Hendrix, the cinema’s creative manager, tells Mashable that – as has been made abundantly clear – she really, really doesn’t care about what angry men have to say.
“We are very excited to present select, women-only Wonder Woman screenings at Alamo Drafthouse. That providing an experience where women truly reign supreme has incurred the wrath of trolls only serves to deepen our belief that we're doing something right,” she says.
“As a result, we will be expanding this program across the country and inviting women everywhere to join us as we celebrate this iconic superheroine in our theatres.”
Let’s be clear: for far too long, women who want to watch big, splashy, summer blockbusters of the comic book variety have had to endure seeing female characters relegated to sex objects, supporting roles or both. Of the 30 or so superhero and comic book films that have hit cinemas since 2008, not a single one has been carried by a female lead. As Beth Elderkin at Gizmodo points out, any little girl born after 2005 has likely never seen a woman star in her own comic book film.
That’s now changing, with the release of Wonder Woman and the upcoming Captain Marvel starring Brie Larson. Whether you like these movies or not (and early reviews of Wonder Woman have been encouragingly positive) it’s undeniable that they’re majorly important. Is it too much to ask that women be allowed to relish in that knowledge, surrounded by other enthusiastic women, for just one night?
Don’t answer that.
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It’s also worth pointing out to any men’s rights types who might be reading this (hello, by the way! How did you end up here?) that there is a big, big difference between men-only institutions and women-only events. As with almost everything in the world ever, it’s all about context. Throughout history, male-only spaces have functioned primarily to exclude women from power: think religious organisations, governments, academic institutions and business clubs. In being denied access to these organisations and the economic and societal power that they transfer, women’s lives were being affected. This kind of exclusion is harmful, in a profoundly serious way.
Women-only spaces, in contrast, tend to be set up for one of three reasons. The first is that it would actually be dangerous for women if men were allowed in (see: women’s refuges). The second is that men still tend to dominate certain environments, to the extent that women feel like they would benefit from a space away from that in order to communicate and collaborate effectively (see: women’s-only work spaces).
The third is that sometimes, women just want a chance to celebrate being a woman, with other women. A handful of women’s-only film screenings of Wonder Woman aren’t seriously hurting men – and if those men are so desperate to see the film, they can easily do so another time. They can go and see it multiple times if they like, with all their male buddies. (In fact, that would be great, as it would prove to studio bosses that audiences actually want to watch films with a female lead.)
Ultimately, we’ll leave you with this Facebook comment from a wise man named Geoff, who knows what’s up.
Images: Rex Features