To the Men Taking Up Space They Don’t Deserve

guy throwing up hands

Last Saturday I went to see The Revenant at a local theater. I went with three houseguests visiting from Arizona, my husband, and a girl friend. Overall, I loved the cinematography. I really liked Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy’s performances, but I hated the one-dimensional depiction of Natives, the lack of women, and the rape scene, but this post isn’t about The Revenant. This post is about the way privileged white men take up too much damn space, all of the damn time.

During our group movie date there was an older man, I’d guess around forty-five to fifty, sitting with a female mate. The guy, who I’m gonna call Ken, decided it was appropriate to talk throughout the entire movie. Every five to ten minutes, everyone within earshot got to hear what Ken thought about the movie.

At around two hours in, I’d had enough, and I turned in my seat and said, “Will you please stop talking? I’d really appreciate it.” Ken’s response was a bewildered, deer-in-the-headlights, frantic stare. His beady little eyes tripled in size as if to say, “How fucking dare you ask me to stop giving commentary?! I should be able to talk to my companion without even so much as turning my head to whisper.” Real-talk, dude was talking to the movie screen. At least whisper it in your friend’s ear, man!

Ken blatantly ignored my polite request and talked a bunch more throughout the rest of the movie. I worried about what was going to happen when the credits rolled and the lights went up, but I could not have predicted his audacity. Ken walked up to me while I was seated, stooped down and asked, “Is it okay if I talk now?” I explained that it was fine to talk after, BECAUSE THE MOVIE WAS OVER AND WE HAVE A SOCIAL CONTRACT WHERE WE DON’T TALK DURING MOVIES.

“Thanks for letting me know when I can talk,” is all he could say as he chuckled and walked away.

I walked out with my friends, and we chatted, all of us completely dumbfounded by this stranger’s inability to understand basic movie etiquette. We joked about Ken’s seriously shitty luck, because he just picked a fight with six people who practice BJJ and Muay Thai (although none of us would’ve actually tried to fight Ken, because we’re athletes, not ingrates). We went home and that was that. But it’s a couple days later, and I’m still irritated.

I’m not irritated because The Revenant was ruined for me, I’m irritated because I’m so goddamn sick of men who command space they don’t deserve.

Women, especially women of color and LGBTQ women, can’t walk down the street, sit on a bus, or enjoy a movie without constant reminders that we are not entitled to safety or comfort. While this may seem like a “first-world” feminist problem, it’s more than that, because microaggressions lead to large-scale aggression. Talking over a woman in the movies leads to talking over women in courtrooms. It leads to women not having a voice in politics, the workplace, and interpersonal relationships. Catcalling quickly escalates to physical violence if the victim doesn’t respond according to the perpetrator’s expectations, and on, and on.

I paid $20 for a movie to enjoy a piece of pop culture. I didn’t pay for Ken’s commentary. I mean, really, man?! All the screen time, in all of filmdom, isn’t enough for you white guys? You need to talk DURING the movie as an audience-member too?!) I politely “confronted” him, but not before I asked myself, “Does he have a gun? Is he going to try to hurt me and my loved ones?” The truth is, I sat for a solid two hours and didn’t say anything because I was scared shitless that the situation would escalate. In the end, I said something. I said something because I’m sick, and I am fucking tired. I am tired of being followed into bars by men who can’t take “no” for an answer. I’m sick of being talked down to by men who haven’t earned their position of authority. And I am overwhelmingly exhausted by assholes who can’t bear the thought  that maybe, for just a moment, it’s not their turn to talk.

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