|Via PinkRayGun in a topical article.|
And sometimes, if you have Amazon Prime and have run out of Tudors to watch, you do some catching up. Which is what Husband and I have been doing lately. We've started Buffy, and there will almost certainly be Buffy posts in the future. WELCOME TO THE NINETIES. And we've been watching The X-Files.
I didn't know much about The X-Files coming into it. I knew it was sort of about aliens but mostly not. I knew there was a movie that hadn't made any sense to me when I watched it and therefore I immediately brain-blanked it. I knew it had David Duchovny (+50 Likeability Points) in it as some kind of misunderstood genius or something. And I knew there was some chick named Scully in it who was, like, always doubting David Duchovny and also she had red hair. That was all I'd gathered from cultural osmosis.
What I didn't expect was how much I would love Dana Scully. I LOVE DANA SCULLY SO MUCH. I love her because she's smart and logical and reasonable. I love her because she's an FBI agent and a doctor and a coroner and a lecturer and gods know what else, but not in that "I'm 19 years old and a nuclear physicist, tee hee" kind of way. She exudes hard work and determination and "I worked hard to get to where I am today, fuck-you-very-much". I also love Dana Scully because other women exist when she's on the screen; when she needs lab results or whatever, it's usually a Bechdel passing moment with her talking to The Only Other Woman In The Episode. They exist only when Scully is around!
I spent all of Season One completely convinced that Dana Scully was actually the stealth protagonist of the show and that Fox Mulder was a self-entitled prat who is passive-aggressively rude to everyone. (David Duchovny has +50 Likeability Points. Fox Mulder squandered those points in record time.) But now we're into Season Two and it's like the writers are all YO I HEARD YOU LIKE DANA SCULLY BEST because now Fox is perfect all the time at All The Things and Dana exists in order to be sexually victimized and sexually threatened and to say stupid shit about "woman's intuition" and to freak out because ZOMG DEAD BODIES (because CORONERS FEAR DEAD BODIES) and to collapse weeping quiet-but-grateful tears into Fox's arms at the ends of episodes, immediately after Fox saves her from her sexual victimization.
|Via MemeGenerator and KnowYourMeme|
I can't tell if the writers genuinely wanted to take Scully down a notch or if they thought making her vulnerable and Saved By Fox would make us somehow like Fox more (instead of liking the writers less). Either way, I'd say "oh, fuck me!" but the writers would probably take that as an invitation.
The sad thing is, much as I hate the 'latest' (said with the utmost irony) YO I HEARD YOU LIKE DANA SCULLY BEST character derail, it's unfortunately probably kind of accurate for someone like Dana to be a target of sexual violence. She's amazingly strong, which means that Patriarchy that creates writers devoted to taking women like her down a notch also creates men devoted to taking her down a notch. And as much as I hate-hate-hate the show's framing of "Dana is targeted because she's important to Mulder" (because for fuck's sake, way to minimize the contributions of one-half of the X-Files team, and could you be any more subtle about the Fridge'ing?), this is probably how some real men in the real world think: if you want to get to a man, you get to his woman! (Ugh.) After all, these writers aren't writing in a vacuum.
So the sexualized violence against Dana Scully, while utterly contemptuous to me as a reused and smelly plot device, is very possibly accurate in all its gut-wrenching awfulness. And as much as I'd really like Dana Scully, Fictional Character, to let it roll off of her like water off a duck and maybe just maybe be allowed to rescue herself for once instead of YOU WILL LIKE HIM DAMMIT THE WRITERS HAVE SPOKEN Fox Mulder always bursting in magically at the last second to save her, maybe it is realistic that a real woman in the real world isn't going to be a gun-toting super woman who is never affected by her numerous kidnappings, near-rapes, and being sexually menaced by ghosts, aliens, and serial killers.
All that would probably get to me after awhile, anyway.
And this is... a thing. It's a thing I don't know what to do with. Because there are women who manage to get past all the shit, and there are women who don't, and there are women who live in the in-between like Dana -- able to cope one
If there's a platitude that I hate -- and to be honest, I hate most of them, but this one most of all -- it's "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger". I hate it because it's not even remotely true. People with chronic illnesses and disabilities know just how not true that inane saying is; we live with things that make us weaker and weaker everyday, and yet are generally unlikely to be our direct cause of death. And survivors of kidnapping and rape and sexual violence -- people who have survived some of the things that Dana Scully has had to survive so far -- they frequently live with experiences that neither killed them nor made them stronger.
Sometimes it makes you weaker. And sometimes that makes you sad and lonely and vulnerable. And other times that makes you pissed off and angry and contemptuous. And sometimes it just makes you really tired of all the shit.
When you're Dana Scully, you get out of bed every morning knowing that you're not safe. You could be spirited away against your will, and you would be powerless to prevent it. You could be hurt in terrifying ways. You could be targeted not because of anything you've done, but simply who you are: because you're a woman, because you're non-traditional, because you're an acceptable target in order to hurt others. When you're Dana Scully, you're a potential hate crime victim -- someone who is targeted based on personal characteristics you cannot change in order to terrorize other members of the same group.
When you're Dana Scully, you go to work with people who do not have to worry about these things, who have never experienced them, who cannot understand what it's like to be you. Yes, Fox Mulder has been kidnapped once or twice. But Fox's kidnappings are fundamentally less depersonifying (he is kidnapped for what he knows, not because he's an attractive member of a specific gender) and less intimate (he is threatened with death; Scully is threatened with worse) than the kidnappings perpetrated on Scully. And for all his pseudo-sensitive "tell me how you're feeling, BARE YOUR SOUL TO ME RIGHT NOW DAMMIT" attempts at understanding what Scully has been through, ultimately he cannot. I don't think you can really understand what it's like to be a constant Potential Rape Victim every moment of every day unless you've experienced that for yourself.
When you're Dana Scully, you have moments when you can keep things together and moments when you can't. And those latter moments can be so fucking frustrating. Because even with the kindest, gentlest, not-Fox-Mulderiest partner or friend or spouse there to help you through and reassure you that no, you're not weak for having a rough day, that doesn't automatically stop the frustration-rage-anger-sadness that can come with the realization that being a survivor is a lifelong job that you can't get away from. You don't get a vacation from being a survivor. You don't get forewarning before you're triggered or even just before you remember something about your experience in a moment when you don't want to remember something about that experience.
(Gods, how I identified with Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood when she confesses that after the first consensual sexual encounter of her life, she's frustrated to find that her mind is on her childhood molestation. Because, yeah, sometimes in the afterglow of Good Sex, your mind goes to That One Horrible Awful Time and you cannot stop your mind when it does this. Fuck you, mind. Ugh.)
When you're Dana Scully, there are times when you don't feel safe answering the question "whatcha thinking about?" because you're thinking about things that most people won't feel comfortable discussing. You're thinking about things that maybe you don't want to be discussing. But they're things that are part of your history, part of your past, part of you. When you are Dana Scully, there are times -- sometimes very long stretches of time -- where you feel that your closest friends and family genuinely do not and cannot understand what you've been through. And then you feel guilty for being hurt and angry about that, because really, do you want your friends and family to understand? Wouldn't that traumatize them, too? Yes, it would. But no, that doesn't make you bad for wanting them to understand regardless. It makes you a person.
As much as I hate the writers for repeated reaching for Dana any time they need to up the ante with WOMAN BEING SEXUALLY THREATENED! and then using Dana's repeated trauma as an excuse to make her breakdown so that Mulder can save the day because YO I HEARD YOU LIKE DANA SCULLY BEST, it's worth pointing out that when you're Dana Scully, fragility and breakdowns may genuinely be a part of your daily routine. What doesn't kill you can sometimes make you weaker in unexpected and deeply hurtful ways. I wish it weren't so, but it happens to the best of us. When you're Dana Scully, bravery may not be "wielding a gun" so much as it is "getting out of bed that day". And sometimes you can't even do the latter. And while that's not "okay" in a "yay, happy rainbow land" way, it is "okay" in a "normal and not your fault" way.
When you're Dana Scully, you've been hurt by the Patriarchy in so many ways. When you're Dana Scully, these things are true -- whether the surrounding narrative of your life is willing to acknowledge them or not.
- Getting up in the morning can be an act of bravery.
- Taking time out to collect yourself can be an act of healing.
- Being triggered does not make you weak; it makes you a survivor.
- Feeling angry with cultures that tolerate and encourage violence can be an act of rebellion.
- Pointing out that your experiences are not intuitively understood can be an act of assertion.
- Maintaining your right to name the harm done to you can be an act of defiance.
- Setting your boundaries and maintaining them can be an act of protection.
When you're Dana Scully, there will be people in your life who do not understand you nor do they understand what you've gone through. Sometimes these people will be drains on your spoon supply, even when they mean well. They won't understand why your memories of sexual violence follow you around at inopportune times, or why you can't "just get past it". They might inappropriately look forward to your trigger time, so that you can be weak and they can be strong or they might make your trigger times worse by forgetting about your experiences or minimizing them as "not that bad" or "such a long time ago". These people might even be well-meaning, usually-non-toxic people who simply cannot-do not-will not ever truly understand.
When you're Dana Scully, life can sometimes feel lonely like that.
But there is a community here who understands what you have been through. Possibly not in the same way -- all our experiences are in some way unique -- but we do understand the loneliness of carrying around this shit for the rest of your life. There are survivors here, people who recognize that sexual violence doesn't always end when the heroes kick down the door and cuff the bad guy or, more frequently in real life, when the survivor picks themselves up the next morning and walks out the door on their own two legs because the heroes didn't arrive at all in our narratives.
I'm a part of that community. I am a Dana Scully.