Some Tips for TV Ladies (and all others) Who Want to Go On Living

TW: violence against women, violent images, violent self defense suggestions

So you know that thing you do when you yell at the TV? And of course the TV doesn’t listen to you? Well here it is, on the epic fail of women on to defend themselves in TV land, my living room rant, brought to you. Welcome to my head.

Luther. Guilty of fail. every. single. time.

Season 1. Episode 4 (untitled as far as I can tell)

A woman unwittingly enters the home of serial killer. She has received a phone call from no less than the police telling her she is in danger. She locks herself in the bathroom (with a DEAD BODY, in case she was in doubt). The killer pounds a hole in the door, sticks his head in and laughs manically:

BBC One, image from Luther, season 1, episode 4

And she:

BBC One, image from Luther, season 1, episode 4

Cowers. Now don’t get me wrong. This is a SCARY situation. The adrenaline and the terror must be overwhelming and probably almost paralyzing. But her life is AT STAKE. And she is in a bathroom where there are many DANGEROUS POINTY THINGS. After the kitchen, she probably has chosen the best room in the house (if she couldn’t get out the front door that is) to lock herself into.

He is unable to reach her because the hole is too SMALL.

This is what she could use as a weapon based, on my own bathroom:

Toilet bowl brush — good for stabbing right down his throat (which would choke off his maniac laughter), into his eyes (if he can’t see, it’s harder for him to hit her) or into his windpipe (ditto, if he can’t breathe). Also he seemed pretty fastidious, as many TV serial killers are, so waving the business end in his face would probably freak him out. But in self defense it’s best to injure with the intent to neutralize the threat.

Deodorant spray — I imagine this would hurt a lot if sprayed in the eyes. Also is this stuff flammable like hairspray? I don’t have hairspray, but I totally remember making hairspray flamethrowers in high school (what, you didn’t do that?). Light it up. MAJOR DAMAGE.

Free-standing toilet paper holder, shelving, metal garbage can, hair dryer, etc. — all that adrenaline could be used to batter the shit out of this guy, and from a little bit of distance too

Scissors — by the time he’s close enough for her to use these, he’s awfully close. Still, last ditch effort because it’s her LIFE. Stab hands, eyes, throat, ears, etc.

Shower curtain — if it weren’t wrapped around the dead guy she could wrap it around the killer’s head and/or body to suffocate him/limit his movement (I don’t actually recommend this one, but it’s got to be better than nothing, right?)

Shoes — she’s wearing pointy heeled shoes. If she nailed one of those suckers in his eye or throat she’d do some serious damage.

Lastly, her fists, the palm of her hands, the edges of her hands, her feet, her head — everyone can use their own body as a weapon, not just the bad guys. TRY SOMETHING. IT  CAN’T BE WORSE THAN WHAT HE HAS PLANNED because he’s a sexual predator/serial killer!

His throat and eyes, two of the main areas you should concentrate on in self defense are exposed and vulnerable. She could gouge out his eyes. She could punch him in the throat with either a fist or the V of her hand between her thumb and the rest of her fingers. Any of these things could incapacitate him enough to prevent him from harming her. Since his head is so exposed, she could try hitting him in the temple. You can kill someone like that.

If he got in the bathroom, she should kick his knees to break/dislocate them, stomp on his feet to break the little bones there and aim for all the other vulnerable places already mentioned.

Instead, she waits for the police to come rescue her. And she’s lucky, they DO. But I was PISSED, because if this wasn’t the moment, with an immobilized killer with a door between them, for self defense, I don’t know what is. Another missed opportunity for a TV lady to act like a real person. Sigh.

In the search for some crumbs to make me feel better about watching TV, here are the things she did right:

She listened to her instincts/the phone call from the police and got as far away from him as possible
I think at least once she screamed for help. She knows the police are on the way, she should be giving them and anyone around a clue to where she is
She put a locked door between him and her. While a small room with no other exits is NOT the best plan, she might not have made it to the front door, so it might have been her best option.

Sooo, that was Luther. I could probably do this for every episode. Hell, episode 3 literally had a woman in a refrigerator. Instead, next time, I’ll do something a little lighter, less violent, physically or psychologically, maybe even a little family friendly: Once Upon A Time.

Serious part here. I am not a self defense expert. I have taken three different kinds of self defense classes as well as karate in my life, which I think were of differing usefulness. One of places I took self defense, the Center for Anti-Violence Education, teaches self defense to kids. One of the things they teach the kids is that EVERYONE has the skills to protect themselves, either by avoiding a dangerous situation, getting out of a dangerous situation or telling someone about a bad thing someone they are supposed to trust is doing to them.

Women can protect themselves, but we are socialized not to trust our instincts and into victimhood by the depiction of passivity in the media (among lots of other things). If all you see on TV and movies are either women as victims or women as superheroes (ala Buffy, which we can’t possibly imitate), why would you believe you could? If you never take a self defense class or a martial arts, why would you believe you could?

8 thoughts on “Some Tips for TV Ladies (and all others) Who Want to Go On Living

  1. Kate Elliott says:

    I was having flashbacks as I read that, and then I realized it is because I have seen the first season of Luther, which I watched all the way through purely because of Idris Elba and meanwhile the treatment of women in the show and the violence on women kept getting worse.

    So — YES. To all this.

  2. Nicole Lisa says:

    I hope those weren’t the bad kind of flashbacks. And, yeah, Idris Elba. me too.

  3. This relates strongly to thoughts I’ve been having a lot this year, and in particular what Dredd did RIGHT about women and violence ( I’m a pacifist myself, but why is it only the WOMEN in movies avoid violence at all costs. Not only does showing women only cowering in fear tell women they are helpless in the face of male rage, it also tells MEN that. And whilst it’s good for women to know how to fight back (and know that they CAN fight back) it’s also good to not have to be in that situation in the first place. Or even just the threat of violence from a man who believes the woman won’t fight back and a woman who isn’t sure if she can is enough to make her do what he wants to do.

    We need to see more violent women on telly. It’s important. And they shouldn’t all have to be built like Brienne in Game of Thrones. Some of the people most skilled in martial arts I have known have been petite women.

    • Nicole Lisa says:

      “why is it only the WOMEN in movies avoid violence at all costs. Not only does showing women only cowering in fear tell women they are helpless in the face of male rage, it also tells MEN that.”

      Yes! After I wrote this post I started thinking about that point exactly. It’s training in gender roles: women are passive and have no choice but to be passive because they are smaller/weaker than men; men are naturally violent and violence is the acceptable answer. It’s bad for both men and women to see and unconsciously assimilate those rules.

      Your statement “We need to see more violent women on telly” made me uncomfortable, even though it’s what I was saying in my post! Because it violates those gender roles.

      Though I do think we don’t need just violent women on TV, we need women who use their brains to avoid in the first place/escape danger and also men who do the same.

      • Oh, agreed. Smart women is good, too, But even as someone who thinks we’re all better off avoiding violence in most cases, the fact that men are presented as dangerous and women as not unnerves me. What I liked about Dredd was not simply that Mama was smart and violent, but that a woman with ostensibly superior morals was able to use Mama’s example of sexual violence as a way of fending off sexual violence directed at herself. Anderson doesn’t need to resort to biting off the dude’s penis to shake his idea that his strength gives him power over her in a sexual context, she just needs to remind him that women are as capable of sexual violence as men, and men are very vulnerable in some places. You only have to see how men react to stories of jilted lovers who take a knife to a gent in the night to see the effect. It’s not simply that it’s a terrible act; it’s that it seems wrong for a woman to take it. Women know how vulnerable and important a man’s penis is, how could she? And yet violence to a woman’s vagina, though rarely endorsed by decent men, is somehow not unexpected in the same way. It’s a part of the problem.

    • Nicole Lisa says:

      Interestingly, your review is the second in a short amount of time to reference Princess Leia as a strong and capable female character. I wish I could remember where I read the other one.

      • I’d been thinking about it since a friend had a Star Wars marathon for his birthday in the early part of the year. But since I posted that review I’ve seen a number of other people getting all up with the ‘Woo! Leia!’ – not that I think it’s inspired by the review, I hasten to add… more like there’s something in the water. A confluence of feminist cognition and re-alignment. Yours also isn’t the first post I’ve seen recently inviting us to reconsider the non-violent presentation of women – Stavvers wrote an interesting post on lines similar and different again: . I know you were highlighting self-defence rather than purely the act of violence, but I think it’s all a part of the same web. We see immoral acts of violence against women so frequently that it starts to seem normal. Part of giving women confidence to defend themselves lies in helping us to understand that it is not the fact that the WOMAN is violent that’s the problem, but the violence itself, and that in some cases violence in an appropriate response (for instance, in self-defence.

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