There were several places in the new Black Widow movie where the director intended to shock us. There’s a missile strike out of nowhere and a main heroic character attempting to murder a child. However, the moment that shocked me the most is the scene where Black Widow mocks a male character for failing to hit her hard enough and, partly to show him how it’s done, breaks the living hell out of her own nose.
At first, I couldn’t explain why this surprised me so much. Even more fundamentally, I couldn’t understand why the feeling immediately following on shock was a sense that I could really, honestly relate to the protagonist. I felt that this female character experienced the world in ways I can directly and easily empathize with.
Thinking this over brought me to a blog post I read from a blogger called “Happiness Between Tails.” According to the blog, the Girl Scouts now accept transgender girls. While I could make something up and present it as justice, progress, a breakdown in family values or whatever, I don’t think that’s productive. Instead, I suggest we can learn a great deal by examining the assumptions that go into the Girl Scouts being for girls but not boys, and the assumptions that go into accepting transgender girls and lesbian girls into the Girl Scouts.
The reasons boys in 2021 are not allowed in the Girl Scouts seem to center around two ideas. First, and obvious, is the possibility that the boys and girls will have sex if they are kept together. This is unacceptable for reasons of girlish purity. Second, and a little less obvious, is the idea that boys are too rough and tough and will push the girls to the background of any activities they do together. Boys are seen as too violent, too assertive, too competitive and too active for the females to endure. This is unacceptable for reasons of girlish fragility.
You probably don’t know what I mean by this talk of sacred purity so let me elucidate. When I used to work at casinos, as a teenager into my early twenties, I dealt with a lot of drunk older women who wanted to party. These ladies’ fingers pretty commonly found their ways inside the elastic of my underwear or tickled along the crease between my butt and thigh. The last time I dealt with the American police, a female officer rubbed her taser between my butt cheeks and whispered into my ear about how much fun she’d have “fucking you up.” Throw in a selection of testicle cuppings and butt slaps and you’ve got a pretty good idea of my career in unwanted sexual advances. I didn’t consent to any of this and, according to the moral trends of 2021 and assuming that gender roles are purely social constructs, I should have felt defiled and objectified etc.
But I didn’t and I don’t. The attention of the drunk ladies with the wandering fingers was kind of flattering and they certainly weren’t going to force me to do anything I didn’t want. The female officer made me angrier than I’ve ever been, but that had nothing to do with the sanctity of my butt and everything to do with the fact that her badge and her gender ensured I couldn’t deliver the beating such disrespect normally warrants. Butt slaps and testicle cupping are kind of exciting in a trashy sort of way. I have never once felt violated or defiled and I think that’s for one simple reason – I am the pollution. As the inherently polluted and active male, there was nothing the inherently pure and passive females could do but ennoble me in the eyes of society at large. At least this explains how I feel and felt, along with explaining why society holds male virgins – those who cannot find a female to purify their innate corruption – in such low regard.
The purity logic holds if we flip the roles as well. If I stick my fingers down the panties of female strangers, rub an unwanted taser between female butt cheeks or cup a stranger’s labia I will, deservedly, go to prison. I, as the inherently polluted and active male, cannot help but denigrate the vessel-of-purity female passivity with these unsanctioned advances. Consider, for example, the meme below.
I got this meme from a fellow writer and it immediately stimulated my curiosity. In it we see how 1990’s style girl-power has receded and morphed into a Victorian conception of the sexes here in 2021. Boys are dangerous walking fountains of contamination that must be trained and cleansed in order to contain their inherent pollution. Girls are vessels of sacred purity and passivity that deserve protection from the dirty and active male world because, if they aren’t, they will surely fall prey to the immensely more powerful, vile ways of boys and men. Which brings us to the next question, how have people in the past handled the dirty males and pure females construction?
Traditionally, there are two ways inherently corrupted males become ritually clean enough to enter the presence of a sacred female. The first is to invite a magician to perform an elaborate ritual, invoking the gods and lawyers, to create a contract both spiritual and legal upon the completion of which the couple can retire to a nearby bedroom and get to the business of knocking boots. We typically call this a marriage and the component parts I list – magicians, rituals, contracts and the ritual protection of the female’s purity – can be found in cultures as diverse as ancient Sumer, the Roman Republic, Han Dynasty China, Vedic India and modern Saudi Arabia.
The second common path to purification for a male was castration. Eunuchs appeared in almost all civilizations including, off the top of my head, bronze age Mesopotamia, medieval Europe, the Persia of Cyrus, China until the 19th century, Korea until the 19th century, the Byzantine Empire for its entire existence, the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the “transgender” hijra tradition of South Asia. The calculus in these instances seems relatively straightforward. The penis is the root of corruption and thus, once you’ve sliced up a male, he ceases to be a threat against the purity of the court ladies.
At first glance, the marriage and eunuch models seem to hold for the Girl Scouts. By separating out the boys, the sacred, fragile girls are preserved in a state of purity. Lesbian girls are also no threat to this because they lack the root of corruption – a dick – and thus operate similar to the eunuchs of old.
But transgender girls, how do we explain that? While it’s true that some transgender folks remove their male equipment, not all of them do and, certainly, very few adolescent or pre-pubescent “transsexuals” – if it’s even possible to know one’s gender identity at 13 – are legally permitted to remove or invert their corrupting penises. The only answer I can think of is that the rituals of transgendered becoming – whatever the Girl Scouts see those as being – are believed to ritually cleanse the corruption of maleness and render the newly minted girls safe for communion with the traditional females.
The transsexuals, for whatever reason, are seen as retiring from the violence and competition of male life. They are seen, for whatever reason, as entering the Victorian lady’s sphere of safe purity. They are being interpreted, for whatever reason, as eunuchs in spite of the fact that almost none of them have been castrated. They are, in a way, being seen as the polar opposites of Black Widow.
Black Widow not only accepts pain and violence, she invites it. She never expects to be treated with deference or shielded from dirty, dangerous and disgusting work. In addition to the previously mentioned broken nose, she intentionally submits to beatings, she allows herself to be objectified as a honeypot trap and to be dangled over open pits. Her motto in the Black Widow film is “your pain only makes you stronger.” She is anti-fragile in exactly the ways the Victorian ladies and the Mattress Girl-types aren’t. She is profaned and contaminated – at least a part of her femininity literally removed – in ways that run the eunuch narrative exactly backwards. There is no purity, there is no ritual protection from the evil world in Black Widow’s story. It’s okay to hit her, to put her in danger, to blame her when when she becomes a victim. She plays by rules that I, as a bearer of pollution myself, can relate to and, in doing so, makes me think the purity and corruption model of Victorian England and modern moral trends might not be eternal. She makes me think that, perhaps, she’d have been a better fit for the Boy Scouts.