At some point, I lost the ability to be frightened by horror movies. I still enjoy them — in fact, they’re some of my favorite types of movies — but they don’t scare me at all. It is not unusual for me to watch a horror movie alone in my house in bed at midnight, turn it off, roll over and go right to sleep. Or it wasn’t, before I had a baby; now I would never be up at midnight.
I don’t really know when I stopped being afraid of horror movies, but I think it’s in part because fear-based entertainment feels political and antifeminist to me and it mostly makes me angry, which takes me out of being frightened. Let me explain.
I am a single woman. I have always been a single woman. I really enjoy being a single woman, I love living alone, I love traveling alone, I love running alone in the countryside, earbuds in. I very rarely feel afraid, because by all objective measures, I am one of the safest people on the planet, and in fact, one of the safest individuals who has ever lived in all of recorded human history. I do feel very, very afraid every time I get in a car, but that’s another post.
And yet, all of society is hell-bent on trying to make women like me feel deeply, constantly imperiled and afraid, and annoyingly, they very often succeed! Any number of privileged white women are constantly terrified of things that will never happen to them; they gather in small groups and bond by stoking each other’s fear, telling each other horror stories about how vulnerable they are, how vulnerable all women are, every minute, we’re all seconds away from being raped, murdered, dismembered in the streets.
Wealthy white women in upperclass American neighborhoods — the safest population of people who have ever existed — are genuinely afraid to spend a night in their own houses alone without their husbands.
Who does all this pointless dependency serve? Certainly not women. Certainly not populations who really are in physical danger all the time. Certainly not the 20 Americans on average who are being physically abused by their intimate partner at any given minute on any given day.
If we’re all busy being scared of stranger danger that doesn’t exist, we very helpfully continue to ignore the many everyday very socially well-integrated and swell guys who regularly beat the shit out of their own families, rape their girlfriends, molest the neighbor kid, murder their wives. We can continue to be surprised that this is what violence looks like despite the fact that this is and has always been what violence looks like, because we expect it to look like a creepy stranger slowly unlocking the window in the night. This works great for abusive people! No matter how often they show themselves, we still fail to see them!
If white women with resources are so concerned about their own possible peril, they’re not going to go out and start upending social systems that are working very well for abusive people. They aren’t going to use their secure position to effect change, because they don’t think they are secure; they think they are unstable.
And you’re going to be a lot more likely to fall prey to an abusive man if you think you are more vulnerable alone than you are with him. Ironically, it’s the opposite. I saw this happen with a friend of mine in college — she had a really scary experience where a stranger followed her in his truck when she was going home at 2:00am. Her abusive boyfriend then leveraged her fear from that experience to further control her at all times — if she failed to tell him where she was going or call him exactly when she got home, he’d rail at her that he was just trying to take care of her; if he didn’t hear from her, how did he know she wasn’t raped and murdered by someone like that guy in the truck? She was trapped in that relationship for over two years.
Anyway, when I’m watching a horror movie, I inevitably start thinking about all this, and it takes me right out of it. I don’t really understand how you can be afraid of ghosts when you live in a patriarchy.