The concept of a “Girl’s Night Out” is nothing new. People have always enjoyed the company of different groups of friends and different social circles. The idea that somebody would want to devote some time specifically to those individual or groups of friends is a basic tenant of Human behavior.
And yet, somehow, this age-old practice has become acutely controversial: coming under fire by so-called “Men’s Rights Activists” and their supporters as an inherently sexist act. They claim that it is not a venue by which women can exercise their social autonomy, but a hypocritical double-standard that discriminates against men: not a “Ladies Night” at a club, but an elementary school clubhouse with a sign reading “no boys aloud.”
This latest non-troversy began as innocently as they ever do. The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas decided to host a fun, women-only screening of DC’s upcoming Wonder Woman to celebrate comics’ most iconic heroine finally getting her own solo movie. They playfully announced the event last week by way of a tongue-and-cheek declaration:
“Apologies, Gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’ for one special night at the Alamo Ritz. And when we say ‘People Who Identify As Women Only,’ we mean it. Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”
This should have been the end of it. A small crowd of women buy tickets for a private screening of the latest blockbuster. A few men roll their eyes — “women, am I right?” — and laugh it off. Everybody moves on and has a good time.
And yet, it wasn’t. Angry men — slighted at the mere idea that there was an activity that they weren’t invited to — stormed social media in apparent outrage. They immediately drew comparisons to hypothetical “men only” screenings. Many called for boycotts of the theater and the movie. One especially detestable detractor went so far as to buy tickets for the screening online and dared theater employees to refuse to seat him: as if a single screening of a single movie in a single theater in a single city was a direct affront to him personally.
The Alamo Drafthouse was quick to point out that this screening was no different than any number of similar ones they have hosted in the past: private screenings intended only for select patrons. It’s common for movie theaters to set aside certain auditoriums for special groups — such as veterans or children’s groups — and they never draw this much attention.
Once, when I worked at a movie theater in Springfield, Illinois, an entire auditorium was set aside for State Senators. Nobody pitched a fit. I guess it’s different when men are told to step aside for the ladies, though.
To their credit, the Alamo Drafthouse, by way of Creative Manager Morgan Hendrix, has responded to the controversy, stating that:
“We are very excited to present select, women-only Wonder Woman screenings at Alamo Drafthouse. That providing an experience where women truly reign supreme has incurred the wrath of trolls only serves to deepen our belief that we’re doing something right. As a result, we will be expanding this program across the country and inviting women everywhere to join us as we celebrate this iconic superheroine in our theaters.”
While this was certainly not the Austin theater’s intention, their attempt at a fun, thematically appropriate screening of both a feminist icon and the resident of a canonically women-only society has become a statement against the kind of chauvinist bullying that its mere existence has attracted. It has become a battleground not for so-called calls for “equality,” but for women to exercise the kind of social autonomy that they have had to fight for generations to achieve.
And I, for one, and with the ladies.