The Deep Satisfaction of a Good Fight

Guest Post by No One Is Forgotten Assistant Director Emily Welty

I teach peace and justice studies and much of my professional life is spent teaching people how to reduce violence and suffering. I don’t watch violent movies or play video games of any kind. I try to protect my psyche from taking in almost any kind of violence that is simulated. So perhaps I am the last person you might expect to be sitting in a rehearsal space on a Friday afternoon feeling so deeply satisfied to be watching two women fight.  

Not bicker.

Not trade passive aggressive barbs.

Physically fight.

I’m trying to understand why I find this so gratifying. Should I raise this concern with my close friends that it’s possible I have some latent violent tendencies that are suddenly emerging after decades of pacifism? Is there someone in my life that I’m actually longing to headbutt?

Or is it the patriarchy?

I think I’ve been surrounded by images of men’s violence – either redemptive or cruel – for as long as I’ve been able to consume images. To the degree that women have been involved, they have mostly been victims or much more rarely, they’ve been swapped in and enacted violence against men. Seeing two women engage in violence feels like a strike back against the patriarchy, against the assumption that female bodies will always be victims rather than aggressors. The satisfaction that I feel is grounded in a world in which my body can be seen as a threat, not only a target.

After spending a long week in rehearsals getting to know both the characters and the actors, seeing the violence, even after watching the careful gesture by gesture mapping of the fight scenes, made tears spring to my eyes. That’s a testament to the warmth and humanity that these two actors have brought to their characters.

And the end of the day, I think my deep aversion to violence also remains intact and it’s not so much that I’m yearning to slap a friend as that I’m longing to smash the patriarchy.

winter miller