Alamo Drafthouse, a popular Austin-based movie theater chain known for its strict no talking and no texting policy, has caused quite a stir with its latest event announcement: It'll host at least a handful of women-only screenings of the upcoming superhero movie Wonder Woman.
I wish I could say I was surprised that the announcement was like a siren call for sexists, but, well, I've used the internet. We've seen these sorts of things play out before.
Not long after the first screening was announced, social media was abuzz. Many cried sexism. Some suggested suing Alamo Drafthouse for discrimination. Others asked for men-only screenings of upcoming movies like Thor: Ragnarok, which stars a male lead. Many are calling it a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Some people took the approach of arguing that they were men who wanted to see Wonder Woman with their wives, daughters, sisters or other women. One man asked, "So if I arrive with my wife and our four sons, will you turn 5 of us away because of our gender?" (The answer, of course, is yes. That's kind of the point.)
It's a bad argument to make because these few women-only screenings of the movie are not the only screenings in existence. Not by a longshot. They're not even the only screenings at the Drafthouse. If you're a man who wants to see Wonder Woman there, nobody is stopping you. Just don't go to that particular screening at that particular time.
Of course, another thing happened shortly after the screening was announced: It sold out. The Drafthouse is adding more showings, and the event is expanding beyond Austin and into Dallas. Proceeds from the Dallas screenings will go to the Genesis Women's Shelter. They will take place on June 7 at the Cedars and Richardson Drafthouse locations, and tickets are on sale now.
It's not like screening gimmicks are unusual for Alamo Drafthouse. This weekend they have a showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales for which attendees are required to be dressed as a pirate. They have family-focused screenings of movies with all-you-can-eat cereal. They host singalongs. They've hosted screenings exclusively for veterans and active military. A women-only screening of Wonder Woman makes perfect sense for them.
For the record, sure, I could see a world in which the Drafthouse hosted a men-only screening of... I dunno, First Blood? Tombstone? There's probably a way to pitch that event without being totally horrible about it.
Admittedly, "No boys allowed" feels like a dated policy on paper. When we're trying to break down unnecessary gender barriers, I understand the sentiment that a women-only movie screening just puts another barrier up. Why, indeed, should we separate ourselves when the goal is to come together and be more inclusive?
Some critics of the event have pointed out that "white people only" screening could cause serious issues and would probably be a bad idea. But the issues aren't one-to-one.
The problem is that men complaining about this event haven't had to live a life as a female comic book fan. And to be fair, I haven't, either.
You don't have to look very hard to find stories of women in geek culture being harassed or bullied for no reason other than their gender. Sometimes that comes in the form of sexual harassment. Other times it's the need to answer to constant accusations of being a "fake geek girl" who just wants wants attention and doesn't actually care about the material.
This is a problem I've never had to deal with as a male walking the floor of a comic book convention, yet I've watched it happen to women who are more knowledgeable about comics than I am.
On May 24, a woman tweeted a picture of herself in a Wonder Woman outfit asking if she should go to the movie dressed up as the heroine, "even if I do end up getting teased." The tweet went viral and spawned many tweets of encouragement from people who were total strangers to her. But her anxiety is a real issue, and is it really so bad if Alamo Drafthouse wants to offer just a handful of movie screenings at which she might feel more comfortable?
Even in the social media comments about these screenings, these sexist ideas are far too common.
"I really do not see why you'd have a 'Woman's Only' for Wonder Woman," said Ray Wallman on Facebook. "50 Shades of Grey. Yes. Magic Mike. Yes. A Twilight movie marathon. ABSOLUTELY!"
"I don't know any women who read comic books. They know nothing about wonder woman. You ignored a huge fan following," @jay_babyboi said on Twitter, again implying that the Drafthouse would only be showing the movie to women.
Of course, those were the tame comments. The ones we can print here.
For their part, the Drafthouse social media employees are handling the controversy especially well. One of the more humorous responses they've given to complaints on their Facebook page says, "We've never done showings where you had to be a man to get in, but we did show the Entourage movie a few years ago."
In an ideal world, sure, there would be no need for a women-only screening of Wonder Woman, because we would all live in perfect harmony and sexism wouldn't exist. But this is not the hill to die on, fellow men. If you want to see Wonder Woman, you have plenty of chances. If you want to act like a sexist, please do it somewhere else. Far away from here.