Even if you have no intention of seeing #Suicide Squad, you've probably seen trailers or pictures from it, which means that you've seen Margot Robbie in all her #harley quinn glory. You've seen the booty shorts and the cropped top and the fishnets. You've heard her talk in a kind of baby girl voice, with the cute little smirks and giggles, as well as seen her hit a baseball bat through a window. She's badass. She's sexy. It's no wonder that so many women dressed up as her for Comic Con this year.
Except that she's not really any of those things. She's an #abuse victim that cannot break away from her abuser. The reviews for Suicide Squad are in and they're bad, but that's not the part I care about. I care about the fact that I kept reading that her story was romanticized, that people were actually seeing her and the Joker as a love story. I kept reading comments online that said that the Joker really loved her and that he just didn't know how to show it. I came across a Tumblr post with the words, "find a girl who can do both," underneath a picture of Margot in a sweet dress and another of her as Harley with her tongue out and a bat over her shoulder. Women want to be Harley. Men want to sleep with her.
If David Ayer felt comfortable sexualizing Harley Quinn, that's fine, I guess, but the movie had a duty to show more about the character. I'm disappointed with what I've heard about it so far, but I'll remain hopeful that Ayer does a better job than he's given credit for.
It's the reception for her character that I find most disturbing. No women should be dressing up as her character and men should not be so sexualizing a woman who's been broken and who desperately needs help. She's not just a character. She's so many other women out there, so many real people that need help. We need to be using her character as a way to start the conversation on abuse and take it more seriously.
There's more to abuse than physical
Nearly one-third of women report having experienced been sexually or physically abused by their husband or boyfriend. And yes, this does also happen to men, but women are five to eight times more likely to be victimized by a domestic partner. And it starts young. One in five female high school students reported being physically or sexually abused by their partner and forty percent of girls, aged just 14 to 17, said that they know someone who has been beaten by her boyfriend.
Obviously, Harley has been physically abused, but it's the emotional abuse that depleted her sanity. Emotional abuse is much less likely to be reported, but way more likely to actually occur. When you're in it, it's harder to know you're being abused. When you're hit, you know it's abuse, but how do you know when someone is psychologically hurting you?
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a checklist, although it should be noted that there are many more ways to be abused by your partner. They talk about the partner humiliating the victim, constantly making them feel guilty, preventing them from seeing friends or family, controlling what they can and can't do, undermining their confidence, and convincing them that they're crazy.
48.4 percent of women have experienced at least one of these psychologically abusive actions from their partner. And also here's a reminder that physical and psychological abuse go hand in hand: 95 percent of physical abuse victims also have experienced psychological abuse.
It's not just about getting a woman out of an abusive situation. She needs to get away from her partner, but we have to remember that it does not just stop there. Abuse victims are likely to experience depression, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts, long after they get away from their partner. In a way, I suppose Harley Quinn is more than just a character. She's thousands of women around the country. And we need to be telling their stories.