If she’s a spy then fighting in that situation is a terrible idea, a spy wants to make as few waves as possible and do nothing to compromise their identity.
Consider these two questions when writing any action sequence both from an internal character perspective and from an outside view overlooking the whole scene (including background characters related to the drunk guy, drunk guys like that are rarely ever acting alone).
Then, should I?
The “can I” is fairly simple, can my character solve this problem with violence?
Yes, she has the training necessary to solve it that way, but the real question at the base of it is: should she? Should she solve the problem with violence? Remember, violence is not the only solution. More than that, a spy rarely uses violence unless they have to. It’s too messy, it draws too much attention, and will draw even more attention for a woman especially in an environment where she’s not supposed to have those skills than they will for a man. Spies need to keep their cover identity intact, and they need to keep the long game in mind. If she is a spy then her goal is to not stand out, to do nothing that will have this drunken idiot suspecting she was anything other than a random girl he met in some bar and do it in a way that will not attract the attention of whoever else is in that bar. She doesn’t just have to worry about drunk guy remembering her, she has to worry about his friends, about the random patrons in the bar (who could be reporting back to authority figures, who could be off-duty members of the police, who could report her to the police like the bartender, and the last thing she wants is any authority looking for her. This includes friendly authority. Spies are predominantly criminals, even on their own turf they’re sacrificial pawns without much of a safety net.)
In this situation, if she is a spy, she is acting in opposition and impeding her own goals by fighting.
Ask yourself, who is in the bar that supports the drunk guy? If two people get into a fight at a club what usually happens? The answer is fairly simple: lots of other people intervene. If she acts as the aggressor, then they are more likely to act in defense of the drunk guy making advances. So, instead of creating an easy exit solution, she stuck dealing with more people. They’re either asking her “hey are you okay?”, they’re trying to fight her, they’re trying to arrest her, etc. This is what I mean when I say that violence often creates more problems than it solves. There is a very specific environment that exists within the rules of social decorum, disrupting the environment means everyone is suddenly looking at you.
So what does the spy do? They deal with the situation. Their job description is manipulating people, that is what they do. They’re dealing with someone who is cognitively impaired. This is not a challenge. This is a ground ball. This is easy.
So, the guy is making advances and interfering with their ability to do their job. How do they get rid of him?
That’s the answer you expect because women are supposed to be charming. They’re supposed to be nice and sweet. A female spy can and should use society expectations for her gender to her advantage, on all levels and in all directions. Were she in a situation where she didn’t have to hurry, she could play to this guy’s ego, ply him with more drinks until he passed out, convince him to go into an ally or walk her home or whatever until she ditched him in a crowd. That’s the long way.
The quick and dirty way is to go the other direction by making herself unfuckable. Unlikeable. Gross. The trick is not to say, “I don’t want it” or provide resistance. It’s to make him not want it anymore. He’s here because he’s interested and tuned up on liquid courage, he will go away the minute he decides it’s a bad idea. It will draw almost no attention.
Talk about having fleas, itch the crotch, complain about rashes in unfortunate places, talk about having a pain in the jaw, a rotten tooth, the stories about last six guys she slept with, start crying about her ex-boyfriend/last lover (and not in a pitiful way), about the pigs, anything you can think of within reason or feels plausible.
Her goal is for him to look at her and say: disgusting.
He’s drunk, if done right, this will happen fairly short order. So when she makes an excuse to leave after talking about her seven cats (and how they maybe sleep in really unfortunate places), he’s more than happy to let her.
Writing spies is difficult for a lot of writers because it takes a fair amount of confidence. You need to be willing to let your character not be the center, for them to let other people believe nasty things about them that are untrue. For them to be overlooked. More importantly for them to use the people around them and those in their environment in order to achieve their goals.
A female spy is not someone constrained by the social rules, mores, and gender restrictions. Manipulating those rules to her advantage is the job description. From the best to the worst, everything is in her arsenal. The kind of behavior that makes a woman terrible like manipulating/scheming/using people and we are actively shamed for is the exact behavior she engages in. Unrepentantly.
All the things you’d never do in your regular life, which might seem disgusting, uncomfortable, or cruel are available. All usury is allowed. If she is a spy, then she is a manipulator. Let her use social expectations to her advantage. Let her manipulate.
Take the command of the situation.
The Drunk Guy is Your Patsy:
More importantly, your spy has now has an asset. Don’t think of the drunk guy as an impediment, Drunk Guy is a tool. He already has something he wants from her, he’s already impaired, she can use him however she wants. Shove him into any situation. He won’t remember anything when he wakes up in police custody in the morning.
Her job is social manipulation. This guy is a willing victim. Use him.
Trust me, you can get more places with two and less suspicion than you can with one. Especially when that one is probably going to puke up all over the place. People don’t want to be around that. They want to get out of the way. More trouble for them.
This is what spies do. They exploit that shit.
This guy is Christmas.
She can hide behind him, be the responsible caretaker while he’s falling all over himself, and he’ll be the one they remember. More than that, he wakes up in a hotel room he shouldn’t be in with people asking questions about, “where’s the laptop?” and all he can reply with is, “A girl???”
She escapes free and the police will be his problem now.
The other thing to remember is that this sequence where the guy backs the well-trained girl into a corner and she proceeds to beat his ass with zero consequences while everyone laughs is a cliche.
I mean that. More than that, it’s stupid. It’s what I call “faux feminism good feels”. Buffy falls into this category a lot. It doesn’t mean shit and relies on the basic idea that a girl beating up someone up is such a surprise that no one will believe it or the act of getting beat up by a girl is too embarrassing so they get away scot free.
It runs the gamut from big to small, but what it ends up being is female characters are transformed into bullies. Whether it’s Wonder Woman forcing a guy who insulted her to admit that he cross-dresses in her outfit in front of a crowd to Buffy shoving a bully into a vending machine (while emasculating Xander at the same time). The fantasy is “taking back the power”. A safe way for the asshole to get what’s coming to them.
At the end of the day, it’s a revenge scene. It’s public humiliation. A cheap way for a female character assert that she is a bad ass. One which assumes that she’s playing under “untrained woman” rules rather than “trained combatant that happens to be female” rules. Trained combatant actually supersedes normal female because a trained character has to consider use of force aka is the level of force they’re applying to the situation acceptable to the one they’re in. (Well, they don’t but if they don’t then there should be consequences.)
The more training someone has then the more responsibility they take for their actions. The more training someone has, the less likely they are to attempt to solve their problems with violence.
Feminism is about understanding that women and men are equals, we’re all people. We’re not better, we’re not worse. We’re all capable of the same awfulness. We carve out way past the bullshit social structures and politics to realize that it isn’t an absolute. However, we also get the quote from Truman Capote: “The problem with being outside the law is you no longer have it’s protection.”
If you choose to excise the gender politics and social constraints that come with being female then you are no longer protected by those same rules. If your female character is actively breaking the gender rules, then you cannot expect her to be protected by them and shouldn’t rely on that as justification in your narrative.
A true feminist narrative is not actually “girl power”. As a genre, it’s what happens to women when they reject societal norms and gender roles to go their own way. The lives they live and the consequences they face, the realities of their situations and their choices. Responsibility is taken. It’s not just men v. women, but also women v. women. The women who stand by and benefit from the social structure/gender politics, and those who don’t. Their stories. It’s an exploration of humanity. It’s humanizing.
The trick to making women real is not in wish fulfillment, it’s in rejecting the idea that any woman (especially white women) receives special status based on her gender.
Think about the situation from the perspective of the person in it, the considerations they have rather than thinking about it from the perspective of “my character is the protagonist”. Don’t assume main character standing will ever or should ever protect a character from consequences, just like expectations about their gender doesn’t.
They’re in a bar full of strangers that see them as two, fairly equal, people having a disagreement.
A Bar Full of Witnesses? Not a Great Place to Fight
The problem with bars is that people are already primed for violent altercations to occur. Not everyone is violent, but when people get drunk they can get argumentative, and that argumentative can often escalate into violence. This is both men and women, so there are no gender protections here. The people there are also ready to deal with it if the fights break out.
What I said above about people intervening? Yeah, it’s a great way to make a situation go from bad to worse. Doubly bad for a character trying to travel incognito. More than that, does she know who this guy is?
In the Frank Miller comic Sin City, in “The Big Fat Kill”, Dwight ends up in a scuffle with some drunks where they all end up dead. What was the problem? Cops. Jackie Boy was a cop, crooked cop but still a cop. All the trouble spirals out from there. Think you’re killing someone dumb but no, the drunk is a goddamn hero cop.
Even if she isn’t a spy and it’s just a fight, if she’s gotta don’t do it in the bar.
This is especially true if she isn’t a regular and the drunk is, where the joint is more likely filled with his friends and acquaintances willing to jump to his defense. More than that, we’ve got a bartender forced to maintain his business, his money, his tips. Odds are he’ll side with his regulars.
I guarantee you that to the average person crippling a guy for unwanted advances is actually over the line.
It’s a terrible Catch 22.
So, where does that leave her?
What Does It Get Me?
The quintessential question when planning out any scene. Weighing the benefits versus the cost. Is there a reason this scene needs to happen? Why do you want it to happen? What do you the author get out of it? What do your characters (yes, plural) get out of it? What function does it serve in the story? Why is it important?
What does it get you?
How does this act help you achieve your goals?
In no way is this me saying don’t do this. In fact, there’s a very specific reason to start a fight.
Create a Distraction
Starting a fight is a great distraction for all the reasons listed above. Your character gets everyone’s attention, they’re all looking at them, and in the distraction, they slip away to achieve whatever goal they came there for in the first place. It’s a huge clusterfuck.
That’s the point.
Which, in this case, deck the guy. Punch him in the throat or the nose, then kick him into the nearest table of drunken, angry, and argumentative idiots. (Basically drive the foot into the stomach and thrust forward rather than up into what works as a shove more than a kick, so he stumbles backwards. It’s called a push kick for a reason.)
There’s always a chance they’ll come back at her, but hey. If she doesn’t have time to bait and a distraction is needed then that’ll work.
Thus, drunken angry escalation commences.
It isn’t the best solution, it’ll also ensure she can never go back to that bar.
So, write wisely.
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