Baise-Moi // Maddison Stoff


Last time I watched Baise Moi, I remembered being struck by how much of the rape I had forgotten. There’s an irony to that. I can’t remember the first time I was sexually assaulted either. In fact, I was unaware of how many of those experiences I’d already had the first time that I watched the movie too.

I had a thing for banned films when I was younger. Part of it was pure teen rebellion: my parents were relatively strict about enforcing age ratings for media on me as a child, causing me to have a harder time relating to my peers. I grew to resent censorship because of that, and when I came of age, I used the internet to watch as many movies as I could that my government had claimed were not appropriate for distribution in Australia.

The other reason I did it was because it was impossible for me to feel a lot about movies back then. My autism, and my (then unknown,) gender dysphoria made it difficult for me to see myself in almost any character, and for that reason I struggled to relate to them. But for some reason, when I watched Baise Moi, I saw myself in both of the protagonists. They are women practically defined by anger: they exist as weapons levelled at the patriarchy, whose violence eventually finds them once the movie ends.

I didn’t know that people like me could be women then, which made it even weirder. I never would have guessed that my affinity was for them coming from the anger I’d been cultivating about that. I didn’t even have the confidence to talk about my love of it for many years. I was so worried about that love being misconstrued, and therefore violated. But without knowing the reason why that caused me anger, there was nothing I could do.

The thing about assigning gender to a child is, if you get it wrong, it leads almost directly to abuse. I have always been a woman and a lesbian, but originally I was seen as something else. This led me to grow to doubt my self-report. Coupled with the way I took my social cues from other women, not from men, on top of my physical weakness, I was quickly seen to be a target for all kinds of physical and sexual assault. A deeply disempowering, but strongly feminized experience.

But Baise Moi taught me that retribution was a feminine experience too. The violence was a metaphor for regaining control. True, the women start and end the movie in a place of fundamental powerlessness. But their crime spree brings them temporary omnipotence: the powers that the patriarchy has of jury, judge, and executioner, which they employ, like kings or insecure gods, for ultimately selfish and destructive purposes.

The movie gave me space to think about my own relationship with gender. Maybe not for me. I wasn’t ready for that, but definitely for my sense of what a woman was, and how diverse the feminine experience was capable of being. A way to come to terms with my abuse without downplaying or ignoring it: the only way I’d learned that I could deal with it so far, which caused me to suppress so much of my fundamental self.

Baise Moi is tragedy in that it uses pathos as a tool to generate catharsis. Catharsis is creative too. It’s meant to be a process more than an event. I think subconsciously it also helped me realize this. Helped me grow the woman I’d been building in the dark, who my peers saw enough of leaking out to victimize her, vilify her, frightened of the power that she represented. A rape victim holding you at gunpoint as you drain your account for her on an ATM. She’ll blow your brains out and she’ll blow your money afterwards. Feeling nothing the entire time.

But it isn’t right for you to be afraid of her. She’s a response to the crimes she’s suffered, around or because of you. As you persecute her, as you violate her, all that rage inside of her continues to grow. Until one day, she can’t hide it from you anymore. Then she’ll seek out her catharsis too.


Mx Maddison Stoff (she/her) is a neurodivergent non-binary essayist, independent musician, and author from Melbourne, Australia, writing unapologetically leftist, feminist, & queer fiction set in a continuous universe which blurs the line between experimental literature & pulp sci-fi. You can follow her on Twitter and Patreon @thedescenters.

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