The Woman in the Window Shows Why We Need To Believe Women
I read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to watch the movie version starring Amy Adams ever since, but haven’t been able to find it (thanks, COVID). But even without successfully finding the film, the tale has been bouncing around my head.
The Woman in The Window is a classic story of suspense with plenty of twists and turns at every dark corner.
Dr. Anna Fox is a child psychologist. Or, she used to be, considering she’s been stranded inside her Harlem townhouse for almost a year due to a crippling case of agoraphobia. She spends her days playing online chess with strangers, downing bottle after bottle of red wine, screening old movies, mixing and matching her various prescriptions, and watching her neighbors. Especially the new family that moves in across the street – the Russels.
One afternoon, Anna befriends Mrs. Russel over wine and commiseration. But then, later that night, she watches out her window in horror as her new friend is stabbed in her living room. But when she speaks to the authorities, no one believes her. There’s no body. No blood. In fact, a different woman introduces herself to Anna as Mrs. Russel.
Everyone, including the police, question Anna until she begins to question herself. Did she actually see a murder? Did the murder victim even exist? Or was violent death a figment of Anna’s broken mind?
Sounds juicy, right?! It totally was. But that’s not the main reason why Anna wouldn’t stop popping into my thoughts, even weeks after I turned the last page.
The book has three main twists. The first wasn’t particularly surprising, so I won’t even bother spoiling it. The third was super surprising and deliciously satisfying, so I definitely won’t spoil it.
The second was also surprising, which is somewhat problematic.
Slight Spoilers Ahead!
The second twist in the book is that Anna did not hallucinate the strange woman or her murder. She was real. Her death was real. Anna was right, but the police didn’t believe her. Her psychologist, tenant, estranged husband, and physical therapist all did not believe her. To be honest, I didn’t believe her either. Rather than start from the assumption that she was telling the truth, everyone in Anna’s life moved forward on the assumption that she was either lying or confused.
My question is: why is it a twist that a woman was telling the truth?
We have a strong tendency to doubt women and their stories. Liars until proven honest, women are questioned and infantilized in situations where men are taken at their word. We doubt women when they speak their truths about being victimized. We double check a woman’s statement but take a man’s at face value.
Find me a woman who hasn’t been wrongly doubted or outrightly dismissed. I dare you.
You can’t, can you? That’s because our propensity for doubting women is a pervasive problem that’s deeply infected our culture. And it needs to change.
I challenge you to check yourself the next time you start questioning what a woman says. What would happen if you took her at her word?
Until the day comes when we believe women, us ladies need to stick to our guns. Like the brave Dr. Anna Fox, we need to hold onto our truths and fight like hell to be heard. And who knows? If we do, we might just catch a few murderous neighbors.