For Steve, when he accused her of fonduing with Howard, it was an off-the-cuff thing to him. He was making a gross generalisation and after finding out it’s just cheese and bread, he thinks nothing more of it.
Peggy, however, has probably been the target of generalisations from the first moment she set foot in an RAF base. Women who travel with the armed forces would no doubt have labels pinned on them of every kind, and ones relating to their gender and promiscuity were probably most common.
Steve was meant to be better than that. He learned before not to call her a dame, back in the days when a raised eyebrow was enough to make him back-pedal and apologise. But this time, he acted as if he was in the right. The look was no longer enough to warn him he was treading on thin ice.
He might have written off what he said, and figured she was okay. That’s why he smiles like everything is back to normal. And that’s why she has to make the point that no, Captain, you buggered things up, and you need to understand it.
That’s why she picks up the gun. That’s why she shoots at him. She gave him the chance to back up, to apologise for pretty much accusing her of sleeping around in front of a load of people, and when he didn’t, that was when she really got angry. It was nothing to do with him kissing another woman. It was all to do with disrespect.
When she lifted that gun and pulled that trigger, it was a warning that she’s not just ‘a dame’ and that he should never think of any woman in those terms.
Okay, be angry at the generalizations, she has that right. But you don’t even point a gun at someone unless you’re planning to use it, so don’t fire a gun at someone unless you’re planning to hurt or kill them.
Steve was wrong, yeah, but Peggy is even more so.