Monday, December 13, 2004

Learning the Warrior's Way

Scanning some of my old writings, I came across this paragraph:

I was once trapped in an elevator for around an hour. Since then I'm slightly claustrophobic. I was mildly assaulted on the street in 1996 and have been distrustful of strange men ever since, but I try not to let it stop me from living life and generally being a nice person. I've had some other close calls over the last 9 years, but nothing that a single girl alone in the city shouldn't expect to happen to her. Nothing life-threatening. My therapists told me that since I was leading a normal life I was probably over it. But don't things like fear of crowds manifest as a type of self-protection? Maybe I'm not as "over" those experiences as I thought.

The line that really grabbed me was "I've had some other close calls over the last 9 years, but nothing that a single girl alone in the city shouldn't expect to happen to her."

I beg your pardon? A single female should not expect to be attacked, harassed, or victimized on the street, simply for being single or female. Ever. For any reason. What a load of shit. And I call myself a feminist. For that matter, guys shouldn't have to expect it either, no matter how pretty or small or well-dressed they are.

It just goes to show what being vicitimized can do to your psyche. I went through plenty-o-therapy regarding my experiences, and part of that therapy was centered around the fact that I have been victimized more often than most. Most women I know have had this happen to them once or twice, but I have been through 3 serious attacks and about 5 other highly threatening situations. There is something about me - my manner, or something in my face - that screams out THIS ONE, TRY THIS ONE to men who are looking for a target.

And yes, every time, it's always been men. I have never been attacked, grabbed, or spoken to in a violent way or an inappropriate sexual manner by a female. When women want to hurt me, they ignore me.

I still grapple with this. I still try to discern what specifically it is about me that attracts criminals. I'm 5 foot 4. My long hair is easy to grab, and very noticeable, but I do tie it up or tuck it in often. I don't dress very provocatively. Are my eyes too wide? My face too expressive? Do my hips swing when I walk? Do I appear physically weak?

Living on the svelte upper west side, I still get verbally harassed from time to time, but I respond differently now - I flip people off, I look them directly in the eye and say rude, dismissive things, or some other DIRECT thing. Instead of showing my belly, I show my fangs. Instead of a white flag or a "Please Don't Hurt Me" sign, I now carry a shield and spear. And I use them. So to speak. I have become, as some might say, citified.

But I still have to show my fangs an awful lot.

And it only happens when I am alone.

I still should not have to expect it. Nobody should.


Hot Toddy said...

Thankfully, I am 6'6". I don't get "harrassed". But if I did, I doubt I would respond with the tough strength you show. I admire you for that.

Eric said...

I've been harassed a few times in Chicago-this NEVER happened to me in New York, and remember, I worked in some of the worst areas of the city. I'm sick of having to watch my back-I'm posting this so people know this happens to men, too.
I actually feel much safer in New York-people think I'm crazy when I say this-maybe it's subjective.
But you're right, D-you have the right to be safe when you walk out on the street.

Tuna Girl said...

I participated in a workshop once where the women listed on a board all of the things we do on a daily basis to protect ourselves. It was a long list. Then the leader listed everything a Vietnam Vet who suffers from PTSD and paranoia does everyday to protect himself. That list was shorter.

It's sad that we have to be so vigilent. But we don't have a choice. Be safe, but be you!

Kayo Kid said...

Take up boxing or martial arts, hon. Having been born and raised in Brooklyn, I took up boxing so I wouldn't be an easy prey. It's not the hitting so much that will benefit you, but the psychology behind it.

Wayne said...

Now days, I'm still scared when venturing out alone in the city at night. :(

I was quite confident and ready to kick-arse before my foot injury... For some reason, I get scared easily... Of the people on the train, on the street...etc.

I seriously need to get myself one of those pepper sprays...And probably a big iron ruler, ready to spank ass.

riye said...

i'll show you my weapon and armor if you show me yours.

Lunatic said...

I've always wanted to get trapped in an elevator. Put that on my life list.