Wednesday, June 04, 2014

In response to #YesAllWomen

A few years ago, in an attempt to be more active while also leaving my house (I lived in a particularly toxic and volatile situation), I decided to walk a couple miles in my neighborhood every day. This was short-lived, not because I was lazy, unmotivated or because I lost interest, this was because I was consistently harassed while simply keeping to myself and walking through the main drag of town.

The first day was the least scary, since I only had to endure having garbage thrown at me from a passing vehicle.
Fucking tossers.

The second day was worse, when a guy stalked me in his car, circling me and pulling in to parking spaces to shout and whistle at me. He drove up and back a few times, as he was optimistic/persistent/scary/forceful/threatening. I didn't even acknowledge his presence, and the third time he tried to turn his car around to give it another go, I ducked down two parallel streets just to avoid him, knowing full well that if he found me again, this time it wouldn't be as well-lit or populated. Not that it really mattered; I didn't really feel safe under the street lights and business signs, nor did I count on anyone to interfere if it escalated.

The third time happened after I tried to shrug it off, telling myself that this was just a coincidence and that if I didn't try again, I was letting fear shut me in, so I gave it one more go. This time, I was stalked by yet another man in a car. He pulled into a parking lot and kept shouting at me, "Hey... hey... hey, I'm talkin' at you!" He got out of his car and proceeded to chase after me, "Hey, baby girl! I think you look nice, I just want to talk to you!" I couldn't even see his face, just his silhouette in the car's headlights.

"Yes, officer, he looked just like this."

I'd met my threshold and I lashed out, "JUST ONE TIME, I'D LIKE TO WALK DOWN THE FUCKING STREET AND NOT BE FUCKING ACCOSTED! FUCK OFF!" He didn't like that one bit and he countered with, "Yous a fuckin' bitch! Someone oughta hang you!" That's right, I was told I should be lynched because I didn't want to talk to a weird guy at dusk that was chasing after me. 

I did all my future exercising in my basement.

Of course, these aren't the only, or even the worst run-ins I've endured, they are just an example of how ridiculous it is for women just to walk down the street and not feel safe. We are taught at a very young age that we shouldn't talk to strangers. As we get older, we are taught that how we dress or what time we're out evokes rape monsters. While I'm on hold with my gyno office, I have to listen to tips on protecting myself from molestation. "Ways to prevent sexual assault," blasts the helpful message on loop:

NEWSFLASH: failing to follow these rules doesn't make it your fault!

Imma 'bout to break these down...

Be aware of your surroundings...
No one plans to be raped, and statistically, more people are sexually assaulted by people they know. If that's not fucked up, well, I don't know what is.

Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
Ok, this is where I have to disagree. Being around other strangers doesn't guarantee that you're safer. Just look at the "Just Yell Fire" theory:

"The film's title references a point made in the video: that yelling "help" or "rape" may frighten potential witnesses or rescuers away, while yelling "fire" tends to draw a crowd."

Maybe it's just as difficult to get help with others around. How is that OK?
Walk with purpose...
In other words, don't look weak or like possible prey...? So like don't look like you're asking for it??

Trust your instincts...
Which part is instinct and which part is paranoia taught to us during sex ed? Just err on the side of caution and fear all men?
Try not to load yourself down with packages...
Hope you don't eat much a week or need to do laundry outside your apartment or home. Better not take the trash out or donate old clothes to a thrift store just to be safe. You should probably never move, either. Packed boxes are a bitch.
Make sure your cell phone is with you...
And a cell tower.
Don't allow yourself to be isolated with someone you... don't know...
Well shit, this means no elevators, buses, taxis, job interviews, open houses, public restrooms,  ordering delivery...
Avoid putting...headphones in both ears... 
Enjoying music is a bad idea, too.  Always be vigilant. You never know when you're gonna get assaulted by a guy in tap shoes.

Does anyone else take issue with this advice at all?

Fear is the key to safety. Be afraid! Be very afraid! Oh, and while you're afraid, and you tell a guy to fuck off because you're afraid of him, be afraid he'll take offense to that and double his efforts to hurt you! All I had to do was tell a guy that was acting like a threat to fuck off and he then said things that made himself even more threatening! I didn't have any packages, I wasn't listening to music with my headphones on, I wasn't walking down a dark alley (in fact, there was another guy there who witnessed the whole thing and just ignored us), I didn't walk meekly or act afraid, in fact, I was on the phone the entire time, talking to my boyfriend (real, not imaginary) and this guy pursued me like I was prime catch. And because I asserted myself (albeit rudely, but fuck off), it was like he was offended for being threatening to me. How dare I not flirt with this strange man whose face I can't even see, who is chasing after me even when I've ignored being shouted at? How dare I feel unsafe? Bitches like me should be hanged, obviously.

So be afraid in order to stay safe, but don't be afraid if you're accosted, because that's cuntish behavior. Where is the advice for males? Where are the "Don't Rape Anybody, OK?" guidelines? Where's the innocent bystanders' etiquette pamphlet Helping Women in Distress? We have tips on staying afraid, that's it. And for any guy to retort, "not all men are rapists," could you kindly point out the part in the tips where it describes the difference in which males to avoid? 'Cos it looks like a vague "all of them" to me.

 OK, good talk.