Continuing on from last night’s feminist rant, I thought I’d give the topic a bit more of a nudge. Hopefully you’re willing to follow me a little further down the rabbit hole. Ok, possibly a lot further. You can be the judge, I suppose. I’m magnanimous like that.
I’ve actually been meaning to write this post for a few months now, ever since a friend shared this Huffington Post article about rape culture and how men are a part of it, whether they’ve actually assaulted someone or not. I read it at a pretty opportune time as, quite soon after, a girlfriend had an experience that really highlighted the author’s point. Three of us had shared a car home and we got dropped off first with the idea that the driver would then take her the 10 or so minutes further to her house. Unfortunately, the driver had car trouble – a flat tyre, I think – and had to stop about 5mins drive from our house. They were on a main road but it was quite deserted at that time of night and I think the driver was a bit sketchy about why he was stopping.
My friend was naturally concerned. She was a bit too far from our place for us to be of much help so she got out of the car and walked away. Quickly. And as soon as a taxi came by, she flagged it down and went home, rather than wait for the original car. She was quite flustered by it all as she told us a few nights later. The driver didn’t do anything untoward – except probably not explain what was going on clearly – but, as a girl, I understood her immediately. Dark street, no one around, total stranger walking toward their trunk without really explaining why. All the red lights are flashing and the little voice in the back of your head is screaming, “You’re in a horror movie, GTFO!!”
The boys who heard the story didn’t get it at first. ‘Why didn’t you wait?’ ‘I would’ve helped him change his tyre.’ It wasn’t until we explained that, as women, this is the very situation every self defence class you’ve ever taken had warned you about. We’re more vulnerable. Not only can I absolutely not change a tyre (I also cannot drive – don’t you judge me!), I’m also a little wary of any alone-with-a-strange-man situation that starts to deviate from the standard operating procedure. It’s just common sense. You’re on guard. You’re watching for these things. Who knows what someone will do when they think they can get away with it? It’s a sad, violent world out there sometimes.
YET. This isn’t really what this post is about. Yes, I’ve had times when I’ve felt unsafe but, in a first world country like Australia, I actually feel very little real fear of violence from men. Even when I lived in Jamaica, I would walk back streets in the dead of night and be more afraid of ghosts and rogue dogs than I would of violence. That is, until a local mentally ill homeless man walked up to me and said, “I’m going to kill you”. And I then woke up after camping in our front yard and found him staring at us through the fence. But that’s a story for another day and he never did actually get around to killing me – or even touching me, so all’s well that ends well.
No, I actually feel relatively safe because, in the past, all my issues with men have come from men that I’ve known. The people who hurt you are most often the people who shouldn’t. As soon as I was sexually active, these ‘friends’ or family members have felt it appropriate to make passes at me, with little or no regard for how inappropriate this may have been. When I was about 16 or 17, my stepbrother saw fit to knock on my door one night and proposition me. I promptly shut the door in his face, locked it and slept with it locked for every night after that, while he lived there.
Nearly every man that’s invaded my space, menaced or threatened me, touched me inappropriately, pushed boundaries or flat out assaulted me has been someone I’ve known. In some cases, someone I’ve considered a very close friend. Which is fucked. You can’t really expect more from a stranger who has no connection to you (or can you? Fuck it, we should be able to) but someone who knows you and has your trust… Well, that person is a special type of cunt.
Many of these incidents happened in my teens when I was probably putting myself in situations that people who believe women are in charge of ‘avoiding rape’ would shake their head and say, “silly girl”. But why shouldn’t I be able to trust my own stepbrother not to make a pass at me? Why shouldn’t I be able to hang out on my own with a guy I consider my friend? I should be able to feel safe with these people, shouldn’t I? No, I suppose no. As a woman, I should probably make myself a sheet metal suit (with matching kickass heels) and carry a tomahawk so, firstly, no one can even touch me to begin with and then, if they’re stupid enough to try, I can fuck their shit up with my trusty axe.
I jest but, in reality, it’s fucked. I don’t consider myself a victim of anything but I can still admit it’s a scary world out there for women. Not only do we have to look over our shoulder at the stranger following us down the (potential rape) alley, we also have to keep a sideways glance on the good friend sitting next to us (or worse, going to the bar and buying us a – potentially spiked – drink) because this ‘good friend’ might also be an undercover fucking psychopath.
What I’m trying to say – in a roundabout way – is that all the mistrust can get tiring. And it’s not that I don’t feel safe. I actually feel much safer than I have in many, many years but I know this isn’t the reality for many women. There are abusive partners (physically, sexually or emotional) to contend with, sexual harrassment in the workplace, unwanted solicitation on the streets in broad daylight, so many ways we can feel unsafe and belittle and like a piece of meat. And of course women aren’t the only victims and we can also be the abusers but, in the large marjority of cases, it’s the woman that gets the pointy end of the stick (or whatever the weapon of choice is that day).
And because I don’t want to leave you on such a down note, here’s a little Louis CK to lighten the mood. 😉