Fear

I’m having a nice night. I’m a borderline teetoaller so it doesn’t take much alcohol to make me happy (in fact being drunk is such an exciting rare event that I have to talk about my drunken state constantly to whoever is around). About 11.30 my friend is heading home, so I walk with him. We stop and admire the shop that has left alone the “Clint Rickards: Rapist Scum” graffiti and the fake recruitment poster.

We go to the dairy that is open until midnight and buy some snacks. I buysome chocolate and water; he buys some strawberry and cream lollies and a red licorice twisty thing. I make him sit down and talk with me for a bit, because I don’t want to walk up the hill just yet. We sion the corner and yell at the police cars that go by (“Clint Rickards is a Rapist”, “Stop Police Rapists” and a rather ridiculous “Police Rapists Suck”).

Then I say goodbye and head up the hill. I’m thinking to myself about the blog posts I am going to write when I get home (mostly about why the existance of the police are the problem, not a few bad apples). From about a third of the way up the hill there is park on both sides of the road and that’s when I became particularly aware of my surroundings. I notice the man walking behind me; I notice the cars going past.

I am about half way up when a car stops about 40 metres in front of me. No-one gets out. There’s nothing there. The car just stops.

What I usually do in these situations (because fear is regular enough that you have a plan) is unlock my cell phone. But I don’t have a cellphone so I just hold my keys (interlaced between my fingers) and a half empty water bottle (weighing all of half a kilo).

I just keep on walking; I don’t look at them. I try to keep breathing and wait to see what happens. I just get past them when they start moving again. They follow me slowly for a few steps, and then drive off.

I’m relieved; all these two men and their car wanted to do was scare me. I’m OK now.

I walk home and start composing a new blog post, about what just happened. Because all I can do is write about it. All I can do is register the power that fear has over me.

This post is open to feminist and feminist friendly comments only.

Update That should read feminist commenters only, not just comments – this is what happens when a teetoller writes after drinking.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

41 Responses to Fear

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  2. 2
    acm says:

    I feel your pain — could feel myself tensing up as I read your story.
    Sometimes things suck. (and what schmucks!)

  3. 3
    pheeno says:

    I’ve had that happen once. It wasn’t at night, but it still scared the snot out of me. Just the other night, I had a 7pm appointment to give a massage. He kept asking me if I knew any “stories” of massage therapists being hit on by perverts. When he was done, I left for home about 20 minutes later after re stocking the sheets and getting ready for the next day. I left the parking lot in my car, and there was a car on my ass. It was him. He followed me for 6 blocks. I didnt drive home though, I drove to my parents house and called my dad. The guy drove past when my 6’5 father stepped out. He got his license plate, but the guy was from out of town so god only knows where he went or what he was up to.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    I see two solutions here, both of which I think should be applied. In no particular order:

    I think that people who seek to terrorize other people (in this case, though superior physical power) have got some kind of serious problem. Whether this problem has been caused through mis-education or an immoral upbringing, methods including but not limited to societial pressure and incarceration should be brought to stop it. The nature and limits of such methods makes for a very lively debate, but there’s no debating that there are flaws in our society that can cause such problems. I would also propose that these flaws will not be quickly eliminated.

    I also think that people have a right to possess and use appropriate means to protect themselves from terrorists. What those means are and what their appropriate use is is also the subject of many lively debates. Personally, I favor shall-issue concealed carry. For those of you not up on the terminology, this kind of law (which a number of U.S. States have passed) means that a citizen with no felony convictions or protective orders against them have the right to own and carry a firearm concealed on their person.

    Ideally, the latter would not be necessary, but I have hardly any need to tell the people on this blog that we do not live in an ideal world. Should we then wait until the world is ideal to free people from fear as much as is possible in the meantime? Feminism is often defined in terms of empowering women; a .38 in your pocket is very empowering.

  5. 5
    pheeno says:

    um…I’d be accused of lying if I accuse of man of raping me, and its true. Imagine what would happen if I shot him before he got the chance.

  6. 6
    Dianne says:

    For those of you not up on the terminology, this kind of law (which a number of U.S. States have passed) means that a citizen with no felony convictions or protective orders against them have the right to own and carry a firearm concealed on their person.

    Which means that if such a law were in effect the guys in the car would likely have had a gun on them. Whereas Maia was so far from expecting trouble that she didn’t even have her cell phone with her. So her gun would likely have been at home, with the cell phone, if she even bothered to get one (I never had a gun even when I lived in a concealed carry state). Don’t think that would have made her feel any safer.

  7. 7
    Eva says:

    Being able to carry and use a concealed weapon makes some people feel safe. Knowing you could deter an assault by simply having the weapon available must help, but how and when to use it makes things expodentially complicated. One has to know when is the right time to use lethal force, and to be prepared to accept the consequences when used.

    But it scares a lot of other people silly, me included. I’m sure there’s a whole other thread somewhere about the over abundance of hand gun availability and subsequent connnected deaths in the U.S.

    As pheeno noted, if a woman can be accused of lying for accusing someone of stalking by a potential rapist, what would happen to her if she shot the potential rapist, without any “empirical” evidence (or a witness) to prove the potentiality of said rape?

    Knowing that men can get away with harassing, stalking and actually assaulting women adds a lot to the factor of fear for me, despite sexual assault crises teams, despite (in theory) being able to carry a concealed weapon, despite take back the night marches. As long as there are men who take advantage of the credibility gap (among many other gaps, of course), women will continue to have very good reason to fear for their safety.

    A lot of progress has been made, but not nearly enough (or there wouldn’t be sexual assault crises teams or those classes where women learn how to defend themselves, and so on).

    I hope the men who read and post on this site understand how important it is that they effect change in themselves and their male friends and relatives (as well as strangers) in this regard. Just as an example, discouraging the cultivation of enjoying the adrenaline rush from causing fear in someone weaker (whatever their gender).

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    Maia only said she didn’t have her cell phone. She didn’t say why. I personally don’t know anyone who makes a decision on whether or not they’re going to carry their cell phone on the basis of whether or not they expect to be in a situation where they’re going to have to call for help. The people I know who own a cell phone carry it all the time unless it’s broken. They carry it for social or business reasons, to stay in touch with their friends or families or colleagues, not out of fear. Do you make the decision to carry a cell phone based on what kind of risk you expect to be in?

    Actually, whether or not carrying a guns is illegal doesn’t much affect whether or not people intending to commit an illegal act are armed. All it does is affect whether or not people not intending to commit an illegal act are armed.

    Four scenarios, the matrix of criminal armed or not and law-abiding citizen armed or not. If CC is not the law, the criminal is more likely to be armed than the law-abiding citizen. A lack of CC most disfavors the most favorable scenario – that the law-abiding citizen is armed, but the criminal is not. If CC is the law, then the odds (both armed or both unarmed) are much more even. CC favors evening out the balance of power, empowering the law-abiding citizen and in relative fashion disempowering the criminal. In fact, if we are talking a criminal male vs. non-criminal female, the odds are actually more even if both are armed than if both are not.

    Even if the guy in the car is more likely to be armed in a CC state (remember that CC doesn’t apply to felons, so if they are are already a criminal they can’t use CC to buy a gun), he has to figure that Maia is much more likely to be armed as well, so he doesn’t start up any shit in the first place. It’s the deterrent effect, and it’s probably the reason why violent crime, home invasions, etc. tend to drop in states that have passed CC laws. In a CC state, it’s more likely that car never stops in the first place. You may not have been armed when you lived in a CC state, but the criminals didn’t know that and had to take it into account that you might have been armed. As (I think) Robert Heinlein said, “An armed society is a polite society.”

    Again; the best scenario would be that people would not have to fear assault and would not have to be prepared to be able to defend themselves against such. We should all strive to attain that goal. But right now we do not live in that world, nor do I expect to anytime soon. That doesn’t mean that people should lightly use deadly force. But since the criminals do have that option, law-abiding citizens should as well. Especially women.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    I hope the men who read and post on this site understand how important it is that they effect change in themselves and their male friends and relatives (as well as strangers) in this regard. Just as an example, discouraging the cultivation of enjoying the adrenaline rush from causing fear in someone weaker (whatever their gender).

    Especially their sons. Most especially their sons. I had to apply this lesson to my son in about 5th grade. It was the subject of one of the most serious discussions my wife and I have ever had, as to what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. Thank God we were able to nip it in the bud.

  10. 10
    defenestrated says:

    Ohh gosh, just reading this got my heart beating all fast. Where the hell do creeps like that come from?

    Um, I was curious if this was a typo, or a crazy New Zealand word I’ve never heard of, or a word that allll the cool kids are using that I’ve never heard of…I was confused: Sion?

  11. 11
    Decnavda says:

    In junior high I used to walk home after school when I had a club meeting or something like that. It took over a half an hour. One day I took a shortcut down a dirt road. A single car drove by in the opposite direction, stopped and turned around. It slowly drove beside me as I walked and the singl occupant rolled down the driver’s window. I do not remember everything he said, but he started asking me if I would stand still while the masterbated, and then he started offering money to do so. I wen through three phases. First, I was really scared and quiet. Then, I started looking for rocks to grab and guaging whether I could put a side kick through the open window into his face. Then, something aobut it struck me as funny, and I started laughing. With that, he drove away.

    I did not tell my parents or anybody else unitl college. I knew I should, and did not know why I did not, but I didn’t.

    I lived in the South and was still a Christian then, and I thought homosexuality was wrong because the Bible said so, but I remember having the presence of mind to understand that this was not about homosexuality but about an adult abusing his power over a kid alone byhimself, and the incendent had no effect on my conversion to pro- gays rights in high school.

    As far as guns are concerned, doesn’t the research -the REAL research, not John Lott’s made-up numbers – indicate that laws either allowing or restricting guns have virtually no statistical effect on crime? If so, that favors allowing guns, since pass laws ristricting liberties if the laws have no good effects. But it also means that expecting to rely on guns to solve problems is pretty hopeless as well.

  12. 12
    Decnavda says:

    That should read, “…why pass laws ristricting liberties if the laws have no good effects?”

  13. 13
    Span says:

    defenstrated, it’s not NZ slang, I think Maia meant “sit on”? Although I’m not very down with the kids, so who knows!

    I’m a bit sad that the response to this post by some has been to suggest that Maia ought to arm herself. No, she ought to be able to walk around without fear of attack, just as most men do most of the time.

    I say this as another NZ woman who actually is less brave than Maia. Unlike my friend, I do tend to curtail my actions because of the exact fear Maia outlines above. I admire her for her bravery and I think her approach is much more constructive than my own.

  14. 14
    Kristin says:

    “I’m a bit sad that the response to this post by some has been to suggest that Maia ought to arm herself. No, she ought to be able to walk around without fear of attack, just as most men do most of the time.”

    Exactly.

    Not to mention, I can’t quote chapter and verse on this but isn’t there a fairly high chance that the average gun-carrying person will be shot with their own gun in a conflict?

    So, uh, huccome it’s OK to suggest that we increase our OWN risk of bodily harm as a way of defending ourselves from being attacked?

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Plus, since Maia has been critizing the cops, there’s fairly good odds that anyone harassing Maia is a cop.

    I don’t think having a gun increases your chances of survival in a conflict with a cop; I’ve read many (American) cases of people getting shot to death when they tried to defend themselves, with their guns, from cops breaking into their homes. Cops often travel in armed groups, they’re trained, and having a gun gives them an excuse to shoot.

  16. 16
    Maia says:

    Ron – please read the note about the comment thread at the bottom. You have ignored this rule far too many times. This is your final warning. If you post again in a feminist only post of mine, I will ban you from all my comment threads.

    As for the rest, take it as read that a gun wouldn’t make me feel any safer.

  17. 17
    Susan says:

    First, Maia, are you sure these guys’ actions were aimed at you, or that they were aware of you at all? Perhaps they stopped to discuss between them where they were going next; perhaps they started out slowly because they were still talking about that, and sped up when they made a decision. (There could be any number of other explanations.)

    That said, things are in such a condition that a woman alone has good reason to read threats into behavior which may nor may not be intended that way!

    I camp alone a lot, out in the desert. (Just got back from ten days, actually.) Once upon a time I got my car stuck, way out there, and I was “rescued” by five sulfur miners in a pick-up truck. Two older, three younger. I realized in the course of this transaction – during which nothing bad whatsoever happened, in fact they actually saved my life – that if the two factions had been able to communicate better it would have been a gang-rape. But as it was, the older guys were afraid of looking like dirty old men to the younger guys, and the younger guys (who, of course, were employees) didn’t want to disgrace themselves before their older bosses. So no one did anything.

    After that, I got a gun and learned how to use it. I figured that would just give me another option. It’s been many years now – I never had cause to pull it out. But as for what the justice system would have said if I’d had to shoot someone out in the middle of nowhere – well, as they say, it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six. We also own property in a (different) wilderness location where everyone goes around armed, and for good reason. I certainly carry a gun there.

    Still, I think that anyone who carries a loaded gun in a densely inhabited area is either in a very unusual situation or just plain crazy. Too many innocent bystanders! I don’t want to get caught in the crossfire.

    Scary story. Thank God you’re OK.

  18. 18
    pheeno says:

    “But as for what the justice system would have said if I’d had to shoot someone out in the middle of nowhere – well, as they say, it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

    Going by evidence so far, you’d be called a lying scorned woman who seduced a man and shot him because you regretted fucking him.

  19. 19
    Susan says:

    Could be, pheeno, but somehow I doubt it.

    I’m a (relatively wealthy) married attorney with four children and an impeccable past. The guys I’ve run into in the desert are by and large pretty ragged types, and someone who was stupid enough to scare me enough to provoke me to shoot him undoubtedly would have a record a mile long. And he wouldn’t be there to tell his side of the story (if any). I don’t even think I’d be indicted, let alone convicted, of anything.

    I’d always wonder, though. If I couldn’t have handled it differently, if I really had to kill someone. That would bother me. I can tell you what wouldn’t, though. If anyone was dumb enough to threaten one of my children or grandchildren while I stood by with a weapon, I’d kill him without an instant’s hesitation, and I’d never lie awake about it either. Someone THAT dumb….I’d figure I’d have improved the gene pool.

  20. 20
    The Local Crank says:

    “Going by evidence so far, you’d be called a lying scorned woman who seduced a man and shot him because you regretted fucking him.”

    The Texas Legislature (once described by the late, great Molly Ivins as “the national laboratory for bad government”) is debating repeal of the “duty to retreat” in self-defense cases. Texas used to be the self-defense capital of the world; when I was in law school, a man in Houston shot and killed a repo man who was lawfully trying to tow off his truck. He was no-billed by a grand jury! The problem is that so much power has been given to the prosecution, and juries (at least in most of this state) are so willing to side with the state, it hardly matters how liberal your self-defense laws are. Several years ago, I defended a young man who shot a killed a recently released convict who was stealing car parts and beating up a woman in the mobile home park where my client lived. It was just about as clear-cut a case of self-defense as they come: it was night, he was defending property and defending a third person, he even retreated. But since it was the first murder of the year (the millenium, actually) in my county, and since law enforcement jumped the gun in arresting him, my client was indicted for murder and had to stand trial. I’m happy to say he was acquitted (the first not guilty verdict in a murder trial in my county in about 30-35 years), but the point is, he should never have been arrested, charged or indicted; only prosecutorial politics caused him to suffer through months of legal wrangling and thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention the very real threat of spending 5-99 years or life in the state penitentiary.

  21. 21
    curiousgyrl says:

    susan;

    In one sense it kind of doesnt matter whether these guys were really trying to scare maia. this shit happens often enough that we are made to be afraid in situations where the man we are interacting wiht has no idea of the level of fear he may be inadvertently causing.

    For example, yesterday I got in a cab and the driver stopped for gas and offered to buy me a drink. I declined, basically because I didnt want a drink and also becuase I think it is a bad idea to take drinks of any kind from strange men. probably he was just trying to make up for the fact that he was ripping me off on cab fare, didnt know where he as going and had to stop for gas. But who knows.

    I didnt get really freaked out until he came into the grocery store I had asked to be driven to. Probably he just wanted to check it out after I told him how good the produce was etc. But I considered the possibility that he might be planning to wait around until I was loaded up with a lot of heavy bags.

    ITs not that I was ever in a state of terror. its just that I dont think it fair that I have to think about crap like that on so many days.

    As for guns, I dont think this would make me feel safer, not least becuase people with guns are pretty likely to get shot with their own gun.

  22. 22
    Maia says:

    The subject of guns and self-defence is off-topic for this thread, I’d ask that people respond to it no further. I’d also remind everyone posting in this thread that it is for feminists and feminist friend commenters only (RonF your warning still stands even though it said feminist friend comments, rather than feminist friendly commenters, you’ve disobeyed the instruction often enough for a final warning to be more than overdue).

  23. 23
    curiousgyrl says:

    sorry i missed that upthread

  24. 24
    The Local Crank says:

    “The subject of guns and self-defence is off-topic for this thread, I’d ask that people respond to it no further.”

    Okay.

    “I’d also remind everyone posting in this thread that it is for feminists and feminist friend commenters only”

    In all seriousness, and with no sarcastic intent whatsoever, does this refer to how I would describe myself or how someone else might theoretically describe me? Also, and again in all seriousness, does the category of “feminist friend” imply that the only women are “feminists”? If not, what is the distinction?

  25. 25
    pheeno says:

    No, men can be and are feminists. Feminist friendly basically means you’re not going to stop the discussion so feminists can explain feminism 101, bring up exceptions (men get this too! what about them!) or like RonF, derail the topic by offering worthless advice that feminists have already explained why it doesnt work. (for example, if a guy rapes a woman, SHE didnt fail to protect herself. He succeeded in violating her, so bringing up what she *could* have done or how she *could* have protected herself is pointless, since its not about what she did or didnt do or if she owned a gun)

    But thats my intepretation, the author of the thread may have a different intent.

  26. 26
    Ampersand says:

    Local Crank #23, I have responded to your question in the most recent open thread.

  27. 27
    defenestrated says:

    I agree with curiousgyrl #20 – the problem is only partially the possibility of danger in that one instance (which is in no way meant to diminish my empathy for Maia’s experience). The bigger concern is that women pretty much have to go through their lives carrying around a constant level of fear that men simply don’t have to deal with. If a car stops next to us or the footsteps behind us seem to be getting closer or whatever, we’ve been conditioned since childhood to suddenly become keenly aware of our status in this world as objects rather than people. When we start talking about guns and self defense classes as whatnot, we’re taking that status as a natural given. It’s not, it shouldn’t be, and it’s hard enough to shake all the fear when society’s constantly slamming us with it.

    Until a couple years ago, I had a habit of walking around whatever city I was living in by myself at hours of the night that would probably make my mother cry. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that “Well what was she doing on that street anyway?” can be and is used as a viable defense for rape that I started to curb that, but I shouldn’t have ever had to. All of that starts to get into how I came around to seeing rape as the hate crime/terrorist act that it is. Whatever the statistic is of the percentage of women who are raped, it still leaves out the expectation that all women will live their lives in accordance with the fear of rape.

    pheeno,

    Feminist friendly basically means you’re not going to stop the discussion so feminists can explain feminism 101

    Which I completely fell for in the workplace thread, didn’t I? ;(
    (winky frown? can i do that?)

  28. 28
    defenestrated says:

    It wasn’t until it dawned on me that “Well what was she doing on that street anyway?” can be and is used as a viable defense for rape

    By which I mean, the realization that society tacitly condones rape depending on time and location. I don’t know if that was at all clear from the way I originally put it.

  29. 29
    Radfem says:

    Maia, I’m sorry about your experience. And yeah, there’s always someone who will bring out the tired you-know-what response assuming that every country is even like the U.S. in that regard. But you’re right, that’s a topic for another thread.

    Plus, since Maia has been critizing the cops, there’s fairly good odds that anyone harassing Maia is a cop.

    I don’t think having a gun increases your chances of survival in a conflict with a cop; I’ve read many (American) cases of people getting shot to death when they tried to defend themselves, with their guns, from cops breaking into their homes. Cops often travel in armed groups, they’re trained, and having a gun gives them an excuse to shoot.

    Yes, Kathryn Johnston, 92 in Atlanta, is one recent example. She was an old lady who felt fear and the only means she felt she had to protect herself got her killed because she was never informed who was breaking into her home. There’s a lot of attention on the incident itself, but not as much on the fear she felt as a woman, as a Black elderly woman living in a high-crime area. Would she feel any less fear walking down the street knowing that her race, gender and age made her more vulnerable? Knowing that those who were hired and paid to protect her just considered her another criminal? What do women do when they get it from both sides, being crime victims and potential crime victims and being policed? And there’s a difference in regards to race, in how women are treated at least in the United States by the police.

    And like Maia’s written about, what if the police themselves engage in criminal conduct?

    Women do have to live with a lot of fear and while a situation liked Maia described can be menacing, could be innocuous, there’s no way to know for sure except what you feel, until something bad happens to you.

    There’s always that regarding harassment by police officers against those who criticize or question them and I’ve had runins with police officers who have behaved in this fashion when I’ve been walking. Many of them don’t behave this way and some of them are friendly but when they drive by, you don’t always know which is which.

  30. 30
    Raznor says:

    Well, I’m glad you’re okay Maia. Since moving to downtown Seattle, I’ve been walking everywhere, even late at night. But I’m a man. I often wonder what would I do if I were a woman, would I feel free to walk the streets alone at night.

    It’s another male privilege that shouldn’t be a privilege at all.

    But glad nothing bad happened to you in any case.

  31. 31
    Helen says:

    Just to fill y’all in, “dairy” is a NZ word for what I believe you in the US call a “drugstore” (where you go to buy bread, snacks, various small items, and of course, milk).

    Confused the hell out of me when I first went there.

  32. 32
    Span says:

    Helen is indeed correct, and I should note that as someone from the other side of the world I still do not entirely understand why you Americans can “buy bread, snaks, various small iterms, and of course, milk” at a drugstore! Shouldn’t it be wall to wall painkillers and condoms? ;-)

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the fear thing lately, and I thought perhaps it was just that I have a low level of anxiety most of the time and then the social conditioning exacerbates it. But reading this thread, and of course Maia’s story, I’m starting to wonder if I’m not actually a freak after all…

  33. 33
    Radfem says:

    Another thing that confused me is why in the hell they call three muskateers bars, milky way bars. That confused me until I discovered that Moro bars satisfied my milky way cravings.

  34. 34
    defenestrated says:

    Re: Span #31, 2nd para -

    I actually had a nightmare last night for the first time in years and years, which I think stemmed about 1/2 from this post, 1/4 from the mega-thread at Feministe about stalking and…oh, and 1/4 from the discovery that my ex is shadily trying to e-stalk me. If it seemed like one of those doesn’t belong, my visceral response to what Maia wrote was kind of like a very-condensed version of being stalked.

    Seems like the progressive blogosphere’s stars are aligned somehow or something :) But it’s sure screwing with my level of latent fear.

    Re: Span #31, 1st para -

    I get whatcher saying, but! try going to almost any non-North American English-speaking country and explaining what biscuits are. Not, like, cookie-biscuits, but American biscuit-biscuits. There’s just no good equivalent (I’m not actually sure if this is the case in NZ, but it certainly was in Ireland and the UK. “Savory scone” was the best description I could ever come up with).

  35. 35
    pearlandopal says:

    *waves* Long-time lurker, first-time poster.

    When I was in high school in the mid-90s, I attended a math and science camp at a local university. I would take long walks around campus after dark until several horrified co-campers talked me out of it. It had literally never occurred to me that I might be unsafe. I grew up isolated in a rural area and didn’t watch TV, so I had been insulated from that fear. It was probably the last time I ever felt safe when out by myself at night.

  36. 36
    Radfem says:

    Well, then there’s chips and chippies, lol.

    Span, I don’t think you’re a freak and I do think a lot of women have low-level anxiety a lot of the time, about many different things and I think our society often tries to promote fear in people because that’s a mechanism to control and manipulate people and public opinion. For example, the creation of that whole terrorism color code system.

    You still have to live your life and be as cautious as you can including if you’re outspoken on an issue because there will be people who don’t like what you’re saying who unfortunately can’t communicate their disagreements in a respectful fashion. And chamomile tea before bed can help with nightmares.

  37. 37
    Mickle says:

    But as for what the justice system would have said if I’d had to shoot someone out in the middle of nowhere – well, as they say, it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.

    Agreed, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of the justice system.

    A while back I was walking home after dark from the movie theatre – this is SoCal , so I was pretty much the only pedestrian and it was late so there weren’t whole lot of cars either – and this car pulls up along the sidewalk – in a place where it makes no sense to try and park (not sure it would have even been legal).

    I quickly step over to the other side of the sidewalk, start walking faster, and get all tensed up and ready to bolt.

    Then the door opens….and it’s my dad. Who, it turns out, has no frickin’ clue that he just scared the hell out of me.

    My dad’s fantastic and rants and raves all the time about things like people misusing statistics to “prove” that men are better at math.

    But he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a woman.

    He does listen, so I trust him on a jury a lot more than many women who cling to good girl/bad girl myths because it makes them feel safer. But the fact remains that even he has trouble putting himself in a woman’s shoes.

    People think I’m crazy when I get annoyed because they order me to smile. I can’t imagine how they’d react to my shooting six men who’d just helped me – no matter how certain I was they were going to hurt me later.

    And most women know that, and I think it’s a huge barrier for us acting in more assertive ways. It’s one thing to stand up to bullies, it’s another to take on a huge chunk of society.

    Add to that how much we’re taught to not complain and to make nice in the first place, and one has to wonder if many women would ever use a gun in such situations even if they had one.

    Sorry to bring it back to guns, I just wanted to point out that fear of later reprisals is a large part of the equation as well. In many situations, our first agressive act of defense has to come well before it’s clear whether or not we are in serious danger. It’s often too late by the time we’re certain they mean to physically harm us. So in those split seconds we have to decide what to do, we’re supposed to weigh the proabablity that we will end up seriously harming someone for no reason other than because we are afraid, and all the consequences that entails, against the probability that the person we are about to hurt is planning to hurt us so badly we’d choose jail time over it.

    It’s still pretty much a lose-lose situation.

    And sorry to be off topic, but:

    “Another thing that confused me is why in the hell they call three muskateers bars, milky way bars. That confused me until I discovered that Moro bars satisfied my milky way cravings. ”

    You mean they haven’t finished “fixing” all the names yet? The year I lived in England they were in the middle of changing Marathon to Snickers, StarFruit (is that right?) to Starburst, etc. Which I never completely got, because it’s not as if they could use the same packaging. Maybe it cut down on design costs or something.

  38. 38
    Mickle says:

    Susan

    It also just occurred to me (because I’m slow like that) that all this stuff about changing people (esp. men) and society – rather than focusing on how individual women can defend themselves – is exactly what did save you.

    Yeah, the lack of communication between factions helped, but it wouldn’t have if the larger society leaned as much towards “any woman alone is fair game” as is once did. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of that going on. However, there is a certain amount of cultural concensus that women are at least something approximating a person and have the right to do things outside the home without the presence of male members of their families.

    Without that consensus, the faction rivalry wouldn’t have helped you in any way. It would never have occurred to either group that the other wouldn’t think you were fair game, so the issue of looking bad in front of each other wouldn’t have applied in your case.

    So, while I’m not against arming onseself when appropriate, the best defense is always a good offense – and in the case of sexism and sexual violence, that means changing people’s attitudes. Even if we can’t change everyone’s mind, changing a significant number helps tremendously.

  39. 39
    Span says:

    I have to say I have been sleeping very badly since the most recent police rape case has been in the media here, particularly since the not guilty verdicts came out at the start of March. I put off going to bed because I just can’t stand lying there and being unable to sleep. The witch doctor gave me a potion for it this morning though, so here’s hoping.

    One thing that I perversely find comforting is the knowledge that the person most likely to rape me (statistically) is already in my bed, and I know he isn’t going to do that.

    I also think that it’s rather advantageous for some people to perpetuate the fear of stranger rape and attack. It draws our attentions and efforts away from “date” rape, and puts the blame (unfairly) back on women, imho.

  40. 40
    Span says:

    And on the name game thing, Radfem, don’t forget crisps!

  41. 41
    Susan says:

    Mickle, yes, I think you’re quite right! The beginning of potential shame over gang-rape which I saw in my sulfur miners is indeed the product of an awful lot of work by an awful lot of people to establish the idea that any woman you run into isn’t automatically fair game.

    They sort of got it, or sort of began to get it. While they’re working that one out, I do have that gun. But again, you’re right, the gun isn’t nearly as much protection as changed attitudes.