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Channeling that inner bitch
August 27, 2010, 9:59 am
Filed under: Feminism | Tags: , , ,

A few months ago, my partner (let’s call him W), and I had ventured into a nightclub in Kyoto, Japan, and were dancing our arses off, as we tend to do when the right music is playing (ok, almost any music can get ME onto the dance floor!) We are not especially inhibited dancers either and tend to attract a little attention from time to time (recently, at a Lebanese wedding, we had people filming us on their cell phones!)

Anyway, as perhaps the only foreigners in this very crowded club, and definitely the most active dancers (we did more than just sort of bob up and down and look cool) we seemed to be getting a lot of laughter and stares in our direction. Not used to standing out quite this much, I did feel a little more self conscious than usual but endeavoured to ignore it.

The club filled up to the absolute brim, we were squashed up against a whole lot of people and at some point during all of this, I realised somebody had reached under my skirt and was quite obviously having a feel around under there. I moved away from them but the club was so squashed that there was no way I could figure out who it was or anything, so I endeavoured to forget about it. At one point, there was a tall, thin, obviously very high young man who kept standing over me and just staring at me and when W noticed him, he moved between us and that was the last I saw of that guy. I don’t think it was him, he was far too spaced out and unaware, but at that point it all started to feel a bit seedy. Not long after, W and I mutually decided we’d had enough of that scene.

When I told W about what had happened, I was surprised by my own indifference – it was just a somewhat interesting story to tell. Recently, though, I’ve been bothered that I didn’t get more angry and assertive, didn’t grab the hand that was grabbing me and bend back the fingers. But anger and assertiveness don’t come naturally to me, they only pop up from time to time in the inappropriate situations, not the appropriate ones.

And now this is causing me to reflect on something that happened when I was 15. I was a very lonely 15-year-old with no friends at this point and living in a small town. I started seeking friendships online and met a 19-year-old guy from the same town as I. He seemed as unhappy and full of self loathing as I was… so we got along ok! We decided to meet.

We met at the lakefront in the middle of town. He was wearing a white singlet and had a little red car. Against my better instincts, I got into his car and we went for a ride. He was very much a boy racer, drove way too fast, didn’t have a lot to say, swore a lot, took me to his work, took me to a hot chip stand where we had burgers and chips, then dropped me back at the lakefront where I was to meet my Mum. Not great fun but pretty uneventful.

But something about him left me feeling a little icky. Nevertheless, I left him on my MSN and this is when he started sending me messages about my “tight little body”, about how he could “make a woman out of me”. These messages made me uncomfortable, I was not attracted to this guy, but I was also a horny teenager who had never been told she was sexually attractive before, so to a degree, I enjoyed them. Over time, though, they became more explicit and so I stopped replying to them. They became more insistent, until they were basically along the lines of “It’s a small town, I can easily find where you live, I’m stronger than you and could do what I want to you”. At this point, I became afraid and blocked and deleted him from my MSN. Every now and then I’d see him at the place he worked, and I’d always feel slightly nauseous and want to run and hide.

With the experience of time, I’m shocked and scared at how naive I was (and my mother for letting me go out with this guy in his car! What did I say to her that meant she allowed me to do this? I don’t remember.) In any case, I’m thankful that the story doesn’t have a far uglier ending.

But what frustrates me is that I didn’t have any anger towards him for the way he was acting towards me, I didn’t tell my parents about his threats for fear of making a scene. What frustrates me is when I get whistled at in the street, when I get hit on by men I’m sending clear ‘No’ signals to, when I got groped in Japan… my first reaction is not anger, my first reaction is the desire not to create a scene and to just forget about it. Sometimes I’m even vaguely flattered by the attention, ugh.

The anger doesn’t come until later. Perhaps, as they say, I’m yet another women who’s been trained by society to be deferential to men and that notion pisses me off so very, very much. I’m so fucking feminist, yet in those moments of small crises, my first instinct is always to be fucking polite.

Damnit.

I went to a women’s self defence class run by a dear friend’s father recently and he had some advice that I really liked for women who are being attacked. Let me see if I can quote him correctly:

“Channel your inner bitch. Kick, scream like a banshee, claw and don’t be afraid to make one hell of a scene.”

I’d really like to be able to do that next time. I’d like to be like a workmate of mine who, when she was called out to and harassed by men in a car, yelled right back at them and hurled her can of coke at them. But how does one do that? How does one overcome the training (or whatever it is) that creates the instant desire to be polite?

Here’s a question for any readers who might like to answer it: have you ever been able to channel your inner bitch? And how did you do it?

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18 Comments so far
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I think of myself in third person, almost. I am my brothers’ little sister. I am my love’s partner. I am my niece’s aunt and my aunt’s niece. I am the daughter of parents that protected me well enough that I learned to likewise be protective. I learned to hit back and later to hit first–the ACTUAL threat to me? Minimal–I don’t GET in threatening situations (also translated: I am not that stupid). Threat to them? Criminal records, blue if not missing balls, black eyes… They play on the assumption you WON’T react in a hostile way, and I LOVE challenging such retarded assumptions. When I have been grabbed, the guy (now I am softer when it is a female touch–they respect space and are usually shy about it all) always gets hurt if he isn’t my partner. I owe it to everyone else’s daughter/niece/aunt/mother to not perpetuate such behaviors. That is what works for me… I defended everyone ELSE for so long that I finally just knew I would be a hypocrite (maybe a pregnant raped one, sorta the ultimate terror to me) to not kick back.

Comment by Laura

Hey Laura, some good ideas here and thanks for your comment but I want to dispute one part…

“the ACTUAL threat to me? Minimal–I don’t GET in threatening situations (also translated: I am not that stupid)”

That comment kind of rubbed me the wrong way because it suggests that women who get into threatening situations are stupid. That’s almost (if not) victim blaming, I think, so that line of thinking really bugs me.

Comment by Nio

That wasn’t how it was actually meant–it was acknowledging that I have to put an extra layer of protection and caution on (as in not hanging out when it is dark unless in a crowd containing defense teargas and ppl who know how to use that.. Hopefully also ppl who know how to flat out hit… I am not immune to victimization… I just know that post-injury, I can’t fight off potential harm (and I was 12 when I discovered I had the balls to kick someone else’s, 27 the next time I ever gave notice “don’t bug me” via a black eye… In other words, seedy spots, seedy people… I just don’t hang around. I know I would easily lose if hanging around non-nerdy/shy/weakling sorts or even hanging around my big strong guy buddies if they are inebriated –not much ANYONE can do then, so again, I don’t hang around ANYONE drunk, EVER–even public spots drunk folks go aren’t where I land–I stick to “upper cut” events as they get labeled–the film fests for frou frou snobs have more porn than eerie night clubs; burlesque is controlled and safe with masses of not-a-drink security, so there is no reason to risk it. Yes, some guys just TURN but that wasn’t the context–it was a total stranger; maybe because I am small or short, guys have been protective of me to huge extents since I was young and early-developed (big brother syndrome). They stay alert to what other guys do when around ad notice even more than me–notice the lurkers/lurers in a crowd, assess things round the clock. It might also just be the cultural norm here: “good” guys take care of their female friends, and if they don’t they just get asskickings too–the bullies/grabbers will mess with anyone here; maybe it is only the girls elsewhere. I just know the rates of problems with my friends are pretty non-existent because social code is in place and my own friends haven’t deviated from the things called common sense laws, which include a LOT of wariness towards strangers that are in tight quarters or who get closer than talking distance aside from concerts that… Well, drunkenness isn’t let on and (when alcohol is served) gets kicked out fast at every concert I have been to. Just some courtesy laws in place–the places I go, were someone to grab me, there are always dozens around. The exception is the road trip where I am in the middle of nowhere without a feasible threat of humans (just wildlife). The not stupid=knowing my limits, knowing the qualities of a place before going, being ready ad ale to dart, to call911, and to yell and kick while generally… I have never NOT been asked–I tell loud stories with face expressions–if I am being bothered–bartenders are secondary asskickers(male&female alike–um bottle+head=real threat even if unlikely; cops abound here&back in my hometown alike. There isn’t a reason to be unsafe–I know better than to date off craigslist etc; I know where to go to meet new ppl; I know if I go somewhere iffy I go with someone with a high defensive ability! My limits of weight, strength, etc against a 200+lb guy=minimal, so I stay within the limits and avoid isolated journeys in not-safe places (And for me that means no robbery, no violence… And when I DO need to be out, I stick to lit spots with many people or get a trusted friend to give me a ride. I worked way too long with ppl who got hurt. It was USUALLY by someone who KNEW them. Total strangers make bigger newsflashes but were quite rare in hospital and shelter settings, &from crime reports it looks to be consistent. Threats from strangers=avoidable in large part by being really aware of the body’s fragile condition. Killing someone is rather easy. I don’t have fear because I opt to have my fun–mainstream or fringe–safely. Loads of ways to verify folks. I do that. I even let someone know where I will be and who with apart from my sister at times–I get a license of all I meet just out of common respect (it is hugely recommended–I host, after all, and show strangers around; no ID, no alone time with me. I know the risk–I think it IS my responsibility to take precautions that are in line with real time risk–1/100 is a high risk to me given how many I meet! If I went around with ppl not being fairly sure who they are&checking in–easy by text–with my sister just as she ALWAYS did with me until she married… I would be a victim of 2 things, my own lack of preparedness–ignorance of the law doesn’t make someone immune to it, so why would ignorance of well charted and high rates of abuse? I would be unprepared–stupid–and be a victim of the offense. I take care of the precaution/preparedness so the strangers I meet aren’t coming home with me and the one’s I tend to meet don’t see me again unless they are solid, verified, and there is a large trust circle built, ie my long time guy friends know them and vouch for them up and down beyond my good-to-date instinct having zero ifs/maybes/doubts–if doubted, public plce and polite separate directions (heat of the moment? Not with STDs rampant,trusting a guy to THAT?? I am gonna make the appointment for a checkup and see the results! Better believe I don’t trust a horny guy’s momentary memory relapse potential–when a girl “remembers” her BC pills, babies often get made… Memories SERIOUSLY fault us: read “an abundance of Katherines” as a clear example of how this plays out…

THAT is what I mean in not going places I am not safe… Most I have met who are not following thistule get in really shameful-feeling situations. My mom taught us the reality of a rather rough world with plenty of real life bad guys and villianous women, too. I am just as cautious about females, yknow–“bitches be crazy” is said way too often with accuracy (more often without it or in jest, but still… I am extremely social but pick up “odd” cues fast and know the diff between socially awkward and unstable, gender irrelevant)! Maybe lacking naïveté is the key… But not one anyone needs to not-lack very long. I lived in places much less soothing than Seattle&live downtown in the heart of the crime row now. Stupidity in my definition lasts a couple days; I don’t think anyone but myself or nature has a right to give me an early death, and my stupid moves… Well, not how I want to play out a hellish future, especially knowing rape victims since elementary school–no blind faith innocent childhood utopia for me–too many trusted me with their realities. I knew then what time proves. I choose to stay reasonably void of victimization risks… Strength in numbers (and no one has to–really, they don’t–go home alone, not in small or large cities… People don’t like the inconveniences associated with what for many is basic safety, what public health departments and schools urge all people to follow… The inconvenience is a lot smaller than the possible alternatives. It would be genuinely stupid if I broke those basic rules… I felt bad when the trekkers in the middle east were caught, detained, threatened… But no amount of adventure will make me journey into war turf on a hike. That=stupid. They admit it. So do I. Strangers are called strangers for a reason… They shouldn’t be intimate with you… Not until it is mutual. I avoid anything that leads to anything that would involve pressure. It is “grown up sex” to mutually disclose the history and mutually say yes and mutually undress etc. Any part of it not being mutual=time to run kicking… Or just walk out the cafe door in my case. Took MONTHS of entirely public, never alone time with Dave–3years of solid time together Dave–before I was very sure he comprehended&respected that he wasn’t getting “with” me and the second he tried (I kept my own transit to/from for a long time) would be his last day knowing me; he waited til I pushed each yes button of time together and closeness–the more restrictive person in any kind of relationship, platonic or not, chooses boundaries and the other takes them or leaves. You’ve heard this all listening to podcasts I am sure… I am a real life in practice proof that it isn’t impossible or even difficult and it doesn’t offend or detract from intimate relations. It means thy know you demand respect from minute 1. I never assume that 1st minute is the last, and I make sure the bar stays high so that lazy non-workers-at-friend/moreship know we won’t mesh, that “joking” jerks who violate females who didn’t invite it know that I shouldn’t be messed with, as reinforced by strong friendly presences buzzing around me in social environments. Hope all that makes sense–I am not talking aout the 90% of victims harmed by ppl they KNEW, I am talking about early encounters of the sexually explicit kind and why I dodge scuzzy ppl who would dare touch me how you were touched–and how I avoid it while not giving up an ounce of fun or being afraid–I would be more afraid alone in an alley with a big drunk guy following me home. It isn’t so uncommon an occurrance–late nights=retain the fun but don’t walk alone in my not so sterling safe hood. My designated cab companies keep me safe and my fave drivers will escort me no questions asked at no cost if I am ever in trouble. Making the right connections (most of my friends are in minority groups–maybe that is why they are protective, who can say or cares; the white guys are likewise very guarding of me. I don’t deny their right to huge testosterone-grown arms that can take down baby elephants. They don’t deny my ballerina figure that twirls & dips really well on dance floors and makes them look good, and in this gender appreciation, great friendships are forged. I don’t have a badass woman liberated ego; I respect size&strength(&so much more–that’s what she said!), as well as my designed lack of all but the so much mores. If I were going clubbing, I wouldn’t go without having asked trusted local friends about precautions a western person should take (remember I couchsurf–I have inherent trust that most ppl are very good; I just know certain types of spots and moreover SUBSTANCES make many ppl not good at the time–I don’t hang with ppl drinking–this alone reduces risks by at least 85%, considering the amount of wrongs done under alcohol’s less inhibited influence–that NEVER excuses abuses, just keeps mr away from most of it! I know plenty of nice professionals who become horrid with beer/wine/spirits. I don’t even like the conversation when it is hindered by booze–lose lose situation. I am also over 30 and don’t need to be (insert activity) to know whether I would enjoy it–I would not enjoy skydiving but would love parasailing, would love to climb Mt Rainier but HATE K2. Limits&varieties… I like the feeling of breathing deep… Even clubs get frustrating when hot, muggy, too tight to socialize with space… I don’t feel *I* have to test the extremes to know I love trapeze-inclusive burlesque but don’t love it when you add real danger. You don’t have to test every danger on me–I just dislike real danger and am not really turned on by mock danger (submission-great; suffocation/gagging=real danger!; acting suffocated=makes my brain signal possible danger, retreat, not an instinct I EVER care to lose–I protect who I love, including me. Some pervy jackass in a club can enjoy life with less circulation to his twisted then fisted balls. If I miss and grab sir speedstick, I saved one woman a lousy lay, maybe. If I got it right, god let his VD break, unlikely but miracle me!)

Comment by Laura (USA)

Hey Laura,

I’m sorry to upset you, this was not the intention. I didn’t mean to take you out of context; I guess I just misunderstood.

Also, I’ve had to hide the other comments you made here – you mentioned some pretty personal stuff about me which I am not comfortable having in this blog. I hope you understand – if personal stuff about me is going up here, I’d rather be the one to write it.

Comment by Nio

Great post – thanks for sharing. Let’s see…honestly, I’m rarely “polite,” but I would not call myself a “bitch” simply because I don’t like that word. I’m rude, crass, vulgar, and cynical at the best of times! I’m quiet and anti-social a lot of other times. It’s all context, but no one in my life would ever describe me as a shrinking violet. Basically, when I’ve been in situations like the ones you’ve described, I’ve dealt with them with a suitable degree of fury. I won’t go into detail, but in one particularly unpleasant and violent situation a couple of years back, I handled myself (alone) and stopped a scary situation from becoming something much worse. In fact, I tend to have to control my anger in scenarios like the ones you detailed. I guess you could say I have to channel my inner angel in order to pick my battles. The inner retaliator comes naturally!

I’m sure that’s not very helpful in terms of reaching this point, but I will say that a lot of women have a “breaking point” or a point where all these injustices and violations of privacy/personal space (yes, this includes the “smile!” comments I receive while walking to campus…ugh, that annoys me so…) start to build up and you just say “fuck it” and “FUCK YOU!” Maybe you should start doing little acts of rebellion and build up. I’m not saying you should start acting crazy, of course – sometimes a simple and blunt question can be enough to express resistance and humiliate/stun the offender. This is also quite amusing for bystanders and doesn’t cause “a scene.” Of course, if someone is physically touching you, violating your physical privacy, I believe it’s perfectly ok to make a scene and give him all you’ve got.

P.S. I’m with you on Laura’s strange comment – I’m hoping it was merely worded poorly? Hoping…

Comment by Gore Gore Girl

“sometimes a simple and blunt question can be enough to express resistance and humiliate/stun the offender. This is also quite amusing for bystanders and doesn’t cause “a scene.””

I think that’s some really sound advice actually, as I’m trying to be more assertive in my life in general, rather than letting stuff just build up.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I too despise those “smile” type comments, they’re so fucking entitled and offensive. Ugh.

Comment by Nio

P.S. to clarify that last thing I wrote, sometimes verbal/psychological stuff can be just as bad as physical attacks, as your internet example proves. In those cases, I think it’s perfectly ok to cause a scene. I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that physical hurt is always worse than mental hurt.

Comment by Gore Gore Girl

The anger always comes later for me also and sometimes my inner bitch gets directed to the wrong place, usually me! But this is sort of changing as I get older. I haven’t got time to write much here but I just wanted to say, yes word! And yes to using my pictures, I’d be honoured! x

Comment by justaperfectday

Wicked! Thanks! xox

Comment by Nio

Most of male strength comes from being part of a group. We may be on average physically stronger than a woman but a German shepherd dog half our weigh (police dog) can bring us down and subdue us in seconds. This is the basis of marshal arts like judo. Being good at a marshal art like judo gives someone the confidence to take measured action but above all it means they exude that confidence and their apponent can usually see no or little fear or confusion which makes them less likely to act.

II think what Laura meant was, for example, I’m a man but I’m not invincible and if a street looks dodgy I won’t walk down it I’ll find a safer route. or something :) I think that’s what she meant :)

Comment by Jake

“I think what Laura meant was, for example, I’m a man but I’m not invincible and if a street looks dodgy I won’t walk down it I’ll find a safer route. or something :) I think that’s what she meant :)”

Yeah I got that but my problem was with the “stupid” comment, you know? Calling victims stupid just doesn’t sit right with me.

Comment by Nio

Anyway reading that again I think I need to clarify. Having a practiced marshal art means we have the experience and confidence to act in the best meaured way when an incident happens rather than later being angry and regreting not doing anything. I think that advice applies to me too.

Comment by Jake

Interesting thought about martial arts. I’m going to have to consult my good friend who recently received her black belt on this one!

Comment by Nio

A few months ago i had the pleasure of reading the best bathroom graffiti ever. On the stall door of a restroom at school, someone had written “smile,” and another added beneath it “even when you’re sad.” The next time I used that stall, an additional line had been added: “please consider the deep rooted sexism in telling women to smile.” I think it’s a genus statement and I’ve since used it several variations – please consider the deep rooted sexism/racism/classism/heterosexism/ etc in your comment/behavior/etc. While it wouldn’t be the best way of putting your dance floor groper in his place, I find that that it often diffuses the situation by making the other person look like a huge ass, and an even bigger ass if they react aggressively. In my experience, it tends to send the offender away with their tail between their legs pretty damn fast, and has even elicited a few on the spot apologies!

Comment by Sarah

Oh awesome! Thanks for sharing that!

Comment by Nio

Man I always get hassled from construction workers. It’s such a fucking cliche I know. When the Coles near work was being built I hated walking on that street, one day I’d had enough of the comments and screamed back “show up YOUR tits you fucking coward”. After this I was left alone.

Seriously though, you try to touch me, say nasty shit to me and I don’t want you to I’ll tell you to fuck right off. I’ve been sexually assaulted on a number of occasions and get my back up pretty damn fierce if you make me feel unsafe.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

Comment by yeahbutnobutyeahbut

Oh man, I really wish I could have seen the look on that construction workers face!

I’m sorry about your bad experiences, but I really do admire your bold attitude about this. It helps to embolden me, I think. xoxo

Comment by Nio

I have a bit of a different view on this, but it’s kind of hard for me to articulate. Basically, I think that it’s a good thing for someone of anny gender to be a nice person, to try to give the benefit of the doubt, etc… And your should be proud of that. I think there has to be a way, in *most* situations, to be assertive and stick up for yourself without being really nasty or forgetting the humanity of the other person. OK, if the violation is something like someone randomly sticking their hand up your skirt, or threatening you, that is a big deal and IMO justifies a very hostile response. But sometimes with lesser things I think a politely assertive approach is better, and more likely to have a positive effect on the other person’s future behaviour…

Comment by anniceris




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