Filed under: Feminism | Tags: Feminism, harassment, inner bitch, self defense
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.
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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