Monday, January 21, 2008

How Safe Should Women Be?

It's over ten years ago now that I was walking down a London street with two girls and one guy. We passed some jerks and they made some comment about or to one of the girls I was with. I think. Maybe they shoved her. I don't remember, and I should, because it makes a difference to the story.

Anyway, she lost it. She completely lost it and started screaming at them. They were ignoring her and I think she started to go after them.

But the thing was, was that if it came to fisticuffs or whatever, we all knew that it was the guy in our party who was going to actually be on the administering/receiving end of any blows traded. And I stood there, and I saw why she was pissed off, but I also thought it was kind of unfair of her to be, essentially, instigating a fight, when she wasn't going to be the one fighting.

In the comments to this post, I talked about being mistaken, at an early hour and in a Skid-Row-adjacent neighborhood, for a guy. And wondering whether it was more dangerous to be seen as a guy than as a girl.

There's a lot of unpleasantness associated with being a girl. I was traveling once, and walking around with a backpack on and I passed this group of guys smoking outside a bar and one of them was like, "hey, if we gave you $20 would you blow all of us?" That kind of shit. On the other hand, I've never felt like I had to worry about getting into a fight -- I've always felt like I could walk away from confrontations. And I've done some screaming at people (two kids who rode by on their bicycles and shoved me) where I wasn't worried that they were going to come back and beat me up. Once I slapped a guy, which was an asshole thing to do, and it was an asshole thing to do because I knew he wasn't going to retaliate.

Obviously, women should be safe. But so should everyone else. And somewhere deep in my heart I might still think that I should be safer because I'm a woman, that I should be all protected and stuff. Which is troubling.


Noko Marie said...

Once I was walking down the street in winter, all bundled up, wearing jeans and a jacket, and two guys were walking toward me on the sidewalk. Just as we approached each other, one said, "Hey. Hey, you, what's up." Or something like that. They said it in a way that was obviously meant to be aggressive.

I didn't respond, feeling I had a right to mind my own business. This irritated the guy who had spoken, and he intentionally shoved me as we walked past each other.

I was surprised, but whatever, and I just kept walking, without saying anything. The first guy's companion turned to him and said, "Dude, that's a girl. It's a GIRL." And the first guys immediately apologized, yelling after me, "Oh, hey, I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't know you was a girl!!"

I waved back a "no problem!" sign.

In a way, it would've been worse if I'd been a guy, obviously. In another way, I think the first guy was sort of correct in his intuition that to be aggressive with a girl that way is different from being aggressive with another guy that way, and sort of maybe worse. Because a girl generally really can't fight back.

But I share your puzzlement about the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

yes, this is all of it, blog and response, really well taken. Women won't be 'safe' (whatever that means) until guys treat other guys well, and that won't happen until they don't have to develop a really hard carapace just to be able to live in the same space with other guys. Who think you're sissy if you don't at least shove back.

Captain Colossal said...

Yeah, that kind of anecdote is exactly what I had in mind.

Lately, when strangers on the street say things like, "How's it going?" or whatever in a way that strikes me as semi-confrontational, I've taken to just being like, "Good," in a very business-like manner, which for whatever reason strikes me as being more don't-fuck-with-me than just not saying anything. But I wonder about my own assessment.