Last weekend (Friday night), I tweeted the following: “Why I’m a feminist: I’m 40 years old, and can’t walk ten minutes alone in the dark without young men deciding to menace me for fun.”
This is a completely accurate observation about my life, since I was old enough to be allowed to walk anywhere at night alone. I can’t speak for all women, but enough women retweeted me, favorited the tweet, or have expressed similar sentiments for me to know I’m not alone in this.
To expand on this – I was on my way back to my car (parked at work, in a garage) from a board meeting of my daughter’s preschool last Friday night, around 10:45. The walk was about five blocks, from a really nice hotel in downtown San José, to a slightly less-nice part of downtown. Before I left, I sent a text to my husband, “On way way home now, assuming I don’t get mugged on the way to my car.” I didn’t say “raped”, because that struck me as unnecessarily unpleasant, but it was the word in my mind.
I mention this text, because I want to point out one truth that many men don’t get: the light menace I experienced on my way back to my car was not exceptional. It was expected. As a woman walking alone at night, this is what I’ve come to expect. I scan the sidewalk ahead, assessing the threat posed by every person coming towards me. Single women – awesome. Single men – depends on their demeanor. A man and a woman walking together? Probably safe. A group of men with no women? Find a way to cross the street before you get to them, and make sure they don’t know you did it because of them. Don’t let them know you’re scared. Because they like that.
People who know me will verify that I’m not a “scared rabbit” sort of woman. I am not afraid of random crime on a daily basis. I am cautious where it’s warranted, and mostly I don’t worry. My mother is constantly trying to get me to close my blinds at night. So my mostly rational mind thinks that it’s completely warranted to be afraid of strange groups of men on the street at night.
This is due to experience. 25 or so years of it. Walking to the beach in Alameda to watch the fireworks on 4th of July (I lived two blocks from the beach), and having a strange guy walk closely enough to brush my arm with his, and insist that I owed him conversation. Being blocked on the sidewalk in broad daylight by another guy, also sure that I owed him answers to his personal questions.
This night was no exception. A block from my destination, a car pulled out of a fast-food joint parking lot, and began to pace me as I walked. I started to look for places to run. One of the guys within said, “Hey, girl.” No big deal. But it never stops there. Another followed up with, “I love white women!” Clearly designed to scare me. But you never let on that you’re scared. You keep walking, don’t make eye contact, and be prepared to run and/or scream if you need to. You do NOT go to your car until they’ve moved on.
They moved on. In my experience, they always have. Most of these men are harmless, but they’re juveniles, assholes, trying to scare women because it’s fun. This is the society we live in, and this is why I continue to be a feminist. Because this was done because I am female. Period.
As a society, we have to fix this. Men have to fix this. I hope to raise my son NEVER to behave this way. My husband has certainly never behaved this way. I know it will get better, because it has. Men like this didn’t used to be mostly harmless. But we’re not there yet.
On to my troll. Today I received a response to my tweet. From a guy I’ve never met. His response? “Yeah, I don’t buy that for a split second. Exaggeration doesn’t solve anything.”
What the everloving fuck? Okay, this guy is a concern troll. Pretending concern for the issue I care about, but, in fact, he’s just trying to make it seem as if women are all paranoid fraidycats, and no such problem exists. Why should we bother to work on a “solution” if the problem isn’t real?
This is a typical response. Diminish the problem, and thus the person discussing the problem, and you can shuffle it to the back burner, where it can be ignored. Well, this IS one of the advantages to being a successful, well-adjusted, not-ever-abused 40-year-old woman. I know bullshit when I see it, and I know when someone’s trying to Gaslight me. Hell, he may not even be doing it deliberately, but it’s part of the culture, now. Deny that my experience is what I say it is, and that lets you call me crazy/paranoid.
Whatever. I’ve been a big city girl a long time now. I know I’m not crazy. But most concern trolls aren’t very bright.