And for the record, yes, I do risk assessments all the time. If you’re born female, you learn how to do this from the time you’re very small. A woman would have to live in the absolute bread basket of rich, white, young, and gated suburbian privilege to not do a threat assessment every time she walks down the street (in fact, I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t do a threat assessment every time a strange man talks to her).
We grow up with stories about how it’s our duty to protect ourselves from being raped, attacked, abused, murdered, and mutilated. And we hear stories all the time of female friends and family members who’ve been abused and harassed by men – sometimes strangers and sometimes men they love. It’s pretty clear from the culture at large that nobody else is going to “save” us from institutionalized male aggression. I’m surprised that more male commenters on the Schrodinger post didn’t seem to realize that. That’s privilege, I guess.
Why do you think I took up boxing in Chicago? Do you have any idea how much women in get harassed on the street, trains, and buses, particularly in big cities? I’d say, at least twice a week I had some guy yelling something at me in Chicago, making inappropriate or uninvited comments, or otherwise trying to strike up unwanted conversation.
“Fuck off,” works very, very well. Yes, you feel like a steely bitch for saying it. But men generally accept “fuck off” a lot more often than the nervous smiles we’ve been trained to give them. They may yell back at you, but they do fuck off. The polite, nervous “no”s never work.
It’s hard to rework your training, and I hate that so much of the “fuck off” thing has to rely on women re-training themselves. This is why posts like the above are so important. Changing the culture of male aggression means changing the way men interact with women, not just the way we respond. If you’re going to change anything, it takes concerted effort on both sides, not just boxing lessons and foul language from potential victims.
And, you know, I’ll take foul language and good right hook over that terrified nervous rabbit feeling I get when I’m trying to be polite to some stranger who thinks that because I’m a woman he has the right to poke at me.
This doesn’t happen as much to guys because 1) they’re seen as people 2) they’re seen as people who will kick the shit out of you if you keep fucking with them.
I can’t do much to change #1, but I can take some action on #2.