As mentioned on my prior post, reading some of the incidents on the Holla back websites, I’ve started to think about/remember a lot of the incidents that happened to me in Chicago and NYC over the years I lived there as well as to think about how different people react very very differently to stressful threatening situations. I react really differently to most people, but it’s nothing I want to change about myself that is for sure.
The way I look at things, only you can give someone permission to make you feel powerless. Your power comes from within and has to do with you being YOU and no one can take that away from you because it is a mental, not physical thing. People who live in POW camps, being tortured etc. and live through it do learn how to keep that inner core alive to survive. Once you know that inside, it brings you incredible strength and power and it actually helps to protect you, no matter what happens. Do not let the bastards win by getting inside your head!
You in fact do have the power to embarass and to make these type of men feel how pathetic their egos are to want to feel they have to harass a woman to feel like they are a ‘big man’, and all you need to do is tell them that, loudly and to their faces especially in front of other people, and watch them crumple. They are trying to use you to boost their egos and their own sense of power — so simply don’t let them do it! Don’t act scared or shocked – act MAD that they have dared to invade your space like that, and tell them to get out of it and mean what you say.
I have the opposite reaction to most people when I get attacked or harassed, so maybe I am lucky or just plain crazy, I don’t know. But – when things happen to me like someone trying to harass me or mug me or rob me, I quickly become enraged, and aggressive and I fight back instantly – this has happened several times while I lived in the cities.
In one of the most extreme cases, I was in a group of 4 girls who got attacked by 2 giant guys who apparently started to follow us when we came out of a lesbian club in Chicago in the early 90s. The first time they came up to us was just outside the bar, and the bouncer did scare them off using nunchuks – he rollerbladed from across the street to scare them off a bit like a bizarre super hero. But as we continued down the street further, apparently they kept tracking us, unbeknownst to us or the bouncer, whom we had thanked and who had returned to the club.
Mind you , we were on a crowded city street (Belmont & Halsted el station area for those of you who know Chicago) on a Saturday night full of people and by the way NO ONE else (after the bouncer came and left I mean) around us stopped to help so NEVER count on other people to assist you …
The second time they came at us it was several blocks down the street, very close in fact to the train station. One guy picked one of the girls and shoved her up against the wall and were saying all kinds of sh*t to us about being dykes, and who did we think we were to be able to walk down the street like that etc. and how they would beat us up — I had NO intention of being gay-bashed.
I instantly flew into a furious rage, pulled off my belt and got ready to rumble (I am 170cm and weigh about 62kg while these guys were both very tall and wide). I started to yell at the guys, swearing in a rage and strangely enough – loudly psycho analyzing them, calling them weak, pathetic limp dicks for having to boost their egos by attacking a group of girls and that type of thing, asking them if they would do this to their mothers or sisters etc..
I walked towards them as I was shouting my string of obscenity laced psycho-analysis, swinging my belt, which was a punk rock style bondage belt full of metal. One man dropped my friend from the wall, and left immediately but the other didn’t. His friend told me he was much bigger than me and would take me out for being a dyke. I told him I was a total femme, and I was wearing black lace tights, so how stupid could he be — I basically shouted out any insult or psycho babble that came into my head that was against what he was all about, always denying whatever he was trying to say or prove about us, causing him apparently to become really confused and probably to figure I was nuts (which I was so angry that I was in fact nuts).
I told him I didn’t give a flying fuck if he was bigger than me, and that I was sure he could take me out — but that I could guarantee him that he would definitely get hurt in the process of doing so and that I didn’t care if I got hurt or not – I did not show one ounce of fear or weakness, and continued to approach him, and he continued to back away from me.
I am sure I gave off the aura of someone enraged and barely under self-control – I was aggressive, mean and full of swear words — which actually is the opposite of what women’s self defense courses teach you in fact (they say this type of language will escalate the situation and make the attacker angry — I did not care at this stage because I was so angry). Now I had some self-defense training in the past when I’d briefly joined the Chicago Guardian Angels and ridden the subways on patrol, but not a lot -mainly this was just pure ballsy-ness on my part and this guy was at least 180cm tall, and probably 120kg or more.
I was in fact exactly this – entirely enraged, and ready to make this guy feel some pain, even if it meant I was stomped to death – I really truly didn’t care what he did to me at that point in time; I was NOT going to let him scare or control me into running from him or his friend – I would stand and fight. This is how strong my rage reaction is when I am attacked. I kept on approaching him and because he kept backing up I knew I was winning. He ended up turning around, calling me a pussy as he went away and running off to join his friend further down the street. During this alteraction, probably 30 or 40 people passed by and NO ONE called the police (thank you Chicago gay party crowd for your support).
My 3 girlfriends had all frozen like deer in headlights and may as well have melted into the sidewalk for all the help they offered me. They just stood there, stunned and saying nothing and also not calling police.
After the man left, they told me I should not have done that, that I could have been killed. I said yeah, but I was RIGHT, every step of the way I had judged these guys correctly and in the end I WON and I was right in my instincts (no thanks to my girlfriends). Maybe if he’d been aggressive back, and swung to hit me first, I would have changed my tact – but I have no idea because that is not what happened.
I do not regret that incident at all and would act similarly faced with another similar situation – it made me feel SO strong to have fought back and won. I would have happily been beat up in the process of defending myself and my friends instead of letting some freak make me scared and control our day, and even that would have made me feel prouder and more confident than letting my friends or me get beat up or raped or worse without any fight at all.
Other times when I’ve been followed by jerks saying more simple ‘hey baby, wanna fuck’ type of BS to me etc. I have screamed and yelled for the man to stop following me and harassing me that has worked except for one man who was mentally ill and I went into a store and asked them to call the police. The police had to come and get him (turns out he’d tried to rape a little girl next door to me as well, so thank goodness) — but others did leave quickly when faced with an angry bitch in their face instead of a terrified meek little girl they’d hoped for.
BTW – I will just point out that I don’t seek out harassment. I always am prudent – I am aware of my surroundings, walking on well lit and well-travelled streets etc. (above attack was smack dab in the center of the party central of gay Chicago) so in the first place I try to avoid these situations. But as a punk type girl in the 80s and 90s, and as one who sometimes dated other girls, I was definitely a target for deranged jerks to *think* they’d found someone they could try to abuse. Mild to dangerous harassment did happen a few times when I was in Chicago and once when I was in NYC but it was not a daily occurence. But when it happened, I always responded aggressively and loudly, and I never got hurt.
Train masturbators seem to be pretty common on the Holla Back sites from what I read recently. I can tell you my reaction would quite likely be to yell ‘What the fuck are you doing masturbating on public transit you freak – are you into kiddie porn as wel! I am calling the police!’ — people like him thrive on hoping they can shock you into silence, and will absolutely melt if attention is focused on them like that and if you name what they are doing out loud, and loudly. I realize I am odd that I have this type of instant anger reaction rather than instant freezing one – but I think if any woman takes the time to go to self-defense classes etc. and practices being more confident they can become better at protecting boundaries, and setting STRONG limits on what one does and does not allow people to do in their own space. I am not saying every woman should be as nuts as me, because you have to be willing entirely to back up your talk or it won’t work on the perp. However, anyone who develops more confidence to denounce that man in public out loud would make you feel STRONG and would have definitely make a masturbator or flasher in public stop what he was doing. Flashers and train masturbators are the lowest of the low, and will not put up a fight when the whole world is told what they are doing on a train.
From experience, I would say fight back LOUDLY – always always always fight back – 99% of the time it works, believe me – and the cowards will turn tail and run. The likelihood of police catching them is small (and as I have found most people are unwilling to get involved so unless you can quickly find police yourself, best to take care of YOU first, and report him and hope they catch him later but don’t bet on it). Sexual predators don’t expect women to get in their faces when they harass you on the street – these kinds of guys are specious cretins – they WANT you to be intimidated by their pathetic floppy penises – don’t give them the satisfaction. They get OFF on controlling you and on your scared reaction. Show them that women are unpredictable and that some will definitely fight back – it will make them think twice before doing it again.
The only way the world will get the idealistic scenario of women being able to walk where we want when we want is by being willing to stand up and FIGHT for that right – it is an unfortunate truth – look at the way women are treated in so many countries around the world – it has not done them any good to sit around taking it and hoping things get better. I would rather live boldly and freely and have a potential fight now and again to ensure I can continue to live that way, than to live a mouse too scared to leave my own house. The more women who stand up for themselves, the more other women will join them and eventually things will change.
Of course the responsibility for being out of line in the first place is 100% on the offender as no one has the right to harass someone else because of their sex, way of dress etc. – but wishing them away will not make them go away. You cannot control the fact that their ARE jerks out there with twisted minds and screwed up sexual problems who want to abuse women (or gays) to make themselves feel stronger. They are out there and you have to be prepared to deal with them if you want to free yourself of the feeling of ‘powerless’. You can always control your reaction to them, and can control what you do about them.
Join a women’s group, take some action, join some protests if they have any ‘take back the night’ or ‘take back the subway’ style marches (or get a group together and organize them yourselves!), and take some self-defense courses too. Doing this type of positive action and being with other strong women will help you to have more inner confidence should you face a bad situation in future (which I hope no one does, but statistically most women living in a city will face something like this). You are not alone and should not feel singled out and powerless. Take action and take back your space.
Or write something cool like my Gag ‘zine article written around the time of the above incident, basically taking Camille Paglia to task for her twisted views on rape, and calling for women to join together in the merry killing and eating of men like these train masturbators … all in good fun of course.