Saturday, September 29, 2018

What it's like to be a woman

The Kavanaugh hearings were pure hell, even though I did my best to not watch them directly. I heard and saw enough that I still feel sick about them. A very credible witness comes forward about a traumatic event in her life and a bunch of rich white men whine and cry and claim she's being unfair. All while insisting there is no need for an FBI investigation on the subject.

What are they afraid of? If she's lying outright, there's a decent chance the FBI will track down whoever is paying her to lie and reveal the truth, right? If she's telling the truth, then what sane person wants a would-be rapist who clearly has a drinking problem on the frickin' SUPREME COURT??!???

So it's been a lot of pain. Some suppressed memories came out, as well. I'm not going to talk about those.

Instead, I'm going to talk about a walk I took a few days ago. I've been walking every day in the city's central park, doing one or two laps around the parking lot. It's not a long walk, just under a half mile. I have seen a number of other people who are regulars there. I'm used to the older men: one who walks with a cane, one who spent the first week ignoring me but now nods back when I smile and nod at him as we pass each other. I was wary around them at first, but I'm comfortable now.

The other day I saw a new face. A younger man, maybe in his late 20s or early 30s. He was wearing a hoodie with the hood down, sweat pants and a baseball cap. I immediately felt uncomfortable with him there. I watched him as he passed me and watched as he approached another woman walking ahead of me. And this is what I thought: If he attacks her, I can reach them in maybe 10 seconds. I'll need a weapon. My car keys. Should I keep my phone in my hand? Should I call 911 first or fight him off?

That is the kind of thing I think whenever I see a lone man approaching a lone woman.

Because it's not safe out there for women. Every man could be a predator. Until we know them or have watched them be good for days on end, we can't be truly comfortable with them. We cannot feel safe. Even though my reasonable side was telling me that man was just a normal guy out walking like the rest of us who I see every day, I didn't know him and I felt like I needed to be alert and ready to jump to another woman's aid if necessary. When he walked past her I let out a sigh of relief and continued on, ready to keep an eye on him if/when he came back around.

That's what it's like for most women. We don't even think about it most of the time - or perhaps the more correct term is reflect on it. The thought is there, we are ready to act, and it passes because it's not needed, thankfully. I realized - while listening to Kavanaugh whine angrily - that I am alert in public more often than not. That I have been taught by experience to not trust any man, ever, when I don't know him. And to barely trust men I know (although, being socially inept, I've isolated myself from the real creeps - apparently).

When I was at Western, living in Highland Hall, I had to go down a long outdoor stairway to campus every day (Highland is on the Ridge, a housing area on a hill above the campus). One day I was walking down the stairs with another girl when we heard a voice from out of nowhere. We both stopped and looked around, and a young man, grinning, got up from where he was camouflaged in the foliage next to the stairs. I seem to recall hearing a second voice, but I don't know if I saw him. In short, neither of us saw the man even though he was literally a step away from the stairway and could have easily lunged out at us. He told us he was in military training and was trying out his skills - but I saw it as a warning. I have thought about it over and over for years. How I could not see him at all, and didn't realize he was there until he spoke. It makes me a little frightened even now. I don't think he meant to cause harm, but did he realize just what message he was sending?

Did he care?

I was taught some other lessons the hard way, but that's the only one I care to share right now. I think about it sometimes - how completely hidden that guy was. And I shudder. Because next time the guy might not be just exercising his power to scare women - he might want to hurt women. I don't know if I'll be ready if/when it happens.