This is not a topic that I've been comfortable with covering here as I've felt it has been more or less out of context from my usual direction and I've wanted to keep this space about the art. But once I started thinking about it more, I started to understand how it is actually explicitly and intricately entwined with my feminist/goddess power prerogative. I want to be able to discuss all aspects of being here, so this is my foray into more intimate topics.
I want to discuss sexual harassment and the overall power construct that men parade over women on a regular basis. It is something that came up for me in a major way in 2016, and I had another encounter with it yesterday that sparked a lot of anger and questions.
Let me begin with the encounter.
Yesterday I was at a mall (not my favourite type of place to be in the first place) trying to upgrade my phone. I was with a male friend of mine. He dipped into a store to buy something and I did not accompany him. I instead decided to wait in the main area. I got a text, so I went on my phone to answer it. My head was down and I wasn't looking at the people around me for a moment. When I looked up next there was a large man standing in front of me. I could almost feel the heat off of his body he was so close. He groaned a little while gyrating, and moved his hands in a circular motion as if to represent touching my hips. I was so taken aback that my first instinct was so say, "Fuck off!" which caught him off guard, I suppose, because he said, "What?" and I repeated, "Fuck off" - this time a little bit more quietly but still as directly. He then got right in my face and shouted, "Well FUCK YOU TOO, BITCH!" at which point I decided the best thing to do was to try and de-escalate the situation by walking away. This didn't deter him, though. He decided to walk after me continuing to say 'fuck you fucking bitch' and other such savoury things that set my adrenaline in motion and my heart thumping.
I kept walking, slowly, weirdly feeling that running would provoke him to chase me (the way a bear chases you if you run?) but he continued to follow me. I looked back a few times, and each time I did he gestured for me to come to him. At this point I had walked to a kiosk and placed it between myself and him. I loudly told him to stop following me, which got me some looks from strangers. But this still didn't deter him and he continued to walk towards me. So I got even louder and said, "EXCUSE ME, JUST SO EVERYONE KNOWS, I DO NOT KNOW THIS MAN AND HE IS HARASSING ME AND FOLLOWING ME." This garnered more looks from fellow mall-goers but it was like they were roused from a vegetative stupor and wanted very much to return to the zombie-land they were comfortable in. This was alienating in and of itself. The man shook his head and continued to gesture for me to come over to him, but was also backing away at this point. I kept the kiosk between us as he stumbled away. Only one person asked me if I was ok, everyone else ignored the situation completely. Eventually I found a security guard and they located him and escorted him out - but at no time after my encounter did I feel comfortable again in the mall. I had no idea what he was capable of and felt like he could come back at any moment. I kept looking over my shoulder the entire time I was there.
After the initial anxiety was shaken off, I was left with a deep feeling of anger. All I could do was leave the mall and cry, but what I really wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs and beat the shit out of something. This unparalleled RAGE coursed through me, more intensely than it ever has having to do with harassment. Perhaps because it has been so accumulative, perhaps because he was so persistent and unpredictable and aggressive, I don't know. But it set me over the edge. I immediately went to the local Krav Maga place and signed up to start learning how to defend myself and hopefully find an outlet for the rage all of this perpetuates within me.
Plenty of men have been at the receiving end of emotional and physical violence by the hands of other men (and women), but there is something disempowering about the dichotomy between men as the aggressor and women as the victim because we women cannot often address the situation directly. The only thing we can do is try and de-escalate as I did, and get out of the situation as soon as possible. I am not saying that I'd rather stand there and engage or make him pay for his actions with my fists, but it feels weakening to me to simply absorb the energy of the event. And this is inevitably what happens for most women who I've discussed this very topic with. We absorb the confrontation and internalize it in ways that makes us fearful, mistrustful, paranoid and angry.
Public spaces, that should be equal opportunity spaces for men and women alike to go about their daily lives undisturbed, become grounds for feeling unsafe. It doesn't even seem to matter the time of day...my encounter yesterday happened at 2pm. It doesn't even seem to matter if you are alone or in a crowded area. Many other able-bodied people can evidently be around, and those hellbent on causing pain and discomfort in others will go about it anyway. And as I mentioned before, bystanders will look disoriented and do nothing - not necessarily enabling the perpetrator, but not hindering them either. Everywhere ends up feeling like the potential breeding ground for an unwanted encounter.
Feeling unable to react in ways that would deflect the energy, instead of absorbing it - this for me is the last straw. I realize that unstable and aggressive people exist in the world, and sometimes cannot be avoided. But I'm so sick and fucking tired of not being able to stand up to these bullies - because that's what they are. Insecure men, aggressively gesturing towards women as if to say, "Just in case you forgot - I am larger and more powerful than you, and I can kill you before you can even scream so you best put up with my disgusting behaviour."
I wish I could impart to the men in my life what it's like to feel this way. In essence, to constantly be on the defensive - to constantly be wondering when the next man is going to do something unwanted, violating and disturbing. To feel under the thumb of the patriarchy not just in terms of equal pay and rights as a citizen in a political manner, but in terms of how a woman weaves her way through the world, trying to avoid all of the potential male hazards that leave us raped, harassed, abused, maimed or killed, and then left to face a system that doesn't support us as we try and heal from these hurts (if even we can) because this system is primarily run by men.
The rage, the rage.
I truly wish I was learning Krav Maga out of a general desire to learn how to defend myself (knowing it will probably never need to be used) and to strengthen my body and mind. These are beneficial by-products of my intentions, but they are not the reason. The reason is because there is no 'if' but 'when' another man will make me feel disgusting and unsafe, and I'm not the type of woman to quietly turn my head. I will say "fuck off" because that's what they need to be told, and I want to actually be prepared for what may come next. Again, this isn't to say that I wish to start getting in fights with men twice my size, but I want to stop feeling so repressed. I want to stop feeling so meek, weakened, I want to stop simply absorbing the interaction. For me, part of embracing the Goddess is to know how to put someone in their place if need be, to not take any shit. If we are talking about a shift in consciousness, a new paradigm, for me, this is where it really takes off.
Margaret Atwood once said, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." Truer words have never been spoken, at least from the female perspective. If that doesn't give you an idea of the difference in scale of severity, I don't know what will. This needs to end, and the only way I can see it ending for me is to become a true warrior Goddess - so here I go.