The Problem With Warning Women About Rape.10:53
News of pro-rape movement "Return of Kings" has been flooding headlines this week. I'm sure you've encountered some sort o...
News of pro-rape movement "Return of Kings" has been flooding headlines this week. I'm sure you've encountered some sort of mention of this group of men cropping up in your day to day lives either on your facebook feeds, in the papers or tv broadcasts. With no doubt, most of us have never even heard of the ROK before this week. The group is nothing short of a trollfest of men who belong in the pre-modern barbaric age where people would die at the age of 20 for eating rotten food that has fallen on their own shit (if you would like to find out more a quick Google search will suffice). And that is me being polite regarding their views.
Everyone has been covering the story that the leader of the ROK "Roosh V" will be embarking on a world tour, including several locations in Australia and even our very own sleepy city Perth. These reports initially began emerging at the beginning of the week. So I've come to know the day, February 6th quite well. It's a Saturday. I am usually rostered on to work on Saturdays and take a route home that passes through the city. With all the posts being shared about "pro-rape" groups spreading their wings on that date, I have honestly considered the possibility of me being in danger. Posts warning women to "stay away" or avoid certain areas have been shared on my own feed countless times. Constant fear mongering, unintentional or otherwise, has succeeded amongst many of us.
We show that we fear them. We fear their actions and oppose their beliefs. The news of these meet ups did not stop and many thoughts have been accompanying me ever since. As a woman in this day and age, it makes me feel like the world is truly full of terrible things. I still have the news of a woman being indecently assaulted around Bullcreek Station in the back of my mind. I pass through the city constantly, this place where these misogynistic gatherings will take place. And I also pass through Bullcreek Station on my way home.
I had myself wondering several things.
"Am I in danger?" was one of them. Yes. No. The real answer is both. I am in danger because the world is full of terrible people. That's the reality. But I do try to tell myself that I won't let myself get hurt by these people. Being treated as an object is something that most women face several times in their lives.
The truth is that I have been hurt in the past. I've had many confusing situations in my life- whether it was me not understanding the situation or me not being able to admit what had happened, I haven't been one to share these shameful memories. But I think that they have been on my mind for too long. And if there is a lot to learn from sharing my experiences, then it is important that people can read about them.
I don't know how to bring these experiences up but it is safe to say I have so many of them stored that not everything will be mentioned. The first time that I remember something like this happening was when I was very young. We used to visit some family friends quite often and there would be an "uncle"* there that would pay special attention to us (a group of young girls- family friends). He would call us over to talk to us and touch our chest or bottom in a way that I remembered was extremely uncomfortable. It was a shared experience and sentiment that we had talked about before. At that time in my life, I think I was very young and didn't understand what was happening. I remembered I didn't like it, most of us expressed that we didn't like it to each other, but we were all so young and afraid of this authoritative figure that we stayed silent. I think that was a "mild" situation that in hindsight could have escalated, but it left an impression on me for a while due to the nature of what was happening and how this topic still is very touchy and kept silent even to this day. I don't want to go into detail with this situation, even to this day as it still feels like a touchy topic. But I have reflected on the past and realised that the man's actions were extremely wrong and that we were all taken advantage of.
Fast forward to years later, I remember the first time I experienced catcalling, and it was extremely memorable because it gave me a lasting impression, this somewhat negative sentiment that attached itself to the idea of being complimented by someone of the opposite sex. I think I was about 12-14 at this point in time and going through some serious puberty blues. I remember the day being very sunny- I was standing in front of a bus stop when a car passed by me full of boys and I think a woman as well. One of the boys popped his head out of the car and shouting something at me, I can't remember clearly but it was something like "take off your top". The next thing that happened haunted me for a while. I felt this huge splatter against my clothes that were filled with gunky eggs that he had thrown from a speeding car. I remember feeling so ashamed and disgusted, I was crying because of how embarrassing it was. I had paid special attention to my outfit that day. Impressionable young me linked the way I dressed to the insult I had received (egged). I do remember going through a drastic change in appearance in the period following that incident, where I completely changed my hair and clothes and began feeling extremely self conscious that if I dressed differently to others. I'm usually able to talk about these incidents and look back and laugh, but something about being egged in such a fashion really affected how I saw myself. Over the years I have been honked at, yelled at, ogled at many times. I find that catcalling or insulting a woman from a moving car is the most common sort of filth we have to deal with. Over the years I have learned to perfect my intense frown and unwelcoming expression at these people who are such cowards that they only have the courage to discriminate a woman when they are safely in a car that is speeding away. How sad that I have learned that I am unable to smile without inviting men to think that they have the right to sexually objectify me, even when simply walking down a street. I've learned that the only way to send a message to such dimwits is to fight back- usually I'm unable to do anything more than make a rude gesture and shout some obscenities. Although people might think that my aggressive approach might be asking for trouble- I will continue to fight back because I will not give catcallers the satisfaction of thinking they are able to define me through their attacks. If I say nothing and do nothing, they will think that I'm simply that "bag of tits" that they labelled me. Well I thought that throughout the years I have developed a hardened shell towards these instances. But I think that the threat continues to grow the older I get and I am still learning from them.
The final two situations I will mention are of a different nature. Both of these happened relatively recently. I am a grown adult in both and both involve men touching me in a way that I have not consented. The first is a quick anecdote- where one night I was out heading towards Perth Underground and a young boy groped my ass as he walked passed. It happened so quickly- as both of us were walking in opposite directions- he practically disappeared before I could respond to the situation. I was still processing what was happening. A pathetic act on someone unsuspecting. It was something that was very unexpected and I felt very violated. I remember turning my head and catching his smirk as he took a look at me as he was walking away. It was a disgusting feeling and thinking of his hand reaching under my dress still makes me feel sick to this day. I sometimes think about it- because it was very unsettling that this person forced an intimate engagement with me. Probably the first time it really impacted me: that I was a mere object to these people and in their eyes I wasn't deserving of any respect. I think I saw a different side to the story then. These encounters were not mere accidents, they weren't harmless situations that happened to "everyone". I think I stopped feeling like it was something "all women had to deal with", as if it was our faults. This man touching me was (pardon my french) fucked up. And it wasn't my fault. It wasn't unwanted attention due to the way I looked or the way I dressed. It was an assault on my body and my right to be respected as a human being.
Which leads me to my final experience. This one was probably one of the most recent and an experience I am still dealing with even today. Similar to my encounter with the groping boy, this happened last year. My father had dropped me off to run some errands and was waiting outside. I was in Officeworks looking intensely at the paper section. I'm very particular with stationary and art supplies so I was standing there for a while trying to decide which pad of paper to purchase. A man comes up next to me and introduces himself to me. I remember he grabbed my hand and his hand shake was very tight, his grip almost hurt which was very peculiar as he seemed to approach me with a very friendly manner. This whole story seems innocuous up to this point. I was very naive to think that maybe he wanted to ask my advice on paper types due to the way I was examining the products on the shelf. But he continued talking to me and introducing himself. I wasn't responding with extreme enthusiasm. I only attempted to be polite with some yes or no type responses. It was then he randomly said, "I have to tell you, you are so very beautiful". He was still smiling. And this had never happened to me before. He seemed very nice about it, unlike cat callers or other men who had simply commented on my chest size or some other limb or part of me. I remember thinking what is this guy on, I'm in my pajamas running errands with no makeup on. I should have known that in reality it didn't matter, because this dude was a creep. I was honestly taken aback and awkwardly replied with a "oh, thanks... (?)". It was then when it slowly went downhill. He asked me for my number and I told him politely no. He persisted a few times, and I was still trying to be polite by rejecting his request nicely. He asked me why not. At that point I felt increasingly nervous about this situation because he didn't seem to take no for an answer. But I asserted myself and said that I don't give my number out to strangers. But he still wouldn't accept my reply and continued to try to persuade me for my number. I remember he said something like "you won't ever get to know anyone. Everyone is a stranger at one point." I felt like I did not want to be near this man any longer. But I was still very intimidated by him. He was of a very large build and his death grip hand shake was still hovering in my mind. I still told him, "sorry but no." And was surprised that he seemed to take it well. In the back of my mind I was so confused and still trying to process what was happening. He seemed finally ready to give up and asked me for a hug goodbye. And assuming it was going to be one of those rest-arm-on-shoulder quick situations, I said yes. But he grabbed me and squeezed me so hard against his chest that I couldn't breathe. I felt my chest crushed. He pushed my face against his shoulder. He had one of his hands on one side of my shoulders and his other arm was wrapping behind me. After a few seconds I felt like this was going on for too long and I was starting to actually feel really scared because he wasn't letting go. I attempted to move my face away from him, and tried hard to move away but he held so tightly onto me, I knew that he was doing this on purpose. He used his behind arm and and touched me up and down and I was still trying to move away. He finally let go after what felt like 5-6 minutes and walked off. I was so shocked. I still didn't really know what just happened. In my daze I stood there frozen. I was very scared and confused.
At this point I know many people reading this probably have a lot of opinions. I have been told by many people close to me that I was "stupid". To an extent I think that I was naive and had made a mistake. I was attempting to still be a friendly and nice human being unknowing of the nature of this person. It keeps replaying in my mind. That feeling as well. I'm not comfortable with people touching or hugging me and I do not like anyone in my close proximity. I constantly think of what I could have done to have prevented such a situation. I could have said no to the "hug". I could have told him to "f*ck" off or something more abrupt. Many people have told me the things I could have done.
You know what the worst part is? I started to believe that myself. That I'm stupid. That somehow I deserved it for being nice. That I was "asking for it".
But I had said yes but it didn't warrant him groping me. I made it clear it was unwanted by attempting to pull away, but he forcibly held my body against his. I still couldn't get over the fact that I was hideous in my granny pajama pants and such a thing had happened. And thats when I realised that it had nothing to do with how I acted or how I dressed. What could I have done in that situation? Nothing.
So I guess my experiences are an example. And this is the main reason why I am even retelling these situations publicly. Because I have seen so many posts this week telling women to be "careful" and to watch out for these men. And I think that it is so wrong that we have to "hide in fear" of these people. I for one will not run away. These posts show that we fear them. That somehow being possibly attacked it is a woman's responsibility. This is my opinion (not everyones) that warning women about rape is a way we as a culture put the responsibility of these crimes on the woman. If I walk past the street where those ROK would be meeting, would it now be my fault if something were to happen? Would I be blamed for "not listening to the warning"?
After the Officeworks incident, many people I cared about told me several things: I should have shouted. I should have said no. I should have called out for help. Yes, maybe I should have and could have done these things. But not one person told me that "that man shouldn't have touched you".
Whether it was a man touching me without consent, or a man cat calling, groping, whatever. The issue is that there are people out there that would do such things. Telling people to be careful of rapists etc. implies that it is our responsibility to avoid an unknowable enemy. That it is our fault if we are victims to these people. And I do not believe that. The recent incident has been a learning experience, and despite what everyone says about the things I could've done then, I can guarantee that I won't let it stop me from being a kind person and trying to be kind to strangers. I want to answer people who are asking me for directions. I want to thank the person making my coffee at my favourite cafe. I don't want to live my life in fear that somehow my kindness or attitude is to blame for everything that has happened. That is how I want to live my life. Of course I will be more weary, more expectant and more knowing if I were to come across a similar situation. But I refuse to live fearful of a world where everyone is an enemy. I want to be friendly to others- does that make it my fault if someone where to abuse my kindness? No it is not. It is not my fault. And it isn't her fault for dressing a certain way or acting a certain way. It is not her fault for being deceived.
Unspeakable acts against people (due to their gender- both ways), happen because there are some very bad people in this world. My experiences are not the only ones. I'm sure so many women out there have so much worse they go through. Of course we should be smart about it. And yes it is obvious we do need to be prepared of possible situations. But instead of telling everyone to avoid those people- to fear them- we should tell those people that they do not belong with us. That they will be punished. We should stop bad people instead of stopping people from living their lives because bad people are out there. We should tell those bad people that they should not hurt others. Maybe they will listen. And when we stop telling people that it's their responsibility for being targets of bad people, then those people will stop living in fear. That is what I believe in.
Update: As I was writing this I read news of the ROK meetings being cancelled. I am glad to see that the right thing has happened.