Erika Azevedo

This happened to me on March 2nd, in the afternoon, as I was exiting a mall after taking my six-year-old dautgher to the movies. This happend in Sao Paulo, Brasil.

“If you were a guy I would punch you in the face” said Bruno, a passenger in a car that had just scratched mine.

What “caused” the threat was the fact that I, a woman, was demanding that his buddy took responsibility for the damage he did on my car by being a smart-ass and cutting me off from a turn left only lane.

As I got out of the car to look at the damage the driver (who was not the verbal agressor) said sorry, but when I said he would have to pay for the fender bender (small, but yet costy, been there done that) he changed his mind and started saying I couldnĀ“t prove he had done that to my car. I was firm in saying (as I took pictures of the damage and of his license plate) that he was going to take responsibility.

At that point, his buddy, got out of the car saying as he gesticulated “stop the show, stop the show, he said he is sorry already” and went on, both guys (throwing quite a show I must say….) not letting me say anything…as I looked at them (coincidently positioned between my car – window open, my daughter curiously observing the scene – and both men). I was eventually able to say “show? what show? I am only demanding what is right”. To what Bruno replied “You are out of control, he already said he was sorry”. “I am not out of control. Your buddy said sorry, but now is refusing to take responsibility, I am simply demanding what is right, when you decided to get out of the car and join your friend. What for?” When he finally said the pearl “if you were a man I would punch you in the face”. Calmly I looked at him with serious eyes “your buddy makes a mistake for which he doesn’t want to take responsibility and you are telling me you’d punch me?!”, he replied “you bet I would”…”well, I can punch too” said I while I continued looking at him. He left the scene cursing “fucking bitch” (to those who speak Portuguese he said “folgada do caralho”).

As far as car damage goes the situation was sorted. But I reflected a lot about it and the meaning of what the guy said:

First thing he said, the “show”. Why? Because there was a woman facing a man up and telling him “you made a mistake you’d better take responsibility for it”? Why “out of control”? I did not raise my voice, lose focus of the matter (ruined side mirror) or anything. They were the ones speaking over me, gesticulating and not letting me speak. Could it be that I was out of their control by not being intimidated by them as they obviously were trying to make me feel?

One might say “ah, but they’d do the same were you a guy”…no, they wouldn’t. They would not say I was out of control or that I was putting up a show. They might start a fist fight or likely become buddies with the driver. Then another person might say “but did you want to be punched”…he might try but the punch is not the issue. The issue is the attempt to intimidate me because I was a female driver. The behaviour of the guy who actually caused the damage was a typical city driver’s atittude who doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions. But his buddy, Bruno, his narrative towards me was permeated by sexism. A woman daring to debate with two men had better be “crazy”, “out of control”. “The fucking bitch” did not take the position they were attempting to put me on.

Bruno did not punch me out of respect (because I am a woman) nor fear (because I said I could punch), but because his intention was never the physical agression per se, but the intimidation based on how he expects women to behave when around men.

PS: I shared this story with several friends intending to educate them. Male friends. I wonder how many thought, when first reading the sentence “If you were I guy I would punch you in the face”, “what did she do?”. I wonder how many of them called a woman crazy when she was standing up for herself. They took it well, I hope they truly reflect upon their actions in the future.

PS 2: I am a 2nd degree black belt karateca and I could probably have defended myself from an attack from that guy, however, what karate gave me was mental empowerment to withstand the symbolic agression of that act.