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 couldn´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.
This happened to me last Saturday, at a family function. It really messed me up, so I tried writing about it to help me process. I decided to post it here, because this is something we deal with daily, and people who read it told me it made them feel less alone. “Yesterday I was told that wolf-whistling and catcalling are nothing more than compliments. That it is normal for men to appreciate a beautiful woman walking by. Yesterday I was told that I should feel flattered by the attention, and that women who aren’t are stuck up and lack insight. Yesterday I was told that if women don’t want male attention, they should dress conservatively and cover up. That women who don’t should expect men to respond to that, because it’s in their nature. Yesterday I was told that men who don’t do this are all gay. That Real Men are triggered by women’s looks, and incapable of self-restraint when confronted by them. Yesterday I was told that it was normal that this happened to me, starting at the age of 12, because men can’t help themselves and women should take that into consideration. Yesterday I was told that street harassment was harmless, because those men are not rapists. That I should be fine with being ranked on a scale of fuckability by strangers and acquaintances, because they are likely just Nice Guys complimenting me. Yesterday I was told that feminists hate all men, just for being men. That expecting men to live up to a higher standard (meaning: treating women as people in their own right, instead of objectifying them at every turn) is ridiculous and misandrist. Yesterday I was told that it’s normal for men to treat women as something to look at, there for their pleasure, and that I should be fine with being reduced to my looks, because they don’t mean any harm. Yesterday I was told that a man’s right to objectify me with wolf-whistles and catcalls is more important than my right to walk down a street un-harassed. That it trumps my right to feel safe and comfortable while living my life. Yesterday I was told that the men who’ve harassed me over the years were provoked, and that they couldn’t help themselves. Yesterday I was told that only psychopaths rape women, and that those men on the streets aren’t that, they were just following their nature. Yesterday I was told that avoiding a man’s discomfort and bruising of his ego is more important than my right to be treated as a person in my own right at all times. Yesterday I was told that my feelings and experiences don’t matter, because I take everything too personal. That my anger and disgust at being reduced to a sexual object are exaggerated. Yesterday I lost my temper, after unsuccessfully trying to argue my point, and told a man to fuck off before storming off. I was told off for being disrespectful to a hardworking man. That I should overlook the sexism and misogyny and defer to him, because he works hard and provides for his family. Yesterday I heard a man say to his wife that her feelings, opinions and arguments don’t matter, because they are not his and therefore unimportant. Yesterday I heard old-white-male-tears complain that today’s youth had no respect. I heard reassuring shushes confirm that the pain of his bruised ego was worse than my pain and outrage from being seen as a plaything for men, there for the taking. Yesterday I heard the above out of the mouth of a man that I trusted. A man I admired. A man I respected. Yesterday I heard him say things that made it clear that, as a woman, I am first and foremost there for the pleasure and enjoyment of men. Yesterday I heard him, whom I’d always thought enlightened, reduce my gender to objects and his to animals who cannot control their basic instinct. Yesterday I fought for my gender and his. For our right to be seen as equals, and theirs to be seen as more than base animals. Yesterday I tried to argue, to educate and enlighten. I tried to compress the female experience into clear and nuanced arguments in a way that might sink in. Yesterday I fought #NotAllMen and #WomenDoThisToo. Yesterday I tried to use data and evidence to put a stop to the derailment tactics. Yesterday I stood for all my sisters who are objectified, for all my brothers who are told they are no more than a meat suit with a sex drive. Yesterday I lost respect for a man whom I thought was better than this. Yesterday I stood alone.” Originally posted on https://goingfullval.wordpress.com