I can't speak for everyone, but I have to say that one of my worst fears (aside from caged birds and extremely large moving electronic staircases and traumatic brain injuries) is...for real...something that I'm sure is pretty disturbing to all women. It's the very real fear of waking up in my own bed only to discover that I am being physically pinned down by some strange, crazy bastard with serious female issues and a warped sense of aggressive entitlement either from hating his mother or being breast fed for far too long. Whatever the reason, he has invaded my home, and, without invitation, my personal space.
This is why I'm pretty vigilante when it comes to locking doors, taking constant inventory of my surroundings, (making use of surreal monkey noises) and keeping a small canister of pepper spray under my pillow--in the wedge between the mattress and the bed frame. Will the pepper spray keep me safe? Meh, probably not...but I'm realistic enough to realize that a knife is a greater liability to me than to a potential aggressor. I'm feisty, I've been trained not to hesitate and look for windows of escape, and generally speaking, I won't go down without a damn good fight. But let's be real here--I'm not a body builder, I'm not a giant. I don't do Kung Fu. I'm an average sized girl with average strength. And realistically speaking, my chances of survival in a situation like this is actually increased if I remain calm and don't struggle. I think maybe that's what bothers me the most.
What bothers me, too, is that I've had enough close escapes, and I know for a fact that this is the rule more than the exception. I've counseled and worked with enough women to know that I'm one of the lucky ones. I've merely been groped, grabbed, pushed, chased and followed. In Spain, my guard was down one sunny afternoon when a 14 year old boy on a bike stopped me in an alley and asked me for the time. Before I knew it, he had me up against a wall. Before he knew it, he was bent over my knee with one shot to his little Spanish cajones and two blunt elbow moves to each of his kidneys. He dropped like a sack and I just kept kicking him and screaming at him (in English) to get up and fight like a man. He fled without his bike. I rode it around for a couple of days before spray painting it pink and giving it to a school girl.
I have nightmares about this. In fact, I had one last night. It's part of the reason why I am a feminist-- because I don't think I should have to live in fear of such things, and it makes me angry that taking so many precautions against the misogynistic and misguided childmen of this world are necessarily a part of my daily routine as a woman. This is why I shudder when people call feminists "femi-nazis", "lesbians" or "bra-burning bitches", etc. Particularly in Western society, I find these sorts of individuals just as indictable as extremist Taliban leaders. I really do. It makes me wonder if these people realize that they are implicitly accepting of this sort of violence and repressed behavior in our culture, too. I'm not a second-class citizen, and I refuse to be mistreated and have in the integrity of my body and spirit abused in any way for simply being born a woman.
Simultaneously, this greater issue of violence against women in our society makes me hold the good men in my life much closer to me while sincerely looking forward to raising up a couple of future good men of my own. We need better men, better fathers, and better mothers, too. We all can do better.
In the meantime, here's something that brings me back from the edge of my night terrors. I used to keep it next to my bed for years. Now, I just have it memorized.
On Stripping Bark From Myself, by Alice Walker
Because women are expected to keep silent
about their close escapes
I will not keep silent
and if I am destroyed (naked tree)
mark the spot where I fall
and know I could not live
hearing their "how nice she is!"
whose adoration of the retouched image
I so despise.
I am finished with living
for what my mother believes
for what my brother and father defend
for what my lover elevates
for what my sister, blushing, denies or rushes to embrace.
I find my own small person a standing self against the world
an equality of wills
I have lived to understand.
A woman who loves wood grains, the colour yellow
and the sun, I am happy to fight
all outside murderers
as I see I must.