Imagine this scene: a woman is walking to her car with her hands full with grocery bags when a man approaches her and tries to help her with the bags. She says, “No thank you, I’ve got it,” but the man keeps persisting two or three more times, not listening to any “no, thank you,” she has to offer. Finally, very frustrated, the woman says, “I said NO!”:
“Man: What a bitch. What’s your problem, lady? I was just trying to offer a little help to a pretty woman. What are you so paranoid about?
Woman: You’re right. I shouldn’t be wary. I’m overreacting about nothing. I mean, just because a man makes an unsolicited and persistent approach in an underground parking lot in a society where crimes against women have risen four times faster than the general crime rate, and three out of four women will suffer a violent crime; and just because I’ve personally heard horror stories from every female friend I’ve ever had; and just because I have to consider where I park, where I walk, whom I talk to, and whom I date in the context of whether someone will kill me or rape me or scare me half to death; and just because several times a week someone makes an inappropriate remark, stares at me, harasses me, follows me, or drives alongside my car pacing me; and just because I have to deal with the apartment manager who gives me the creeps for reasons I haven’t figured out , yet I can tell by the way he looks at me that given an opportunity he’d do something that would get us both on the evening news; and just because these are life-and-death issues most men know nothing about so that I’m made to feel foolish for being cautious even though I live at the center of a swirl of possible hazards doesn’t mean a woman should be wary of a stranger who ignores the word ‘no’.”
This excerpt comes from Gavin De Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence. I recently read an article called, “The art of ‘no,’ continued: saying no when you’ve already said yes” (click here for entire article). The title intrigued me, so I clicked on the link and proceeded to learn a bit about De Becker’s book, which the article is based on. As a result, I am now reading the book proper and I sure do find it interesting, mostly because I feel a kinship with the lady in the above excerpt.
Now, I’m not trying to gender stereotype (and De Becker does say this as well), but I do feel like as a woman I have to watch “where I park, where I walk, whom I talk to, and whom I date in the context of whether someone will kill me or rape me or scare me half to death”. It is not fun to feel in fear for my life much of the time. And the thing is that many of my male friends don’t really seem to realize this.
It is known, I think, to many of those who know me, that I have perfected what I like to call the ‘death look,’ synonymous with ‘stink eye,’ and that it most often comes out at the bar. Regardless of how many nice men there may be at bars, I do not wish to be picked up by any of them (bars for me connotate sleazy men who just want to get in my pants), and so the ‘death look’ comes out to play, thereby driving all potential suitors away. And then all the comments start rolling in: “You’ll never meet a guy that way,” “They might be nice if you gave them a chance,” “I’m not a bad guy and I go out to the bar,” etc, etc, etc.
I am so sick of this expectation of having to accommodate and consider men’s feelings. What about my feelings, my safety? So what if I don’t want men to pick me up at bars? There are plenty of places to meet people that I don’t consider sleazy or unsafe (granted, violence can happen anywhere, which is why this book is helpful thus far; it really helps shatter your perceptions of what’s safe and what isn’t). And I understand that not all men are bad, since I feel I do have some very trustworthy male friends. But, men, understand that a lot of women do live in this reality and if you’re a really good guy, sometimes the best thing to do is just leave a girl alone. At least you’ll know what’s up when she yells, “NO!” to your help.
And ladies, listen to your intuition. This is the number one rule De Becker keeps bringing up. And read the book. It might just save your life someday; I’m certainly not waiting to find out.