Women Hurt Women, Too

Wow.

My last post blew this place up.

I had an overwhelming amount of support, attention, and even a little bit of criticism. I got many private messages saying “thank you,” from women who related to the story. I got a lot of comments in that vein. I also got a few comments from a woman who questioned my tactics, my beliefs, and my grasp on reality. She said she’d rather say something to someone in the moment than write a blog post about it. Sorry, I’m going to write a blog post about it.

This will be Part 1 of a two-part series.  TW: rape, racism.

Instead of breaking down the values and dangers of confrontation, I wanted to go into a realization I had the first time I found myself arguing against women on a matter of gender. That is, women hurt women too. Women protect patriarchy, too. I am seeing it now in the news, with the SCOTUS ruling. I am seeing women standing on the other side of the fence, joyous because to them it is their own victory, they have taken on the fears of reproductive health as their own, they’re saving babies or some shit. Not concerned at all about their own uteruses. Because they’re not sluts. Or something. Anyway.

I was so naive, once, to think other women would understand me by virtue of also being women.

Let me tell you the story.

It was February, Black History Month, 2010, at UCSD. The Black Student Union (BSU) was waiting on an answer for their demands. A party with a racist theme, and some of the things said in defense of this party, and a noose hung in the library, revealed the toxicity of the campus climate against black students. “The University is allowing the African-American students to be racially demoralized by a group of students on this campus,” the demands letter read. This becomes relevant, later.

I’d only been a student for about 1 year. I had joined one of my University’s largest Facebook groups, which mostly posted events. Occasionally, people posted internet articles and discussed them. I mostly did not participate, because I was busy being an art student and doing art student things (read: get fucked up and play Minecraft). One guy posted an article about how chivalry was seemingly dead.

People responded to the post, generally agreeing that chivalry was dying, and it was such a shame. The article stressed that it was women being ungrateful for chivalrous acts that was part of the problem, and why were they doing that? I saw an opportunity to help explain why a woman might feel uncomfortable with chivalry, and I gave personal examples and explained in a rather diplomatic way (or so I thought). I said that it is possible that women could be uncomfortable because they are afraid. That, for example, when I walk to my car alone at night, I put my keys between my knuckles like wolverine because society tells me I should be afraid I could be attacked. So if a guy runs to open my car door for me, I might be unsure of his motives. I may have also said men should pay attention to their surroundings and make sure they aren’t accidentally making women uncomfortable.

People’s responses to my comments stunned me. Two women, especially, picked me apart. I tried to defend my statements, but they told me I was stupid to be afraid. It’s difficult to remember anything but the most horrifying of the things that they said, and that was this: “If you’re so afraid, why don’t you go run to the BSU and use their ‘safe space,’ then? Or are you too afraid of the big black men?”

I deleted everything I wrote. I was humiliated and shaken. I did not expect this from women. I thought all of them knew the fear I sometimes carry with me. I thought all of them had at some time or another distrusted a man who seemed to have “chivalrous” intentions. I thought they would stand up for me, in light of all that has happened to our fellow women.

Just one year prior, a student walked alone to her car at 8:30pm. She was held down in the parking lot, between the cars, and raped.

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I love tourists

I love tourists. (And transplants.) Granted, sometimes it’s a “kids say the darnedest things” kind of affection. I used to work at SeaWorld, and I won’t repeat his words here, but let’s just say a man from a small town in Oregon who was overwhelmed by the “diversity” taught me there are racist words that I didn’t know about.

He’s not the kind of tourist I love. Nor the ones who unknowingly starred in my daily comedy show: I watched seagulls dive-bomb trays of french fries as soon as the hungry guests emerged from Mama Stella’s. No, I value the people who remind me what’s good about this place. I mean, besides the weather. This weekend I met a woman from Chicago who awed at the mountains, and yes they were very effective at blocking my cell reception but I stopped cursing T-mobile and also spun in a slow circle. Ok, yes, I’m looking at them. Wow.

And every place has its own brand of localism, but ours is particularly bullheaded. Families sit behind property taxes like they earned the right to live here, passing down houses for generations. What they don’t know is that the transplants are saving this town. Because while we’re the last idiotic stand against all that is good and liberal in California, we have an ironic patience for tourists. Newcomers are weirdos. But we’re oblivious, too complacent and courteous to offer anything but smiles and averted gazes.

It is when I’m at a writing night, or in a art group, that people are surprised that I’m a local, like I’m some kind of rarity. Locals might create these spaces, but the transplants flock to them. They are still hungry for controversy, they still remember what it’s like to wear galoshes because you need them, not because they are covered in zebra stripes and match your fuzzy animal print coat…. Waterproof shoes are rad, why did no one tell me this? I stood in a creek! And my feet didn’t get wet!

The kind of tourist I love shakes his head at me, asks me how I can be okay with this, reminds me there is a larger world out there. The kind of tourist I love tells me I can retire here but I need to get out at some point. The kind of tourist I love, though, has to admit the chaparral here could inspire Dr. Seuss and this place is pretty great, underneath it all. And it’s getting greater.

  1. Beer. Obviously.
  2. The food trucks are multiplying.
  3. So Say We All
  4. A new haunted house
  5. …and more of course!

P.S. yes, I know I missed my post last week. I was preparing for a large camping festival, and yes it was lovely, and no I won’t write about it in my public-facing blog. I love you tourists, but that one isn’t for you.