Friday, September 25, 2009

What is to be Done?

I just took a walk, like I do every night, down the humid, dark stretch of Alafaya. On walks like these my imagination, maybe fortified by a rum and coke, floats dreamily in the tender perfume of the philosophical flowers planted during the day. Warm futures of feminist life roll out before my eyes, and things only hinted at in daylight take on a comforting air of reality. This is when I feel absolutely alone and safe. My body softens. My wrists, held stiff all day, relax and my hands flop whichever way the breeze takes them.

This is when the lone car in the right lane slows down next to me. This is the instant I notice that the windows are down. “Hey faggot! You walk like a faggot! Faggot!” the harsh voices call as the car accelerates away down a side street.

My first panicky thought at times like this is always, “However did they know?” Almost immediately I realize that I’ve merely been emasculated, which is not nearly as bad as being discovered. “Ha,” I think, “The jokes on them!” Only as the adrenaline wears off do I realize that I have not really been emasculated, either. I have been terrorized.

I have been terrorized because I am alone on a dark street. I have been terrorized because every headlight in the distance is a returning car full of drunken frat boys who will torture me, rape me, or kill me. I have been terrorized because should I survive the encounter, the police officer on the scene will have a good chuckle before burying the case. Most of all, I have been terrorized because what was before a dark, welcoming night has become a haven for every fear I can conjure.

Emasculation is terror. Emasculation is the forcible removal of the armor that protects us from the unthinkably violent world we create. On a whim, three hooligans have made me feel mortal terror. What is the appropriate response? In the light of day, retributive justice is only revenge and the celebration of Lorena Bobbitt’s frightful deed is sophomoric Roiphist feminism. But alone, in the dark, as the taillights speed away, Lorena Bobbitt makes a lot of sense.

Emasculating the emasculators. The wicked, primitive logic of the idea steadily stifles my humanistic doubts. This evil grows inside me as I walk back to my apartment, foretelling a night of clenched teeth and red dreams. But the proprietor of the local sports bar, unaware of my struggle with internal demons, chooses this moment to turn on the outside speakers. The sweet notes of Carlos Santana’s guitar drift across the street and remind me that there is beauty in the world. Perhaps instead of hitting Greek Row with pliers and duct tape, I’ll write about this on the blog.


Ariel Dansky said...

Well, now I know that it's not just women who get harassed as we walk alone on the street.

I really think there is something distinctly "masculine" about driving a car in America, in that possession of one automatically makes the driver more powerful and privilidged- or at least makes him feel that way. In turn, this makes anyone on foot alongside the road less powerful, weak, and ultimately "feminine." This doesn't mean the person walking is necessarily a woman or has to be a woman for them to be harassed by people in those big bad manly automobiles.

Further, I say this is a distinctly American phenomenon because our culture is absolutely obsessed with cars (and, having travelled to Europe and the Middle East, I have come to the conclusion that there is no equivalent obsession in those areas). In turn, we have attributed to cars a masculine connotation. In a country where consumption of goods and ownership of property is as American as the bill of rights, owning a car makes one more feel more powerful (read: "masculine") and all others without one a notch lower on the priviledge scale, at least for that time being.

Leila said...

Ross, Thank you for sharing this in a most powerful and poignant way. It's absolutely beautifully written and gave me goosebumps as I read it. It also made me want to cry. I think every woman who reads this can relate and unfortunately, more men than we even realize. Illuminating the fact that these feelings and experiences are not limited to one gender (through your painful personal experience) reinforces my conviction that Theories of Masculinities is a necessary and important class, that Men Against Rape is an essential addition to our campus (particularly because it brings issues of "masculinity" into the light), and that discussions of masculinity belong in Women's Studies because, after all, we should be working together. No, scratch that: we MUST work together.

Evan Wyss said...

The car/masculinity hypothesis you brought up is certainly prevalent in some parts of the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates comes to mind. Also, i've noticed this sort of thing happening even more often in Mexico.