Thursday, September 27, 2007


Let’s just cut through the chaff and the chatter and the bull. It’s scary to be a woman. It’s not any scarier than being anything else, but it’s still scary as hell. When you’re a woman, you’re told from the start that you are born with something that will make other people want to harm you or chase you or put you in their car or trap you in a room or put their bodies inside you when you don’t want them to. You’re told that this thing you are, whatever this is you have, means you have to be super careful. You can’t bring the wrong kind of attention to yourself so you can’t be too loud, too friendly, too smart, too dumb, too happy, too sad, too pretty, too ugly, too fat, too hot, too … anything. The desire to act against you begins outside of you but somehow you’re in charge of deflecting it.

Being a woman is scary because you begin as a girl who knows that she’s prey.

Today in the lunchroom, a coworker said that they’d found Nailah Franklin’s body in the forest preserve in Calumet. A lump formed in my throat and my coworker’s eyes teared up. The lunchroom was silent while we thought about that beautiful woman’s last moments being at the hands of some fucking violent nutbag. Someone hunted her down and then killed her.

It’s a puzzle why this case should affect me when other missing woman cases haven’t quite. Maybe because it’s a Chicago woman; maybe because she’s black like me. Or was it that, by the black community’s standard of middle class success, she did everything right and I identified with her? Or that her family and friends seemed tight and loving and worried; or that Nailah looked like I could have worked with her or been to school with her or she could have been a friend. Whatever the reason, I felt this sad discovery keener than most.

I felt it because the discovery of this nude female’s body became an emblem of all the other nude female bodies found dumped in dense forest preserves across this country. Right now I’m feeling resigned sort of anger. Resigned because violence against women is a stamp of our DNA; it’s a sad recognition that, across all cultures, ideologies or nationalities, even if men stop making war against one another, they’ll always find time to kill or rape a woman.

Anger because my lizard brain wants to make some guy pay.

How can I explain what it’s like to live with the threat of violence against you?

· It’s like thinking, when you’ve had a particularly bad, nasty, bitter fight with your lover, you should be careful for the next few days just in case he shows up at your office and tries to throw gasoline on you and set you on fire.
· It’s like going on a date and deliberately writing down the guy’s name, phone number, address (which you’ve Googled) and his email address for your friends, just in case you disappear for a few days.
· It’s like being in the middle of making out and randomly thinking, if he tries anything I’ll smash his larynx. And then wondering if you really could.
· It’s like a reflex: when you get home, you turn completely around before opening your building’s door just to make sure a guy isn’t going to bash your head in and rape you in your foyer because all you can do is remember the Chicago woman who was raped and beaten 9 years ago exactly the same way, coming home from work in the middle of the afternoon in Wrigleyville.
· It’s like looking at my 7 year old niece and imagining everything that everyone is going to try and put on her narrow, innocent shoulders; how boys who think she’s pretty might get mad if she rejects them, how older boys and men might just look at her in ways that a grown man shouldn’t be looking at a girl and want to 'break her in', how she’ll be 'fresh meat' on a college campus, and wondering what the hell you can do, short of turning her into a ninja, that can prevent any of that from happening.
· It’s like looking at almost every guy and, though unfairly, expecting someone whose first recourse upon rejection will be to fuck. you. up.
It’s like turning into a soldier stationed in a hostile desert town seeing insurgents everywhere and feeling fucking pissed off because all you want is to fucking go home and not feel so beseiged like this anymore.


Faith said...

Thank you for posting this. As a survivor of sexual assault, I am constantly feeling "beseiged" which is a word I haven't yet used to describe the trauma but I will now.

Thank you.


ding said...

faith, you're welcome.