Monday, May 18, 2015

Gender Dynamics in a Dangerous World

I’ve been thinking a lot about men and women and marriage lately. It’s a tough topic. I’m in a little discussion group, which mostly talks about religion, and I’m the only woman. It’s a bit odd, but I enjoy it. It’s a respectful gathering and the fact that I’m a woman is not at all an issue. However, sometimes I get to offer the female perspective, and I love that.

Just yesterday, one man was recounting how he was trying to get directions from someone, a woman sitting in her car. He knocked on her window and she blatantly ignored him. Now, I think that was rude. But then, I pointed out, she was probably afraid of him. He was shocked by the idea. But it’s true. She was fearful of engaging with him, quite likely because he is a man and she is a woman. He didn't understand what I meant, so I told them about the time my life was threatened by a man I had never met before.

 “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them.
Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Margaret Atwood

I was driving home from a concert, so it was late at night. I had my windows down and was singing. At the traffic light, as one does, I glanced around to see if anyone had heard my singing, and I saw the guy driving the car next to me. He smiled and I smiled embarrassedly back. The light turned green and I drove off, thinking nothing of it. At the next light, he honked, so I looked at him. He rolled down his window and said, “You are so beautiful. I am following you home.” I will never forget those words.

I gave him a “shut up, weirdo” look and rolled up my window. When the light turned green I shot off, going as fast as I could. He followed me. He continued to follow me, but I kept heading home, thinking this was a joke, this was not real, this was just coincidence. Surely he wasn’t actually following me home!

When I turned into my apartment complex, he turned in right behind me, and I panicked. I took off, speeding recklessly through the parking lot, trying to get ahead of his car. I drove to my friend’s building, but his lights were off. I pulled into a parking space and killed the car, slinking down in my seat with my heart pounding. Maybe he wouldn’t recognize my car. Maybe I would get lucky. Maybe this was still just a joke. I saw his car headlights drive past slowly, then stop.

In that moment, I knew it was me or him. My car was my only weapon. I saw him get out of his car and approach my space. It was time to go on the offense - if I had to hit him with my car, I would.
Starting the car, I rammed it into reverse and peeled out of the spot, barely missing him. I took a moment to look at his license plate and then floored it out of the parking lot. He followed. At the next traffic light, my foot hammered the air, toe anchored to the brake pedal, heel flying with adrenaline. I pulled out my cell phone and flipped it open, then shone the light towards him. It was time to call 911. The light turned green and he drove away from me.

I drove to the nearest restaurant parking lot and called a friend, my entire body shaking. We stayed on the phone 20 minutes, until I was calm enough to drive home. When I got home, I called the cops and reported him and his license number. They scolded me for not driving to a police or fire station.

Let’s pause for a moment. In what world is it my fault for assuming that a total stranger is NOT a threat to my life? I was at fault, apparently, for not running straight to a safe place. Before you blame me (and I know some will), consider what you would’ve done. Do you assume that any man who shows friendly interest in you is a potential murderer? Have you ever accepted a drink in a bar from a man? Ever been alone with a man you weren't related to? Ever had to go somewhere alone at night?

I spent that night on my couch, wide awake, with my gun next to me. If anyone unknown had come to my door, I would’ve shot right through it.

“I don’t know how women still go out with guys when you consider the fact that there’s no greater threat to women than men.” Louis CK

I told these kind gentle men my story, in a well lit coffee shop in Raleigh, and they were quiet. None of these men would threaten me. None of them would hurt me, or allow me to be hurt. But, because they are good men, good PEOPLE, it never occurred to them how dangerous life can be for a woman.


  1. wow, what a profound story. It is important to remember that some men, the good ones, do not understand the danger we live with daily. As a victim of child abuse, I find my mistrust of men an asset that keeps me safe, but even my loving husband who is aware of my background sometimes does not understand my mistrust, and the necessity of it. I am glad you opened that conversation with these guys, I bet they will take extra steps to make sure the women in their lives feel more protected. But it is a sad world that we have to live like this.

    1. Yes, it's easy to minimize the dangers of simply being female, and easy to just tell women to "be smart." Instead we need to focus on teaching people to be good to people, no exceptions.

  2. You also called me, and I was terrified for you. But you did well, and I was also proud. You were definitely in danger, but you didn't turn victim. You used your head and your car and you saved yourself. I think that pulling into a police station would be good, but they can be hard to find. However, fire stations are everywhere, and they would also be safe places. But you were not to blame in any way for this event. And no one should judge your actions. It's hard for any of us to predict exactly how we would act when suddenly thrown into that situation. You turned your initial panic into life-saving behavior.