Please – read this first —-> Unseen, Unheard, Unvalued, Unimportant …
Now hear (read?) me out…
The fear of such an encounter is in nearly every woman’s subconscious, whether we want to admit to ourselves, let alone openly, or not.
Maybe it is not to such extremes in smaller towns, but in cities big and small, each day we as women who deign to step out past our front doors is consciously unconscious prepared for battle. We walk the streets constantly scanning faces and spaces, making as little eye-contact as possible, to keep from bumping into people and people from bumping into us. We walk the streets wondering was that brush against our backsides just the happenstance of crowded streets/bus/train/bar or was it something else? We walk the streets knowing that to hold eye-contact with a stranger too long can garner anything from a “were you looking at me?” stare with them quickly looking away, to a “what the f*** you looking at?” glare that makes you quickly shift your eyes. For extended eye-contact can turn into a simple one head nod of acknowledgement one human to another that is forgotten faster than the air refills the vacancy formed in passing each other or it can escalate into what happened to GirlGriot. Or for the wrong woman caught by the wrong man on the wrong day with no knights, white/black or otherwise, to come to the rescue – something worse.
And all of this for no other reason for some than our having a vagina.
This daily battle is amplified pound for pound exponentially for us bigger gals. Where a look can also be one mere disapproval for taking up more space than some other person or outright disdain for our mere existence on this planet. Where a woman can strut down the street in haute couture, but can be brought down and made to feel a hot mess by the hateful words and/or actions of an (im)perfect stranger, because she appears to be over XYZ pounds over some presumed benchmark of beauty. If a cell phone is held up in our general direction, is the person just trying to read their texts in a better light or are we about to be photographed without our permission only to someday find ourselves subjected to the likes of Tosh 2.0 or “People of WalMart” type of vile and viral?
Now add being a woman of color to the daily strategy, because unless we are already acquainted with them in other some way, the ones who could become a danger to us do not see the individual. The questions then become – is the guy looking at me seeing a Sapphire (the Angry Black Woman stereotype to challenge) or a Jezebel (the Promiscuous Black Woman stereotype to fuck)? While no one is ever mistaking me for the third stereotype a Mammy – the maid/mother/church woman/crone, I know for certain that the potential predator/s may look at me through any one or all three stereotypes and only see one thing – prey. This battle crosses every class, social and economic lines from roun’-the-way girls through to the upper echelons grande dames. The daily battle of our self-pride that says “Keep your head up,” against our self-preservation that says “but, keep your eyes lowered” because any day could turn into that day. Just as no mother of black sons wants her child’s name to follow behind the comma of the latest victim of senseless violence, we have no desire for it to be our name behind that comma either.
We women are well aware that millions of women will go through their lives and never encounter anything that may challenge her safety. Still, if we have not lived it ourselves, we all know someone, or of someone, who has. Thus we all go through our lives knowing that on any given day it could. We either live in the grips of this fear, or in spite of this fear, or some combination thereof, but this fear is a subconscious part of our day, every single day.
I know most of you can’t, won’t or refuse to comprehend this, so I’ll repeat it.
Every. Single. Day.
And we do it in relative silence. Why? Because what’s the point in complaining? No ones listening anyway, as the saying goes. It’s one thing to surmise that our well beings can mean so little to some. It’s a bitter pill to swallow down in our cores in the face of the truth of it. Had she been a white woman accosted by a black man in such a manner, someone would have quickly intervened. Someone else likely would have been taking cell phone pictures/videos for the police. She would not be deliberately unseen by passers-by. She would not be unheard by those she called out to. If silence equals consent, then the silence of each person that ignored GG’s plight in effect gave the man consent to harm. I do not dare to ask what would it have taken for them to acknowledge her potentially dire situation and intervene. I am just grateful for the young heroes who did come to her aid, that we won’t ever have to find out.
But what of the next woman who encounters a man like that?
I read GirlGriot’s post. And re-read it. And read it yet again. I want to focus on the positive of the young men that came to her rescue, but I can’t get past the boulder sized lump in my throat that rescuing was needed in the first place.
I keep coming back to this: I shouldn’t have to fear men messing with me in the street. And I shouldn’t have to fear the people who are supposed to protect me from men messing with me in the street.
— GirlGriot Unseen, Unheard, Unvalued, Unimportant …
Nor should we have to have fear for the good Samaritan/s who do reach out to protect us, that their actions to help could put them in a different kind of harm on our behalf.
We should not have to fear…period.
But we do… Every. Single. Day.