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Violence

August 7th, 2008 · No Comments

If any woman, anywhere in the world, hears footfalls behind her on a darkened street, she has reason to be afraid. Robin Morgan called that the democracy of fear under patriarchy. – Derrick Jensen

Lona is becoming a woman, and my motherly friend has been instructing her in all the necessary things. Make up, clothes, how to walk, how to talk, all those little things. It’s been two months since she started taking estrogen, though the testosterone has been blocked for over a year, and my motherly friend is worried that Lona is going to get hurt. It’s dangerous to be a woman in this world, more dangerous to be a trans woman, and Lona is going to start dating soon. Our motherly friend wants me to scare her and make violence seem real to her, because Lona has honestly had this story book privileged, protected life.

Okay, I agree. Lona and I are standing near the door, her back is to the wall. Okay, I tell her. Say we are standing here like this, and we’re kissing. Do you see what situation your in?

She looks around, looks down at my hands, her hands. No, she doesn’t see.

Okay. I grab her, push her into the wall, hand at her throat. Now do you see?

She blinks and bursts into tears. I’m sorry. She says she knows she has to learn this, has to feel in her body the possibility of violence because she’s never considered it before. Men don’t have to, you know. I feel like I’m violating her, destroying her innocence, but it does seem necessary.

It’s good, Lona says. We are good and she learns so much from us.  Women need this too, she says, because you just don’t grow up expecting violence.

You don’t? 

So we do it again. We trade places. I show her how to break thumbs, smash noses, kick, duck, throw.

We do it on the couch. We do it on the bed. We do it on the floor. We do it until I can pin her to the bed in sex position and she can throw me off, and our motherly friend smiles and pronounces that Lona is now prepared to be a woman.

****

The next day I take Her to the bay. She wants to say goodbye to the ocean. We fine a nice pull off, and I help Her down the steep rocky hill to a place where She can sit.

A car comes screeching off the freeway and a man jumps out of the drivers seat, runs around and yanks the back door open. He leans in and starts screaming and yelling, his shiny baggy shirt straining across his ass every time he inhales to yell again.

She hands me a frappacino bottle out of her purse, and I grab it by the neck really good.

Open it, She says. Don’t fight with it, open it.

He stands up, slams the door hard, opens it, slams it, opens it, slams it. She stares, and I tell Her to turn Her face to me and just look with Her eyes. Never good to stare at violent people. My phone and all my weapons are in the van, and I can’t leave Her to run up there.

He is leaning in, yelling again, calling someone a fucking bitch, moving his arms around. Is he hitting someone? Or is he moving things around?

There was a time when I carried a gun just for these kinds of situations, when I was young and traumatised and trigger happy. That didn’t work out so well, so I tried the opposite, being an advocate in courts and other safe places, but that had very little actual affect. So here I am, somewhere in between, sunset on the side of a deserted highway, frozen on the sidelines.

He’s big enough that I probably couldn’t take him. In public, I always say something. I think we have a responsibility to mirror reality to people who might not know that abuse is wrong. But it is sunset on the side of a deserted highway, and I’m frozen. I’m afraid to walk away from Her. She’s so delicate.

He slams the door a last time and turns to walk around to his side of the car. I watch. A woman jumps out of the car and tries to run, but she didn’t wait long enough. He turns and catches her full frontally and tries to shove her back in the car.

I’m going to go get my phone, I tell Her, because I think in the heat of this struggle he won’t be distracted by Her sitting here on the rocks. She pulls a phone out of her purse. Magic.

I dial 911, and get a recording. All their operators are busy, the next available operator will be with you shortly.

The woman’s broken away now, but he has her by the arms. Could you call the cops? she yells at us. I have the phone hidden on the other side of my head. I don’t want him to know and come down here, but then she breaks away from him and runs to us, him chasing behind. The phone is still on hold with 911. I drop it on the inside of Her coat where he won’t see it and stand to meet them, to get between Her and him.

She, being wise, picks up the phone and hobbles along the shore. I am chest to chest with a big man, his finger in my chest, yelling at me that I don’t know what the fuck is going on. My back is to the cliff. I step sideways, between him and her, and he doesn’t close the space. He’s young.

Look, I tell him, I don’t care what’s going on here, but you are behaving very aggressively and I’d like you to step back out of my space.

(I learned that phrasing from my fundamentalist Christian ex cop friend.  It’s a strange friendship, but we’ve loved each other for way too long to stop now.)

Oh, I see how it is, he says. I see how it fucking is. Fucking bitches. I’ll fucking leave you here.

She’s brave and quiet and she says Leave, I’ll find a ride.

He runs up the cliff, jumps in his car, and speeds off.

Okay, I tell her, we’re gonna stand here and count to thirty and then we’re going to run and hide you in the back of my van. And we do. She hops up in my bed and exclaims that she’s been living in a car too, with that guy.

By then She has hobbled back up the beach and has the 911 people on the phone. The reception sucks, though, so she gives the phone to me. I don’t have any better luck, and we get disconnected. The 911 lady is smart enough to call us back, though, and She explains the entire situation. Then she argues with the 911 lady, who seems to not care now that no one is in danger.

“Look,” she says, “this girls is, how old are you honey? This girl is nineteen and she looks like a model and SOMEBODY needs to be concerned for her welfare.” She’s good like that.

Then She hangs up and instructs the girl in saving her own life. This is what She does, and She’s good at it, alternating between extreme sympathy and straight up reality. Look, she says, you can’t just put up with this kind of behavior. You will end up dead.

Oh, the woman says, I’m not putting up with it. We’re in Counseling.

Honey, I say, when someone behaves like that you don’t talk about it. You leave.

We stop at a grocery store and sit, circle wise, on the pavement. They chainsmoke, I collect the butts, and we have a little two woman intervention.

By the time the cop comes she knows more about domestic violence than most DV counselors. We have a group hug and she says thanks. She says it’s good to have advice from older woman in how to be a woman.

I want to tell her that being a woman does not mean getting beat up, but it might not be true in this world so I just wish her good luck and drive away.

Tags: Ecofeminist Musings · stories

0 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jack // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Ouch!

    I’m wondering if she actually got the message. You never really know where you are in life until you get out of it for real. Hopefully, she is well on her way.

    J

    http://adventuresinvoluntarysimplicity.blogspot.com/

  • 2 LiaStarLight // Aug 7, 2008 at 11:29 am

    A great reminder of the vulnerability to violence that all women face. And beautifully written. Thank you.

  • 3 Jobthingy // Aug 7, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    goodness i hope she gets the message. poor thing

  • 4 thordora // Aug 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    I’m 30, and I STILL get pissed that we have to learn these lessons just to survive.

  • 5 Emmie // Aug 7, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    This is so moving. This is my favorite post (thus far!)!

  • 6 danegreat // Aug 7, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I read this piece to the boy I did not fuck last night. When I finished, he looked like I’d broken his teeth from the inside, like there would be blood coming out of him before any words, like I’d done him a favor.

    He seems afraid to touch me. I tell him honey, trust me, I’m a big girl and I know my boundaries and they’re guarded by the razors I used to shave with, so trust me. You’re not going to come close.

    He wants to be held, quietly. To tell me what it meant to hold a shotgun at age ten, to sit and wait for his father to try and come home. He shares his father’s name, and can’t bring himself to change it. Not if there’s a chance to redeem it.

    I twirl his nipples between my fingers and listen to his breathing change. Sweet, sweet man who remembers that he has a girlfriend just before we fuck.

  • 7 Survivaltopics.com // Aug 7, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    IMHO it has nothing to do with ” patriarchy” and everything to do with the strong taking advantage of the weak. Older people, the disabled, the very young – all are potential targets (and make no mistake, women can be very evil too).

  • 8 the dame // Aug 7, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    nothing makes me more angry than seeing a man disrespect or be aggressive towards a woman.

    i wish i had someone to teach me how to be a woman. i had to learn all on my own and i still dont know what i should and im 30

  • 9 Michael Hawkins // Aug 7, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    While women may be much more vulnerable/likely targets for violence, tat doesn’t mean men don’t have to deal with it. Speaking from experience here …

  • 10 DeAnna // Aug 8, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Nothing makes me more angry than seeing people being disrespectful or unnecessarily aggressive to other people.

    It only has to do with gender or age to the extent that is has to do with power dynamics.

  • 11 Anna // Aug 9, 2008 at 9:39 am

    This is a difficult one for me… The part where you say you feel like you’re taking Lona’s innocence made me think: “well, did she really have to do this?”. I wonder. If she never thought about maybe getting hurt by a man, maybe she wouldn’t have been, ever. I have never been afraid of men who could potentially be violent. I have never thought that someone might want to aggress me. I never have been aggressed and I’m just usually not in situations or places where something like that might happen. I do think it’s partly because I don’t fear it, because nobody can smell fear on me.
    However: I do know that women all over the world get aggressed and abused. I hate it and I condemn it. But it’s also up to us to make this less of a possibility, less of a thing-that-just-happens. And I think that on some level, it’s wrong to teach Lona (or anyone) that potentially having to deal with violence from men is part of what makes a woman a woman. It isn’t. One should be able to defend one’s self, but from anyone and anything, as far as this is possible. Not just from men. We are all able to do great harm (in more than one way), regardless of gender.
    Then again, could this also have to do with cultural differences? I am a European and I do perceive America and Americans as being much more aware and open to violence. It’s like it permeates the society, creeping into every action, every way of thinking. “Things might get violent soon, you never know, best be prepared…”. I know that Europeans don’t share the exactly these same worries and that they worry about violence less and in, I have the impression, different ways. I’m no expert, but this is my impression.

  • 12 hara // Aug 9, 2008 at 10:01 am

    just another day in the life of a traveling woman

  • 13 Destiny // Aug 11, 2008 at 11:51 am

    every woman that knows how to defend herself is a woman that will fight for her body and teach other women to do so as well.

  • 14 transessa // Aug 11, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    As a transwoman, I find this post to be very offensive. Do you really need to assault a trans-woman to teach her something? This was assault. The tears in her eyes prove it. You say you do it for her own good, but it reads to me like you did it out of some transphobia you have, combined with a little power-hunger. Trans-women are familiar with violence. If this particular transwoman wasn’t yet, good for her. Do you often use violence and intimidation against your friends? You sound like a disturbed person. I’m sure all the trans-hating people out there are just licking their lips in delight after reading your story of assault.

  • 15 rebeccasolidarity // Aug 12, 2008 at 11:46 am

    sigh

    🙁

  • 16 HoboStripper // Aug 12, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Sigh? Bex?

  • 17 Her // Aug 18, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Dear Ms. Transessa,

    Just so you know, you are hearing from the person who arranged for this “self defense course.”

    I have no such phobias, I’ve been a stripper since 1978 and am accustomed to the ways of the world.

    I will have you know that my friend Lona has seen one bout of intimacy, and before she knew me, walked home without looking behind her on streets viable and active for aggression and violence.

    To entertain the thought of leaving someone you care about completely defenseless and completely naive would be, as you termed it, truly disturbing.

    If my friend had to shed a tear at the reality that someday someone will put their hands on her so that I can feel better about her walking up a dark, dangerous street, so be it. Call me what you will.

  • 18 anonymous // Aug 19, 2008 at 11:40 am

    i love your writing, hobostripper, but i agree with trans. no offense, but there are other ways to teach self-defense than grabbing someone by the throat without warning. i couldnt live with a “friend” that arranged this assault of my body without asking me my opinion or permission. sorry.

    i have helped my friends by taking them to self defense classes where they felt empowered by the lessons, not burst into tears by their own friends choking them.

  • 19 HoboStripper // Aug 19, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Anonymous, if that’s the way you’re reading it than either you’re misreading or I miswrote.

  • 20 Lona // Aug 21, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Transessa and Anonymous,

    I feel compelled to clarify that Tara did what she did only after having received my freely given, uncoerced permission.

    Nor was I ever forced to continue the “lesson” at any point — again, I choose to, for myself.

    Transessa,

    Tara is perhaps the most open-hearted, compassionate human being I have ever known. To read Tara’s motivations, mental state, and feelings towards trans people in the way you have is mistaken, misplaced, and off-base.

  • 21 Molly // Sep 3, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I agree it was off-base to accuse you of transphobia. I don’t see that anywhere.

    But here again, two women who need your help and need saving. Two women you have only written about in context of your saving them.

  • 22 HoboStripper // Sep 3, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    “Molly,”

    You may have noticed that this here is a blog about my experiences. I don’t particularly feel that I have the right to write about other people’s lives on the internet (with the exception of people who’ve given permission, or people who are so far in my past as to be unidentifiable), so I just write about my life and disguise them or make them extra anonymous when I write about them. “Lona” has certainly appeared here before, though, just with different, or no, names. In those stories there was no need for anyone to know that she’s trans, and in case anyone made the connection from the real life her to the blog her, I gave her a different name in this story. These were significant experiences for me, especially happening in the same day like they did, and so I blogged about them – my experiences, not the people who intersected with them.

    Tara

    PS – I can still see your IP. 😆

  • 23 NerfSmuggler // Jan 10, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I was recently struggling to express (to a friend who is also white, male, and has a martial arts background) how I’ve recently had to change my paradigm from something like “you find the life you look for” to accommodate that people who are either less able or perceived as less able to stand up for their rights (most especially women) — be it physically, verbally, intellectually or financially — experience a demonstrably different world than those who can.

    Some things are open and obvious albeit still inappropriate gender biased. There was a woman I met who was close to a Barbie body, blonde and improbable boobs and all, who worked in a bldg full of Electrical Engineers (aka geeks). She had this snotty bitch demeanor walking through the halls, but was in fact a total sweetheart. If she smiled and said “hi” to everyone, every minute of her time would quickly be used up with people dropping by “just to say hello.”

    On the other hand, I hear women talking about men grabbing their ass or copping a feel, verbally threatened or abused. But I never see it. Do the perpetrators actually scan the room to make sure no one can see before they sneak in a quick grab? I don’t generally listen in on conversations around me, so the verbal stuff I would expect to miss, although my experience has been that women are usually better at verbal vitriol than men, so verbal insults seems like a risky game to play.

    I’m just shy enough that I scan a room before committing PDA, so it’s not hard to imagine that predators do the same before committing ‘minor’ sexual assault. For a long time it was easy to assume that women were made paranoid by the media and the incidents shown in TV shows and movies were for dramatic effect rather than representative of everyday life.

    I was talking a while back to a former co-worker who was gushing about her new boyfriend (the second that I know of that she stole from her twin sister — the girl does have issues), and she related to me in breathy, smitten tones that she knew he was serious when he said he wanted to take care of her and protect her. Now this is certainly a service I provide for women I’m involved with, but it would never occur to me that it needed pointing out. I have a car which is has over 225,000 miles on it, so I’m looking around at other cars in expectation that the day will come when my little car will sleep and never wake. I’m looking at things like reliable engines, fuel efficiency, room for my 125# newfoundland puupy and possible AWD to help with Vermont winters (and mud-season in the spring). Seat belts, I expect and airbags are all very nice, but they’re pretty far down on my list. If roll-cages and side airbags are what you’re looking for, I have to assume you get into a lot more accidents than me.

    So why did I ramble on like this? I’m not really sure anymore 😉 Basically, my point is this: Ladies – just because he doesn’t get why you’re nervous doesn’t mean he’s inconsiderate, he just might not see the threats you’ve had to face. In fact, it may be a good indication that he’s not the predator you fear. Guys – if you’re out with a lady and want to express your manliness, instead of talking trash and trying to look like a tough guy, see how safe you can make her feel … both about being with you and your (non confrontational) management of other men around you both.

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