March 17, 2013

I've Become a Pushover


I have had probably about 16 years of knowing what it's like to be hit on as a generally well-liked, cis-female minority. And all in all, I've been extremely fortunate not to have had any seriously traumatizing things happen, but it's not like I haven't had experiences where I've been scared, uncomfortable, or in a situation where I felt like I was losing control of what was happening to me. And all of it stems from being afraid that I wasn't going to be respected. When I say I'm not interested, it's up to the other person to respect my boundaries and to just leave it at that. I think guys are more likely to have a hard time backing down, while girls are more likely to immediately start apologizing.

And maybe everyone feels this way, but whenever I have to decline any sort of advance, no matter how innocent or politely made, I think part of me is holding my breath, waiting to see if things are going to escalate. And the kind of behavior that creates this is perpetuated by both sides. Girls who play hard to get and guys who think if they just try hard enough or that the girl is just being shy. It's really not something that is fixable, because there's always going to be people like that and people who are genuinely shy and need more assertive pursuing. So I've learned to deal with this undercurrent of fear and just not think about it too much.

Most of the time it's easier just to ignore cat calls, but that doesn't do anything for the next person. Multiple times in my life I've had guys yell at me "Konnichiwa!" One of the last times it happened to me, I was so infuriated that all I could do was say, "I'm not Japanese." Which was really only a small part of it. Even if they had used Mandarin, cat calling in that fashion is super offensive. I think because it brings up the whole being "exotic" and using my language, something that I highly value, like that is disgusting.

Would it be reckless to try and work on not feeling afraid? I feel like it does prevent me from standing up for myself sometimes and presenting a strong, confident image. What I'm not sure about is whether the trade off would mean I'd have to defend myself more often, both verbally and physically. Because it is kind of stupid to have so many interactions colored by a what-if. I think it's at least a small thing I can do to let those people know that, no matter if was their intention or not, I'm refusing to let intimidation prevent me from letting them know how I feel.

Since I've buzzed my head, the amount of respectful compliments have increased. Just last night, I walked into a bar to use their ATM and a group of early St. Patrick's Day celebrants were leaving and one of the guys, without saying a word, held up his fist for a fist bump. I obliged and we continued on our respective ways without missing a beat. I wasn't even wearing any green, so I assume it must have had something to do with how badass I look on a general basis these days. And I feel like I should take more of an active effort to really internalize that badassery, because I practice pretending to be tough, but actually being tough is definitely something that has to be drawn out of me.

I know I have a solid vein of "I will fuck you up/this shit is going to get done" that is strongly backed by stubbornness, but it's not something I use very often and is generally not for public consumption. I think I just need a toned down version of it that I have always at the ready. Maybe that'll make me more of a "bitch" but if standing up for myself and saying what I think are characteristics of that, then bring it on.