Tuesday, July 28, 2009


In a recent post, MY BODY IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, I described the way in which a man violated my boundaries through criticizing (and attempting to police) my body based on its physical appearance.

(Note: I normally avoid making descriptions of people sex/gender-specific, but since I believe that the sex/gender relationship of the violator in question contributed to his feelings of male privilege and subsequently granted him perceived permission to violate my boundaries, I do find "maleness" to be relevant in this post.)

However, due to recent events, I find it appropriate to continue this discussion. In the past week, I have been very alarmed to be the recipient of two unwarranted and aggressive verbal attacks, resulting in a concern for my own physical well-being. So now I must push the point: it is not just the physical appearance of my body that is none of your business, it is my body in the overall sense of my being.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime (as compared to 1 in 33 men. I do not have statistics regarding non-sexual assault). I have had the fortune of never being scared for my physical safety.

Last week, a man forcefully followed me to my cab and pushed his head through the open window and violently yelled "You stank white bitch" after I politely dismissed myself from an invitation to call him so that he could have my number. I was shaken not only by his unabashed anger, but by the fact that he followed me and violated my personal space and sense of safety by putting a part of his body through the car.

Fast forward to earlier this evening. I had parked my car on a busy street (Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks), and was on a phone call while putting coins in the meter. I was then approached by a man whole loudly and rudely demanded to know with whom I was speaking (I'm not even embellishing. Perhaps this person was not all there). In response, I gave him the one-moment hand gesture and continued on what was an important phone call. This only fueled his anger; he proceeded to walk closer to me, become louder and more angry, and demanded to know what was wrong with me, why I had an attitude, and what was with my scowl. I was scared he was going to touch me or hit me in some way.

At this moment I ended my phone conversation, and though for a quick instant I wondered if I would be provoking more aggression, I walked up to this person and asked in an equally elevated tone sprinkled with hostility (I had previously been reserved and calm), "Sir, what is the problem? I am on an important phone call."

Although he was still vehemently yelling at me, he did so while walking away.

One of the issues at hand is the false sense of security people--particularly women--are prone to feel during the daylight and in busy areas. But let me tell you, nothing was scarier than the fact that on an empty sidewalk with cars driving by quickly, there was nothing in between a hostile man coming closer, and my own body.

I do not deny that women can be aggressive and violent. I only claim that aggression and violence in men are more systemic and institutionally reinforced. This dynamic, coupled with gendered relations of power, can create feelings of male entitlement and dominance that, in their unchecked forms, create the delusion of authority over women. Yes, yes...men may enter vicious territorial brawls and harm other men to prove a phallic point...but the interaction contains a completely different sexual politic when the other party is socialized to be more passive. Quite frankly, I think women have a problem articulating boundaries and are unable to realize when they are violated on a less severe scale (i.e. "flirting" that is actually sexual harassment).

Okay, I'm starting to ramble. The point is, as a woman, it seems like my being is automatically subjected to some heightened degree of commentary, observation, or interrogation. Let me introduce a small concept called "boundaries."

It doesn't matter if I never want to call you, or if I don't find it appropriate to report with whom I am speaking.

My body and my self are mine, not yours. I am none of your business. Do not violate me, my body, or my personal space.

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