Giiirl, you are fine

I’m walking through a parking lot, on my way to pick up a couple of simple things from the grocery store, when from behind me, I hear someone yell from a car window, “giiirl, you are fine!” I was talking on the phone with my brother, and suddenly I lose my train of thought and stumble over my words.

I try to play it off, but instantaneously, all thoughts turn to how to react, and not react, to ensure my safety, and not affirm his behavior. I lunge into panic mode, and quickly end my phone call.

Eyes to the ground. Don’t acknowledge them. Clinging to my car keys, just in case.

Am I swaying my hips? Stop it. Wait, am I now? I don’t know. Walk fast.

What was I doing to ask for this?

Heart pounding. Cheeks burning. Vision blurred. Wrap my sweater around me, cover any skin. Get close to the wall. Be small. Be invisible.

By now they are long gone.

They will never know the post-traumatic stress tailspin this action had me in for the rest of my day. Do they think that it was a compliment?

This happens all the time.

It’s not about the way that I look, or how I carry myself. It’s not about anything that I do or did. It’s about a culture that perpetuates male sense of entitlement over public spaces, positions of power, and women’s bodies.

It’s about rape culture.

I was walking alone through a parking lot, and thereby, in this person’s eyes, a fair target for harassment. My existence as a woman is enough to elicit crude comments that compromise my sense of safety in the world.

For the many of us who have experienced rape and sexual violence, these actions can be harmful in a profound way. For me, even after my body calmed itself out of panic and fear of imminent harm, I spent hours playing that one line in my head: “Giiirl, you are fine.” Obsessively wondering what I had done or not done, chastising myself for not reacting in a way that reflected my anger and strength, changing my clothes and hair to minimize the potential for unwanted attention…

I experienced intense flashbacks of harmful sexual experiences, and times that seemingly innocuous male banter turned into non-consensual touch.

Even writing this now, my hands have a tremble and my heart rate monitor reads 92 beats per minute, up from my resting rate of 61.

But, it’s a respite to write it down. A comfort to know that someone (or many someones) reading this will know the feeling and have been there, too.

I share this in solidarity, and as a validation of all the times we’ve endured these experiences. It’s ok to not be ok about it, and to wish that it wouldn’t happen anymore. The more we talk about it and call it out, the more we can change this unacceptable cultural norm.

What’s your story?

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2 thoughts on “Giiirl, you are fine

  1. Jeannie Bosch says:

    Which story? The one where, as an eighteen-year-old hitchhiker, I was sexually assaulted and left by the side of the road to thumb another ride? The one where, walking down a Berkeley street, I was followed for several blocks by a man masturbating in his car, calling out, “You want some? You want some?” Or, at twenty, hitchhiking away from the boyfriend who had just thrown me across the room, being driven away from the highway somewhere into the woods to ‘pay for the ride’……….yes, hitching back to the boyfriend because, after all, as damaged ‘goods’, what else could I do? Pretending toughness, no big deal. Or that time walking home at night just drunk enough to fight back when thrown into the bushes under the overpass and not going to take it, not one more time, and this magnificent rush of some kind of fierce power pouring through me, and me doing the yelling, me in control, me surviving, triumphing, watching him run away. That’s a story I love to remember. I wish I could say that was the turning point. The last time. But no. More assaults would occur. More abusive relationships would follow. Years, decades of secretive self-loathing would define me. I saw a therapist once years ago. She told me that, as a survivor of sexual assault, it was statistically unlikely I would ever have a healthy relationship. As it turns out, I think I’ve finally beaten the odds on that one. It hasn’t been easy. It never occurred to me back in 1968 to go to the police. Nor in 1970, ’73’, ’75, ’76, ’78……..I’d like to think things are different now in that regard. The fact that you have spoken out and continue to do so is a gift to women like me who have never had a voice. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Jeannie for your share, those days are mind boggling to me now! Why? What a disturbing time in our history, but it is our history. Peace, love, no war, racial rights, white with black, on and on. We survived through how unscathed we only know. Love to all my sisters out there who struggled the same fate. We are survivors!!

      Like

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