Friday, July 06, 2007
My Space
The other day I saw a scene that could have been out of a cartoon. A man came to a dead screeching stop in a parking lot in front of my car. He leaned out the window of his car and his eyes bulged out. A beautiful woman in a white sundress had just walked into the lot.

19 years ago this month, I moved to Kibbutz Tzora, just outside of Beit Shemesh, in Israel. While I lived there, I got involved in a group called Women at the Wall.

At the time we were 5 to 40 women who gathered at the Kotel to pray on Rosh Chodesh. I was the youngest woman there at 17 years old. As is customary, I wore a long skirt, long sleeves, usually a headscarf - although I don't remember if I wore a scarf that particular day. I am sure that, though I was as tznua [modest] as a 17 year old Reform American chick in Jerusalem would be, it still doesn't matter what I'm wearing.

On the way home from the Kotel, I had taken to stopping in the market to buy some groceries on my way back to Kibbutz. On one occasion, my friend and I decided to go into a little stall that was selling dresses. She tried one on behind a purple curtain. I sat waiting for her on the little cement steps leading down into the shop. The owner of the shop, an older man, came to sit next to me and since I was young and very eager to practice/show off my conversational Hebrew, I was not at all concerned when he touched my arm. After all, he was an alter kakher, what could he do?

What he did was reach over and grab my left breast. Plain and simple, like it was his to take. It shocked the hell out of me and because I was afraid and in shock, I stood up, told my friend we had to go and got the hell out of there, the old fart smiling the whole time like he had found the fucking afikomen.

It wasn't the first or the last time I was touched inappropriately in Israel, Egypt or back at home. For a while, I felt like a magnet for men with no boundaries.

I don't understand this concept and perhaps someone can explain it to me. Why do men think they can reach out and grab a woman and/or say something vulgar?


A couple of months ago, half a lifetime later, I was at Trader Joe's. Again with the alter kakher. Again with the grabbing. He reached out and grabbed my face. He told me I was beautiful. I'm sure the old man thought he was paying me a compliment. But what happened to paying a compliment without the touching part? For those of you who think mental illness...he was not impaired, physically or mentally, he just felt he had the right to touch me.

When I wear a burka of fat on my body to protect me from the world, it doesn't work.

I get thin, it gets worse. The night I was raped, a good friend, home from boot camp didn't recognize me because I had become so thin. For my high school graduation, as a gift to myself, I gained 50 pounds.

I arrived in Israel, lost all of that weight and on Thanksgiving afternoon I was taken to an empty lot in Bet Shemesh by a cab driver I had hired to take me home from the market. I left the cab unharmed but I had to walk a long way back home with my groceries and my Thanksgiving, despite the all-American effort, was not quite the same.

It sucks to be afraid of people.

It sucks to even have the thought, "Did that man in front of me at the ATM rape some girl?" "Is the guy in the truck next to me in traffic who is air bouncing his breasts at me going to go home to a daughter?"

I don't want to have those thoughts but I do, and so do these people.

And I want to thank them for this! Holla back people!!!


Gwen Stefani

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can't do the little things
I hold so dear
'Cause it's all those little things
That I fear

'Cause I'm just a girl
I'd rather not be
'Cause they won't let me drive
Late at night
I'm just a girl

Guess I'm some kind of freak
'Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes

And P!NK
At the door we don't wait cause we know them
At the bar six shots just beginning
That's when dickhead put his hands on me
But you see

I'm not here for your entertainment
You don't really want to mess with me tonight
Just stop and take a second
I was fine before you walked into my life
Cause you know it's over
Before it begins
Keep your drink just give me the money
just you and your hand tonight

And I think that is enough for this morning.

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Blogger æ said...

heck YEAH.

I remember walking to buy lunch in 5th grade and having men hang out of their car windows and yell at me about my body. 5th grade. Southern California.

I mean, it's everywhere. But when did I give up my right to feel safe by being female?

That's right, I didn't.

I loved that site Faith, thanks for sharing it. You are so strong to stand up for yourself, know when you need to leave, and tell others about it.

Thank you.


Blogger Allison said...

For fear of being leered at is why I don't breastfeed in public. It's amazing in this day and age it still goes on. Shame on the mothers and fathers that didn't teach their sons respect and manners, and correct their sons when media and society influenced them to stray. You can be sure that I will do everything to make sure my son is respectful and knows that this kind of behavior is inappropriate and downright tacky.

Do you think if we grabbed men back that they would object, feel violated and bad about ourselves as when they grab us? I don't. I think they would like it. They would brag about it to their friends and wear it like a badge worth bragging about. It's a fundamental difference between men and women, I think.

Blogger Mam said...

I had so much unwanted attention in high school/college that I shaved my head. That worked for the most part but I shouldn't have had to do that. I've also had to consciously be less friendly to people (men) in general so as not to "encourage" their attentions. Not that they need any encouragement at all but it helps if I stifle my natural inclination to greet [men] in a friendly manner.

Thank you for your post. Social change is needed, every little bit helps. It's a long battle.

Blogger Faith said...

AE - So ironic. When I read your comment I wondered where you got that I stood up for myself. I had to reread my post. I realized that in those moments I didn't feel strong I felt incredibly weak and vulnerable.

Allison - I know Evan will be a stand-up man. And I agree, I think men would like it.

mam - I have often thought about shaving my head. I didn't because I didn't want any attention at all and I thought I'd get different attention by doing that. But I have to tell you, I still think about it.

Blogger Fluffycat said...

Oh this resonated with me. When I was in high school, I was walking to the bus, and some guy just came up to me and touched my breast and was making suggestive comments. I slapped his hand away, but felt scared and violated. I think that stuff must happen all the time, and women are scared to talk about it, scared to do anything about it. I don't know why people think they can get away with it.

We need safe spaces, to feel safe in our own bodies, to be healthy and express our sexuality, without having to worry that someone is going to take advantage of that. I feel really empowered being the subject of my sexuality, not an object in someone else's.

Blogger dizzy von damn! said...

i have tried hiding from the attention, and i resent that i have to.

so i have made a decision to just be me, and call people out on THEIR bad behavior instead of having to modify mine.

i want to be pretty- and not be scared because of it.

Blogger Faith said...

OK - How?

Fluffy, how do you get to the place where you feel "empowered being the subject of my sexuality, not an object in someone else's."

Miss K - Perhaps we need to start taking lessons from each other. What do you say? You are absolutely gorgeous and I want to watch you call someone out on their behavior - I need a mentor on this one!

Blogger Viva Scrapper! said...

I get the boobie grab somewhat often...and the worst part is when other people say "well if you don't want people to grab your breast then you should get breast reduction."
Not that there's anything wrong with a breast reduction, and I totally concidered the surgery till the day I realized I would be getting surgery to alter my naturally occuring anatomy just because other people had an issue with my body and not because I wanted it.
It's Like if someone had, say really HUGE ears it would be ok to grab said ears then tell them that it's their own fault people are grabbing them beacuse they had big ears and didn't either wear earmuffs all day all the time or didn't get surgery to have them made smaller.
I think I may have strayed off the topic a bit...I guess it struck such a chord with me I wanted to tell my little experience.

Blogger Viva Scrapper! said...

i agree that someone touching your face without you wanting it can totally feel like a violation of ones personal space, even if it's meant as a compliment.

Blogger Faith said...

Scrapper - Yikes! Thankfully I was never told that, although I did have a breast reduction in 1999. I don't think you went off topic at all...whomever said that to you is an idiot.

Along the same lines, if I don't like someone touching my face, perhaps I should just take a razor to it until it's "untouchable"?

People are so thoughtless.

Blogger Fluffycat said...

Faith, the short answer for me is, sleep with whom I want to sleep with, and not with those I don't. Express my sexuality openly without fear of being thought "unfeminine." But more than that, finding a community of like-minded perverts who accept me. Keep myself out of degrading situations. I dunno. It's taken time, and I definitely don't think I'm anywhere near the right place yet. But I keep trying. Which is really what therapy is all about... keep trying until you make it.

Blogger Orangeblossoms said...

a parishioner managed to rub against my breasts and 'graze' my ass with his hands four or five times in my first year of ministry here. he swore up and down that he didn't do anything wrong when i finally confronted him with it. i say, bullshit bucko. but i still felt (feel) indescribably violated and bad.

Blogger anony123 said...

Thank you for this post, Faith. It was really great to read. I've just moved to a city and have found myself being afraid of every man I see on the street. The lecherous looks, the cat calls, the inappropriate comments - it all makes me want to run and hide in the biggest vat of ice cream I can find. Sigh.

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