Thank you for covering the problem of male harassment of women in Portland this week ("Street harassment: Why do men do it, and what can stop it?", by Katelyn Malloy, Sept. 29) — it is a well documented social scourge across the country, and unfortunately Maine is no exception. I’d just like to say, though, that as well written and researched as K. Malloy’s article on street harassment was, I think the approach taken in the piece leaves women right where they are, and no better off in a practical sense. And I totally disagree with the last line, asserting (re-quoting Fineran) that “... realistically there isn’t much women can do other than continually speak out against it and get articles out. ...”
Over my lifetime I have been the target of much street (and workplace) sexual harassment and also (through no fault of my own) lived on the streets for 18 months as a teenager to avoid a male guardian’s sexual advances. Believe me when I say I’m a veteran of both casual and serious sexual misconduct.
Here’s my advice to all women, full stop: End all the psychological analysis and speculation on causality — it’s a complete waste of time, energy and social research funding. Stop the interpersonal negotiations. Cease the eye lowering, side stepping, fear based toleration of male misconduct. Am I telling you to surrender? Hell no! Please, read on. ...
I’d bet there isn’t a woman reading this who doesn’t carry a lipstick, comb and/or other beauty accouterments with her day in, day out, in her purse. So ask yourself: which do you devote more time to on a weekly basis — your appearance, or your safety? We are fully entitled to both, and it’s up to us to equip ourselves accordingly — I finally figured this out at the age of 25, after enduring a second physical assault. No one can, or will, consistently protect you against these sorts of unanticipated threats, except YOU. People who think it’s okay to accost, molest and harass others aren’t going to change; don’t waste another minute on their motives or social re-education. ‘If only’ doesn’t count in the real world. What every woman needs to carry with her every day are three things: a ready repertoire of searing, jaw-dropping verbal put downs, a little bag of street smarts and well practiced, completely comfortable street style self-defense techniques including — most importantly — the mental preparedness and self permission to deploy them when necessary. (Though I am in no way affiliated with her, I think the best SD trainer in the business is a woman who goes by the name Dr. Ruthless. Check her out on YouTube, take the course and you’ll never cower in the presence of a bully again.) There are other good local courses, too, and some are offered for free. Here’s the deal: even if a man gets the upper hand in the end, at the very least you’ve given him a slew of very painful reasons to seriously think twice before he does it to anyone else. AND you’ve maintained your dignity. Now, if you’re thinking (as I often do)
“But why should I, as a woman in this country, have to learn self-defense or even deal with this in 2016?!!” I hear you — you have a completely valid point, and no argument from me. But while we’re waiting for our fellow human beings to wake up, link arms and swear off hurting each other for good, my answer is that getting real about self-defense (verbal and physical) sure beats being another, unprepared victim.
BTW, the last time I was alone and accosted by a man (also in an alleyway, as in K. Malloy’s story), I very deliberately slipped off my high heels and held one casually in my hand. Expecting me to cower, look away, pretend it wasn’t happening, he asked me what the &*%# I was doing. I told him — with my favorite, Dirty Harry style smile — I was getting ready to drive the heel through one of his eye sockets, and then I was going to shove the rest down his stupid, scumbag throat. My expression and body language told him I meant it, and the coward couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Would I have gone through with it, had he come at me? Absolutely, no questions asked. Fierce and female, that’s my motto — sure, you can mess with me, and you may even win — but it isn’t going to come FREE.
Absolutely go to marches, join on-line projects, prosecute perps to the fullest extent possible — but first and foremost let’s equip ourselves properly. Based on my experience, I truly believe that if the women of this city are collectively and individually equipped and empowered to keep ourselves safe in real time, we can rid Portland (and Maine) of these louts, lowlifes and losers — and I have the stilettos to prove it.