Conversations with Men: The Belt

I kicked off a new topic last month: conversations with men (first post in that category). These posts will consist of interactions I’ve had willingly and unwillingly with men. These are the interactions that have cumulatively led to me gradually pulling away from dubious friendships, support of, and even chance encounters in public with men. I’ve become much more selective and self-protective in deciding who stays in my life and with whom I’m willing to cross paths. Women are not always so lucky in being able to select. We often find ourselves in horrible, damaging or life-threatening situations with men who want us to know where we stand with them. Often we have no control over what happens to us.

The conversations I will recount will be both verbal and non-verbal. A lot of the time, men convey very important and dangerous messages through their non-verbal conversations with us. Words don’t need to be exchanged for information to be delivered in a loud and clear way, you see.


Rewind to 1996: Pre-9/11 Belgium. Pre-hysterical-Islamophobia-obsession. But not pre-gynophobia among Muslim men – they’ve hated women for millennia, and they have a special, violent hatred for Western/Westernized women.

I had taken a short trip to Europe prior to starting graduate school in the US. I tend to travel alone, and often meet interesting people as a result. I’d met a few travelling German women, and together, clothed conservatively in jeans, t-shirts, and our hiking boots, like most budget-travelling women, we went out to enjoy some music.

It was a lot of fun for me. Until I was unwillingly entered into a frightening conversation.

One minute, I was dancing in the crowd, and the next, I was lifted backwards off the ground by the neck. I couldn’t breathe.

After struggling for my life – no one had noticed or helped me – I managed to break free. Or had I been released…? A group of Muslim men had gotten it into their heads to engage a white whore in conversation and remind her that her life was in their hands and that she was garbage. Disposable. The ring leader had taken his belt off and put it around my neck, and jerked me backwards off the ground, dragged me over into his group in the corner – a thoroughly effective way to bring me into their conversation on male dominance, Islamic superiority, and Western whoredom. I screamed at them afterwards, once I was able to breathe again. They laughed. A good joke.

I don’t know if they had intended to kill me or whether being in public had stopped them short, and the conversation was enough for them. If I had encountered them in the street while alone, would they have raped me? Beaten me? Killed me? Like in the club, they would have gotten away with it. Especially now, they’d be home free in our post-9/11 world where associating Islam with violence is a no-no – especially violence against women.

I am terrified of men. I am terrified of religious men. I am especially terrified of Muslim men (although apparently, I subconsciously hate Christianity more). According to many liberals, me writing about this true event in my life is likely to be seen as hate speech. But what those men did to me wasn’t hate, wasn’t crime. Still isn’t. Racially-motivated crimes against women are not hate crimes.

There is a reason I stopped going to clubs after that. I realized that I had done nothing wrong. I existed. In public. I was a woman. I was white. Apparently, that is enough to sentence me to death. And the message from that conversation came through loud and clear. There is nothing I can do about it save avoid going out.

And I have complied. And I still remember the feel of that belt around my neck nearly 20 years later.


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Posted on November 12, 2015, in Conversations with Men, Human Rights, Male Privilege, Religion, Violence, White Women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Conversations with Men: The Belt.

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