Genesis: The Girl and The Stranger in The Car


I may not be able to run in this get-up, but I crush bad guys with my cleavage, high heels and shaved pits

Although our goals may be similar, there are two significant differences between serious feminists and superheroines. First, feminists wear comfortable, woman-friendly clothes. And second, unlike superheroines, feminists don’t usually have a clear, specific origin story. Rather, we have moments of clarity or realization. Moments that accumulate. Moments that may not become significant or actionable until later, sometimes in combination with other moments. Sometimes, it is a seemingly small event or moment that puts a lifetime of horror into perspective. You meet someone, you read something, you see or experience something that just makes you say ‘I see what is going on, and I’ve had enough’. It is a matter of right time, right place, and readiness/openness. Although it may happen, I think it is a rare woman who, like Athena, is born clad in full warrior gear.

In this vein, if asked when I became a feminist, I don’t think I could tell you. There have been many significant events that have made me what I am. And I’m still developing. I still make typical mistakes. That is gender programming. It takes a lifetime to siphon the poison from one’s personal psychology and behaviour.

I still remember an early formative moment. It’s something I think about 30 years later, and it still guides me. It’s not the most important formative event, but rather, one of many.

I was 13. It was a winter evening at about 9:30 pm. It was freezing, dark, snow everywhere. I had attended my father’s university lecture in psychology. We were driving home. I was sitting in the passenger seat in the front of the car, looking out the window.

And I saw her.

A woman being dragged by her hair across the snow into a bush. She was fighting, but not winning. The man who had her was bigger and determined. And it was late on a weeknight in the winter. There was no one around.

I shouted to stop the car. Startled, my father pulled over. I pointed and insisted. We intervened. The man ran off. We hustled the woman into our car and drove her home. She was mostly silent, but we learned her attacker was her ex-husband. I was also silent, emotions confused. I was learning something important. I realized that had I not seen her and done something, something BAD would have happened. But my understanding wasn’t nuanced.

And afterwards, my father, the brilliant psychologist, never spoke a word about it. I was not debriefed. Not counselled. I was left to draw my own conclusions. Possibly, he remembered having to intervene when his father beat his mother. No excuse though. When I look back at that child from the perspective of an adult, I’m shocked, saddened, and I wish I could go back to do damage control. But would I be what I am and do what I do if I’d not worked through that business alone?

A girl is exposed to explicit, real life violence – a stranger’s near rape/beating/murder. She plays a significant role in ending that violence, shares a space with the stranger for a few minutes, the significant connection between them left unarticulated, the silence controlled by another man, and then, and the child is left to wonder, to analyze, to worry, to fear. To build a schema.

It was only years later after many, many object lessons on what men were, thought about and did to women, after intervening in other near-rapes and beatings, that I realized that the woman I had saved years before was only temporarily safe. Temporarily safe from this specific man in her life, and generally, from all men no matter where or when. There is no beginning and end to violence for women. There are episodes in a lifetime of fear. And there are many lifetimes. This woman was one of millions and millions and millions through time. We are all that woman at some point. And to not be a feminist – to not want female freedom from male violence and control – is just not an option. For me.



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Posted on November 26, 2015, in Birth of a Feminist, Feminism, Male Privilege, Violence and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Genesis: The Girl and The Stranger in The Car.

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