Women Who Abuse Women
It makes me sad, but I really, truly get it when women tell me that they don’t trust or are even afraid of other women. Some people assume that feminists believe that women can do no wrong. No. Not true. There are some horrible, evil female persons out there. You don’t have to fear them in the way that we must all fear men (if we want to stay alive and unraped, that is). But there is a minority of women who are not only damaged like most of us, but who inflict abuse upon us for a variety of reasons. Unlike some feminists, I hold these women accountable for the damage they do. There is no good excuse for aggression and dealing out undeserved harm.
Let me start by saying that the two weeks I’ve had in the U.S. have, until about an hour ago, been fabulous. I have had almost no interaction with men despite not being secluded at a women’s retreat. Refusing all eye contact and not addressing or responding to males has mostly worked this magic. The women I have met have been entertaining, to engaging, to admirable. I’ve made one friend with whom I’ll keep in touch. And I made a last-minute decision to cross the country to visit an old friend and professor for a too-short, but extremely productive and healthy visit. Thanks to that visit and our mini professional ‘girls’ club’, I have some irons in the fire regarding my escape-from-China endeavour. I have the makings of a gameplan.
I’ve been staying in youth hostels, which I generally don’t love as the experience is not what it once was, and I like dormitories and sharing space with strangers less and less as the years go by, but as I said, I’ve have strangely met a lot of interesting women. It really is not always the case.
But now I’m in D.C. where I’m reminded of why I don’t really like the northeastern corridor of Canada (Quebec and Ontario) and the U.S. (D.C. and points north). People are aggressive, sometimes offensive, and somewhat cold. Not in the Chinese way. This is different. I grew up in it, and it has rubbed me the wrong way ever since I left long ago and have occasionally returned to for visits. I much prefer the West Coast. But that is not something I’ll get into now.
Just an hour ago, while engaged in an interesting conversation with a woman from Colombia, a woman from New York about ten years older than me lumbered into our room and proceeded to take up space. Physical space, verbal space, and psychological space. She immediately dominated the conversation, things turned negative, and she pulled a few details from me about my work in China and some of my bad experiences. Normally, women, myself included, will listen to these stories and commiserate or ask more questions. This woman started getting disgusted with me, my choices, my life, and most of all, my inability and unwillingness to drop everything and become once again unemployed and homeless in Canada with no plan in the works or support networks. I literally have no support in Canada anymore. She didn’t know me or my future plans. Didn’t want to know. And then rolled her eyes at me saying “I hear abused women talk about their plans all the time. Then they end up dead.” Then she refused to talk to me anymore, made everything uncomfortable, and shot me dirty looks. I felt upset, and my first impulse was to flee. I was feeling abused BY HER. I made the decision to ask to change rooms. They were extremely helpful in getting me swiftly out of that room.
Once away from my abuser, I found myself extremely emotional and tried to unpack my feelings. Why was I reacting so strongly? Was it weakness that forced me to flee the room? I felt a little afraid of her, to be honest, and I knew I’d have had two sleepless nights if I’d stayed where I was. And I had paid a lot of money. Hostels have been tainted by capitalism, just like everything else good in the world, and they are no longer truly the budget accommodation they once were. Sleep and safety were paramount, so to get out of an uncomfortable, at best, violent, at worst, situation was not unreasonable.
Well, it was simple to explain my emotionality following having that woman forced upon me. I was badly psychologically abused by my mother and grandmother for 20 years. As a result of that abuse and likely because of my personality and vibe, I have also always been a magnet for domineering, bullying women. I always end up escaping once they target me. So, I have a healthy and perfectly justifiable and reasonable fear of older, domineering, energy-sucking, narcissistic women. They find me, and I am exceptionally vulnerable and attractive to them thanks to the damage done by the childhood abuse and my Mommy Dearest. Abusers are exceptionally good at finding the right kind of prey. I don’t yet have the tools necessary to deal with these kinds of women. I only have a flight response. Luckily, it still works.
The other issue here was that abusive though this woman was, she spoke a truth about me that I hadn’t allowed myself to accept because it is painful. She literally called me an ‘abused woman’. I had never thought of myself that way before, and it hurt and scared me. Why? It’s complicated. I had a similar experience when a friend years ago – surprisingly a bleeding heart leftie – told me that I was experiencing racism when I lived in Taiwan. It hadn’t occurred to me. White women are told over and over how privileged and racist THEY are, and that they deserve everything that happens to them. We twist all the horrible things that happen to us into some kind of deserved punishment rather than a crime. Absolutely everyone on the planet is worse off than a white woman. I’ve heard white rape victims negate their experiences – and I too have been one of those in-denial white rape victims – shrugging the horrors they’ve experienced off because “other people have it worse”. (This is also called “white female traveller syndrome” – where white women travelling alone who end up raped or assaulted during their journey refuse to acknowledge it because they think they are complaining/overreacting, or think they deserve what happened because they are ‘privileged’.)
So when this NY abuser likened me to an abused woman, I realized it was true even though I’m abused by multiple people rather than a single domestic abuser. The Chinese have treated me like absolute shit. They’ve locked me in my housing at night. They’ve refused to pay me sometimes. They’ve changed my contract without my agreement or knowledge. They’ve signed my name to legal documents without my permission. They’ve hit me, sexually assaulted me, called me horrible things – males AND FEMALES. And my will to escape and better my life has waned as I have become accustomed to the poor treatment. I’m scared to be unemployed at my age as a woman. It is hard, as an outsider, to understand why women stay in abusive situations. I have never accepted abuse from a man – I leave immediately. But the racism and sexism in employment and in foreign cultures is something I’ve not allowed or trained myself to reject or flee.
So, it’s not domestic abuse, but I am an abused woman. And acknowledging that and having someone else, a stranger, acknowledge that and label me and then abuse me for it, crushed me a little. And I fled. That abuser was easier to flee.
Now, this woman had the gall to call herself a feminist before launching her attack on me. She wasn’t. She was a misogynist. Feminists don’t abuse other women. They listen. Sometimes they help when appropriate, but mostly, they listen and empathize. Feminists should be critical of how women support Patriarchy. And we can lay responsibility on women when they hurt other women. Of course. But this nasty asshole didn’t know anything about me or my life or what steps I have already taken to get myself out of a complicated situation. My kind of situation is not acknowledged as a problem. So I am alone and must solve things by myself. She called me an abused woman, but unlike for domestic abuse victims, there is no police system that will punish China for hurting me. There is no shelter/accommodation for abused female ex-pat workers where I can escape to if I give up my job and home and find myself on the streets.
Long story short, I may not yet have been able to escape my complicated abuse situation in China, but I sure as hell made sure to escape that abusive woman moments after she showed her true face to me. I promised myself when I swore off men that never again would I sleep with the enemy, but unfortunately, sometimes the enemy doesn’t wear a penis.