I like having a vagina. (I know, I know, I’m not suppose to say such a thing, and certainly not name the thing so obtusely. I love the fact that we’ve all become so comfortable with with the penis. Viagra and Erectile Dysfunction make us blush no longer. I’m thinking it’s about time for the vagina. After all, to so many, it’s just such a lovely place to be.) I like the softness of my womanly body, for the most part. I like that being female allows for so many opportunities to be sensitive and strong, pensive and exuberant, flirty and serious. I like that we have the freedom to express and experience the full range of human emotion. I like being a girl. I like being a woman.
What I do not like, however, is the fear very few men can ever understand that overtakes a woman who is alone in a place she does not feel safe. What I loath about being a woman in this world is knowing exactly how vulnerable I am to even the thought of being victimized by a stronger, faster, more vicious human being.
Last night, my Photography class was meeting up at the famous downtown Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market.
Now, I grew up in L.A., and not the Beverly Hills side of the tracks either. I know what a sketchy neighborhood looks like. I know what men up to no good look like. Seattle is sincerely a kiddy pool compared to where I went to high school. But even in a kiddy pool, women are vulnerable to drowning.
No harm came to me last night. I was never even touched casually by anyone that I can remember. No one yelled profanities at me, threw anything at me, or even leered at me. But the potential for so much more was there, and I hate that I felt it necessary to give in to the fear.
I parked in a public lot. A man, who exuded gentle authority, claimed to be watching cars for tips, as there had apparently been problems in the lot recently. I was sick, exhausted, and worried about getting to my class. I took him at face value and assumed he was employed by someone associated with the lot. I gave him $4. It slowly became clear to me, while I was paying for my spot at a machine and he stood close by asking me for another $20 for rent, that he was not. He knew he was distracting me from interacting with the machine so he stepped away to give me a moment to think. In that moment I made my decision. Although he’d done absolutely nothing threatening, I was going to give him the money, just in case he had a mind to mess with me or my car.
As I left him and walked down the street toward my destination I became furious. First I was mad at myself for being so easily intimidated. Quickly I realized the fault did not lay on me, but on him, on centuries of political and cultural history, and on sheer physiology.
I have no inspiring conclusion, no warm wrap up. I’m still stunned I suppose. I’m still outraged by the fear inherent in the possibilities that lay out there, on the street, for all us who are female.
I still like my vagina.
And, I fucking HATE being afraid.