Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In Which FarmGirl Gets A Case Of The Ass

Yes, I know, bad blogger. Here's some fodder for you though. Just wrote a letter to Mr. Salazar of my state's House of Representatives. Of course I redacted my name.

Dear Mr. Salazar
My name is FarmGirl and I am a woman. As a woman, all my life I have been reminded, by cautious and loving parents, the media, and society in general, that there is a possibility that someone may attempt to rape me. 
As an intelligent and conscientious adult I have considered the possibility in light of what I might be able to do to prevent such a thing, as well as what I might be able to do to defend myself from someone who wishes to assault me without a sexual component, or steal my car or other belongings.
Since I am built more along the lines of a waif than a body builder, I had to factor that into my considerations. I am perfectly aware that if a person with the intent to physically injure me manages to get a hold of me, there isn't much that I can do about it through brute strength. So I learned some dirty-fighting tricks. I researched methods of causing maximum injury with minimum force on my part.
And I learned about firearms. I learned to shoot. I got a gun. I got a concealed carry permit. Because, you see, I don't have a police officer in a holster on my hip. There isn't a well-meaning officer of the law following me around every day all day, nor sleeping outside my bedroom door. A man with a badge and a gun does not follow me into the ladies room when I'm in a mall, or walk me to my car in a parking garage.
With my gun, I can, if necessary, personally guarantee my safety and my ability to stop any physical altercation that may endanger my life.
I have been in situations which made me nervous. I have wondered if that man was following me and wanted to hurt me. I have been made extremely uncomfortable by interactions with men, and been physically handled in inappropriate ways that might have been precursors to a rape.
However. I have never “popped a round” from my gun at another human being. It has never been necessary, thankfully. Those situations were handled by removing myself from them, or otherwise avoiding escalation. I do not want to ever have to shoot a person to defend my life, but I have made the considered decision that I can, and will, if need arises. I have also considered at what point in an altercation that level of force would be necessary.
I do not believe that whistles, lying about having a disease, or claiming to be on your period are effective deterrents to rape, let alone effective self-defense. A whistle may alert anyone near by that something is happening, but will they come to help? Or will they assume that it is a child playing with a ten cent toy just to make noise? Perhaps they will recognize the sound of the whistle as someone in distress, and act on that knowledge to lock their door and protect themselves in case the perpetrator decides to come their way next. I would like to believe that someone would come to help, but just like there isn't a police officer on every corner, there isn't a good Samaritan either. I would far rather prefer to prepare for the worst and then hope for the best, which is in fact what I have done.
As far as having a disease or being on your period, a rapist might have second thoughts if he thinks he might get AIDS, but I can't help but think that the advent of criminal science TV shows has probably driven home the DNA point hard enough that the self-protecting rapist would likely be using a condom anyway. Menstruation can certainly be a turn-off for a lot of men, you're right. The problem with this idea is that you assume rape is about sexual attraction. On the contrary, in my admittedly non-expert research, criminal psychologists all seem to say the same thing: Rape is about power, not sex. The mentality of it seems to be less about the sexual gratification than the expression of power over another person. That a rapist can force a person to gratify them sexually, and that force proves the rapist's own power.
So, any strategy aimed at reducing a woman's sexual attractiveness (and please understand here, I include any reference to “provocative dress” or any reference to a behavior other than stripping naked and explicitly inviting a man to have sex with you in this, and I'll have more to say about those in a moment) is far less than ideal, since it is targeting the wrong mindset entirely.
In general, I think advice to women to change the way they dress or behave because it might cause them to be raped is cowardly and utterly offensive. I may not approve of the way someone dresses, or behaves, but blaming the victim is never ok. Here's an example of what I mean:
An elderly woman is walking down the street on her way to the grocery store. Suddenly, someone runs up and steals her bag, shoving her in the process. She falls, and is injured. When the police officers come, they're very kind, and supportive. “I don't know why this happened,” she says, crying. “We'll, ma'am, you were carrying a purse. That does tend to attract the attention of these kinds of people.”
Does that sound right to you? It doesn't to me. Let's carry it a bit further along your line of thinking.
Same elderly woman, same walk to the grocery store, same attack. This time, however, she manages to keep her feet, and is hanging on to her purse. “Stop! Stop!” she cries. “You don't want this purse, I spilled stinkbait in it. And there's a bear trap in there too!”
The stinkbait being analogous to menstruation, and the bear trap to some unspecified venereal disease. Do you think the thief cares?
I don't.
I'm not saying that in the purse-snatcher scenario, shooting the snatcher would be the correct response. I don't believe that the answer to every interpersonal altercation comes printed on a bullet.
The answer that you are groping blindly for is self-defense training and awareness. Not only for women. I believe that every person should have some knowledge of how to defend themselves in an immediate situation. I believe that if they choose to own a firearm, they should be knowledgeable and competent in using it. If you choose to own a tool that can take another person's life, be it a gun, or a car, or a hammer, you should know the ways in which it can kill or injure another person, and how to avoid such unless it is absolutely necessary.
I do not believe that my safety is anyone's responsibility but my own. I appreciate those people in the military, law enforcement, and first responder professions who take it upon themselves to help me and everyone else when we're in danger, but I will not sit in a burning house and wait when I am perfectly capable of getting myself out.
So, Mr. Salazar, in spite of your sad attempt at an apology, yes I am offended at your remarks concerning women, rape, and guns. Your remarks painted a picture of hysterical, uncontrollable females who can't be trusted. I am certain that there are women in the world who fit that description, but I take offense at your insinuation that I and many very strong, sensible, and independent women that I personally know, much less the myriad that I don't know, are not to be trusted to own firearms. I wish I could hope that this letter would educate you or change your mind, but unfortunately, I can't. I expect to receive a form reply at best and I don't particularly expect that you personally will read it at all, but I do have the right, and the desire, to express my opinion.

We'll see how and if he responds.