Take Two #84: Fear, Anger and Harassment

By Kyra-lin Hom

After my two week dive into the horrors of the American Big Food Industry (my own phrasing, not an official term), I've been trying to live by my own advice: only eating meat and animal products harvested by cruelty-free, hopefully local farms. It's ridiculously difficult. Yes, I'm now that awkward dinner guest who asks where the restaurant buys its meat. When I dine out these days, I may as well be a vegetarian, borderline vegan.

It's hard. The food smells and looks fantastic, and I think one meal couldn't hurt. The animal is already dead after all, who am I to waste its life by not eating it? Then I remember that every dollar I spend is a vote for or against animal cruelty. The decision isn't overly complicated after that.

Eating at someone else's house, including my parents' homes, on the other hand is a tricky game of morals versus manners. I will admit that so far manners have won out. I'm not really in a position to turn down free food, especially a free home cooked meal. Where I spend my own dollars is more what matters to me.

What I have learned so far is that keeping this up will take a lot more research. Just because something says it's organic or free range doesn't mean that it's what we expect those buzz words to mean. And what good does it do me to ask where a food joint purchases its meaty things if I'm not familiar with the answers?

I'll dive further into this mess and let you all know how it goes. In the meantime, I've been holding onto an article from The Stranger for weeks, waiting for the column space. Normally, I love The Stranger. It's quirky, free and makes a point of packing a snarky or gut-wrenching punch – sometimes all at the same time! However, I came across an article in its recent June 5-11 issue (Vol 22, No. 40) that instantly got my hackles up.

I don't normally discuss my martial arts experience. At most I'll mention that I have it. I used to be shy about it. Now, it's just a part of me like being able to say the alphabet backwards. Once I mention it, everyone wants a demonstration. Especially as a woman of smaller stature, people often want to test just what the martial artist can do. Some practitioners like that. I don't. To come right out and say it, I'm good. I'm nowhere near great, but I am very good. Supposedly it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at any one thing. I estimate that I've spent about 5,700 hours practicing martial arts. This elaborate preamble is all to give credence when I say that I have taught female self-defense and take the issue very seriously.

So when I encountered the article, “Street Harassment: Two Can Play at This Game!” all my red flags went up. This compilation article complete with a full page of scenarios in comic strip form colorfully covers what the writers describe as men on women street harassment and the way they feel women should respond. Let's ignore the massive issue of what constitutes harassment. It's unimportant here. What matters is that a woman (or anyone) has found herself in a position where she feels uncomfortable, vulnerable, maybe even violated, and ultimately unsafe.

With the exception of the comic panels “The Drive-by” and potentially “The Wolf Pack,” the advice provided in the article is brash, rude, aggressive and irrational. What constitutes an unsafe situation across the board? It's fear. You fear for your safety. Now, if you are in an unsafe situation which is the better idea: a) going full steam ahead, do not pass go, do not collect $200 just to prove you're better than your fear, or b) evaluating what is unsafe and doing your best to maneuver yourself back to safe ground? I hope you answered 'b.' Answer 'a' might be laudably brave, but it is also outrageously stupid, a response born from and ruled by fear. Answer 'b' assumes a calm mind that acknowledges the danger and then looks for the safest way to negate it.

Yes, I think it's unfair and wrong that anyone would lord their size and strength over another individual. That said, if you're in a dark alley and a group of people are making you uncomfortable, do you care more about your snappy comeback and empty bravado or getting home safe?

The article downplays how dangerous these street scenarios can be. Yeah, most harassers are harmless but not all of them. The article's advice escalates the encounter. The safe response is to deescalate it. You don't have to be mean to be confident, and you don't have to be aggressive to be assertive. Yoda was right all along. Anger isn't the opposite of fear. It's the result.

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