When I was 12 years old I was jumped.
I had the shit knocked out of me because I was trying to be nonviolent at the time. Lousy timing and it didn't stick as you can well imagine, but the damage was done. I had the shit knocked out of me. Not something you really ever forget.
I was spending the weekend with my best friend and we were walking to the little corner store to pick up cigarettes for her mother and candy bars for us. A normal thing to do. A girl from the apartment complex that she sometimes hung out with was with us, I think her name was Debbie, but can't really remember. Anyway, to get to the store you could walk all around the block or you could duck through a vacant lot. We always ducked through. You went in the fence where it was cut, walked across the lot and back out the cut in the other side which would drop you right at the store. So this day we were walking and my friend went through the fence to leave the lot first then the girl from the complex stopped and blocked my way out. What the hell, Debbie? Move!
And then the voice behind me. "You know what's about to happen."
Well, hell. Yeah, I had a pretty good idea. Because she had told me earlier she was there to beat me up. Just that reason and no other. I hadn't taken her nearly as seriously as I should have. Still didn't, in fact.
Now fighting was (sadly) not a new thing for me. I had dealt with the abuse from my sister before she got cleaned up and it hadn't been that long before this time period. But I wasn't going to fight this girl. I had no reason. And I told her that. Again. She told me then I was going to get hurt. I told her that the Bible said to turn the other cheek so I would and she said that was good because she wanted to hit both of them (which is actually a really good line). And then she did. A few times. And I didn't hit her back. I told her I wouldn't. I told her it was a religious choice and she told me that she'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints and I laughed and said "you are quoting a Billy Joel song?" she didn't find that amusing and hit me again.
And so it went for awhile. Until something broke inside me. Not like a bone or a tooth but more like the self-preservation part of me kicked back in. I don't remember it. But from what I was told I gave her a warning that she should stop. She basically laughed me off, and why wouldn't she? I had literally stood there and let her hit me for however long it was. Then I backhanded her and when she was off balance from that I punched her twice in the lower rib cage. Face shots are fine and dandy if you are looking to make a statement, which she was, but they are just as likely to damage your hand as they are the person you are hitting. A good solid blow to the lower ribs will knock the air out of someone and potentially crack or at least bruise a rib or two. If you want to deal damage a close in upper cut to the lower ribs will do some.
Now this shocked her, as you can imagine. When the person you have been whaling on that you are convinced is just some sort of patsy all of a sudden whales on you and solidly you are a little taken aback. And I am not sure how bad it would have gotten (I will come back to this and you will see why) but someone finally noticed that there were two girls fighting in the vacant lot and yelled, she took off and then we headed back to the apartment.
When we got back I got my first look at the damage. The left side of my mouth was split open. She was right handed so that side took the most damage. I had two rapidly swelling eyes that would turn all sorts of lovely colors by the time they were done. My nose wasn't broken but it was cut. And I have a variety of little cuts and swelling on my face. And then the slash in the shirt and the cut on my rib cage. Apparently there was a knife. Who knew? (Yes, who knows how bad it would have been. I don't know if it was getting cut that snapped me out of the passivity or if it was me fighting back that made her decide to pull a knife, but either way it was a bit of a shock to see and not remember it happening)
When my friend's mother saw me and got the story out of us she grabbed me by the hand and walked me over to the apartment of a boy that lived there and screamed at his mother, "LOOK AT THIS CHILD'S FACE!"
Now you are saying, wait? What boy? I thought you said you were jumped by a girl?
Yes, I was jumped by a girl because that boy told her to. The boy that I had my first real French kiss with just a few weeks before. The boy that I realized was a little more aggressive than I was comfortable with and told to back off. And then when I came back to visit my friend again and he realized I wasn't kidding, I wanted nothing else to do with him he called a friend and had me beat up. Because, you know, he was a good guy and would never hit a girl. Isn't he swell?
So, you know where this is going now right? I got beat up because that boy felt like by kissing him I was agreeing to let him do what ever he wanted, when ever he wanted and when I said no, not okay, he punished me. Because who was I to have the right to say no? And he wanted my face messed up so that no other boy would want me. Which is an odd thing, did he think that would make me come back to him and say he was right? Did he think that I would die a lonely spinster woman thinking, If only I had let him cop a feel of 12 year old boob this would have never happened! Oh what a fool I was!
So as the story unfolds around the shooting last week and his messed up manifestos and the twitter #yesallwomen I thought of this for the first time in a very long time. Now this is obviously not a #yesallwomen moment. Not all women have had the shit knocked out of them for not liking a boy as much as he wanted them to, but I would almost guarantee all women have been called a name because of it. My favorite is when you get called a slut because you won't talk to some guy. Umm....what? But usually it's bitch, or snob, "you too good for me? Is that what you think?" heard that one a few times. Well gee...let's see, you are trying to get my attention by shouting about the state of my ass from a car window as you drive by and are shocked that I didn't stop and throw my phone number at you. Well, yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm too good for you.
But I guess my sticking point right now is that I was 12 when that happened. I am 45 now. That's a lot of years. So this isn't something new. No matter how infatuated the news is right this second with it. It's pretty deeply ingrained. So much so that the the #notallmen sprung up immediately because how very dare women speak about things that happened to them without first making sure that men understood we weren't saying all men do this. No, not all men, but some men. And it happens to all women. The best representation I have seen was a big bowl of M&Ms with the line, Imagine 10% are poison, now take a big handful. No, not all men, but enough that all women are aware of an issue. All women have stories that we share with each other about things that have happened strictly because we are women.
So what are a few of my #yesallwomen? Let's just take some from sports...I've had to listen to people use my gender as an insult. Either by changing a male athlete's name to a woman's name or by calling the entire team ladies. #yesallwomen
The love of a sport is assumed to be because I think the players are cute. Go ahead, say puck bunny one more time, asshole. #yesallwomen
I've had a man explain a game to me, and get it wrong, and then argue with me that he was right because I'm just a girl what do I know. #yesallwomen
Those are just a few from sports. I could do a whole list from work situations. From shopping. From walking outside. Things that as a woman you just learn to deal with. And if you dare complain about it you get the lecture about how it's not all men that are like that. Or that somehow you brought it on yourself because you should know better. Which to me translates back to you are not only responsible for your own behavior but for the men around you as well.
So what now?
I don't have an answer, I really don't. But I do have a son. And we've talked a lot about this issue over the years. And even more this past week. And that's really the best thing I can do. And the best thing you other mother's of sons can do. And the best thing that wives, girlfriends, friends of men can do. If you hear then say something that makes you cringe, say something. And for fuck's sake, don't be part of the issue yourself. Don't beat up other women (figuratively or literally) because some man doesn't like what she is doing.
I don't have a nice tidy bow to wrap this up with. I wish I did. Instead I will leave a link to a very well written piece that talks about this from the other side.
Your Princess is in Another Castle.