Intersectionality and Fear

I was at the gas station yesterday getting, guesswhatnokidding, gasoline. When I got out of my car, I noticed a group of middle-aged white men sitting on the back of a pick-up truck and cussing. Like realllly cussing. And the whole time I was getting gas, I was scared that they would look over at me and see an uppity, elitist, non-white bitch who needed to be taken down a peg.

I went to Starbucks afterwards and spent the entire time evaluating whether or not the weird customer wearing the hunting vest and carrying a vaguely threatening metal cane was a potential mass shooter. I actually considered bolting for the door when he went to the bathroom, only staying because, as I told myself repeatedly, the likelihood that he would be able to hide a gun inside of his cane was infinitesimal. I also convinced myself several times that the other male customers in Kroger were following me through the parking lot. It was like, noon.

Two observations on this incident:

1) Fear of rape runs deep. To be a woman in this country, and really, most everywhere, is to be constantly on guard.

2) I am uppity and elitist and probably need to be (gently) taken down a peg. I would not have been as scared of a group of unruly white male i-bankers cussing, as they are wont to do, and if I had been scared, I wouldn’t have continued to be scared, because if I had run into a group of unruly white male i-bankers cussing, I probably would have been in a nicer area of town. I also would not have assumed that said unruly white male i-bankers were racist. Stupid, maybe, but not racist. Unruly white male i-bankers are innocent until proven guilty. Unruly white male construction workers are guilty until proven innocent. I clearly have some class-traitor issues to work out because my grandpa was a white male construction worker who was probably unruly at least once.

Let’s take a quick look at how aspects of my identity impacted my fear:

I am a half-Asian, liberal, elite (by means of education) woman.

1) half-Asian- fear of racial violence, typically instigated by white males, sometimes instigated by black males (L.A. riots)

2) liberal- fear of politically motivated violence by conservatives. Loosely translates to fear of Southerners.

3) elite- fear of the working class and working poor, accompanied by a propensity to judge others by their clothing, whether or not they live in cities, and their level of “civilization.” Also accompanied by the assumption that others are jealous of you.

4) woman- fear of rape

So, in the above situation, fear of rape, which is pretty broad, was filtered down to fear of racially and politically motivated rape by Southern, working class men who are resentful of my “status.” And, in fact, according to my fear rubric, this situation is actually my worst rape-related fear because it puts ALLL the fears together.

Don’t you love intersectionality?

5 Comments

Filed under Gender, Life, Race

5 responses to “Intersectionality and Fear

  1. Bean Delphiki

    It is very strange being a white, southern male.
    Something that definitely woke me up to my interactions with women was this: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/tzm98/to_the_guys_when_you_wolfwhistle_at_ladies_do_you/c4r7tbf

    With some adaptation, I’ve been trying to apply this female-focus anecdote/story/advice/comment to other groups that deal with the kind of subtle and not-so-subtle oppression by racial, sexual, etc prejudices and back-handedness.

    I’ve strangely found it hard to make any feminist stance of mine taken as genuine, which is really quite aggravating. And then it is weird to then receive the back-handedness of misandry and general distrust by association. I often hope that as people come to accept homosexuality, there will be developments with heterosexual relationships and platonic relationships as should inevitably happen when genders become interchangeable when dealing with love. I’ve sort of lost my point by now.

    Your post just reminded me of something that’s been bothering me for awhile. A crossroads of justifiable, yet unfair, interaction between people with obvious differences. Is it fair to those men that you assume the worst of them? Absolutely not. But it isn’t about being fair. It’s also not fair for innocent people to live in fear in a country built on the foundations of freedom for oppression (true foundation is debatable, but the romantic idealist in me chooses to believe these are the atlas-like principles holding up our nation).

    I may not know your fear, but I understand that you have it. It just sucks.

  2. I know this post was written a while ago though it really got me thinking and struck a cord within me.

    (Also I have read through the link the guy posted above)

    As a female living in a western society, that is supposedly forward, I put up with forms of sexual abuse/harassment and fear of rape, stalking, grope daily.
    One of the reasons I enjoy this post so much is because you are being forward and honest about your fears regarding this topic as well as race, I appreciate it.
    I don’t think many women openly talk about these subjects particularly the rape/sexual harassment side openly because we still have a very much shame culture that blames the woman in one for or another, and even among other females you can be accused of boasting!!

    I would love to see more women talk and write as openly as you do

    Thank you

  3. Living with so much fear must be tough. It’s different for us guys. Try living in another country, more peaceful country, for a while. It might do you good!

  4. Scary, both the experience and the comment from the Nice Guy above: is it fair that you assume the worst of those men? (Sorry, worst-case analysis is a survival strategy, unfortunately, and the thoughts we’re not supposed to have might just save our lives.)

    And yes, it’s all about the intersections, especially in a country riven by unacknowledged injustice.

  5. An old post, but it deserves a word or two – it’s always great to do a self inventory of beliefs, especially when you can realize the ones that are unfair. But I have to encourage you to continue on your examination and try to overcome the limitations they are imposing on you. I urge you to stop fearing rape! Worrying about the possibility of being targeted stops so many women from doing so many things they’d enjoy. I don’t fear rape anymore than I fear, say, cancer. It’s out there, it may happen, and if it did it would be terrible but not define my whole being. And because it likely won’t happen (odds are in your favor!) the time you spend worrying about it and the things you miss doing are just a waste. I enjoy walking alone at night, I always have; at home, in foreign countries, in good neighborhoods and bad. I have met some very odd characters, and gotten a lot of lectures, looks, and offers of rides because I ‘didn’t belong’ wherever I was, but I’ve never had any kind of violent incident on one of those walks. The truth is that everyone, male or female, young or old, scared or not is a potential target for rape, but the biggest tragedy (and irony?) is that women let it define when, where and with whom they leave their house every day. Imagine if all of the women around you were out alone on foot or on the bus at any time of day or night – wouldn’t you all be safer?

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