Planes, Trains, and Darkened Streets: Things I’m Afraid of Because I’m a Woman

My dear Lemoners-

It is time for me to do penance for ignoring you. It’s been a week and I’m sorry. I’m casting my thesis show at Carnegie Mellon, A Number. The Vineyard never stops being challenging, and I need to find time in the day to show this clip to everyone I know:

That Time Lord can do anything! (More to come when the special comes out on DVD!)

Anyway, as penance, I’m going to take a cue from my friend Jessica and give you more posts for you money. So today I’m going to talk a bit about the flight to Pittsburgh, pretty much forgetting how to get around the city I’ve called home for three years, seeing a dog maul a gay couple with a baby (after the jump. Seriously.), and about the subway ride to the airport, where I realized some very interesting conclusions.

Warning: this post is going to be pretty lemon-y. (As in you’re going to learn details of my life as a single lady that will make you laugh and wince.)

Like this for example:

Anyway, to put a little gender studies on it for all the single ladies (and gentlemen), here’s my list of

Things I’m Afraid of Because I’m a Woman

  • These signs:

They make me so anxious that I get distracted and feel more likely to fall into the apparently gaping hole between the platform and the train.

Speaking of trains, I finally had an even slightly scary subway experience on my way to the airport to get to Pittsburgh. There was this guy who was pretty obviously mentally ill, either anger issues or delusions. And he kept talking, and talking, and talking. And all he kept talking about was misogyny. “Now,” he would say, “Now Lucifer is the serpent right? But Lucifer gets in with Eve, inside her I mean, and she likes it, she loves it, and Adam doesn’t know. And now every time a man sleeps with a woman, he’s sleeping with the devil.”

…And I suddenly asked myself, “Why am I not telling this dude to shut up and enjoy the ride?” Sure my “rational” brain (the part that’s run by my worrier Mother) tells me you don’t talk to crazy people in New York, but what I realized is that there are whole sects of religions who seem to think that way. And my face got hot, and I stared at the closed off subway stations rolling by.

[I wish I could give you more analysis, but I honestly haven’t figured out 1) why it bothered me so much and 2) what I actually should have done.]

  • Walking alone at night (but only in Pittsburgh for some reason, not in New York.)

There’s a certain peace that comes over me when I walk alone in New York, mostly because I know that if I get terribly lost there’s usually a subway within ten blocks. In Pittsburgh, you’re sunk as far as public transportation after 1 AM. It didn’t used to bother me, but it’s really messed me up this weekend. I don’t know if it’s because the blocks seem longer or because they’re less well-lit or just because Pittsburgh doesn’t have a public transportation system.

I often wonder where rape culture came from. I mean, in the 30s in the United States, it was illegal for women to cross state lines by themselves, supposedly for their own protection. (For those of you following along with Scottsboro Boys, that’s one of the reasons the two women lied about being raped. They were about to be jailed for crossing state lines looking for work, which in Alabama meant prostitution.) And now we are told to be cautious going down dark streets. Be careful coming home from parties, because, well, look at the way you’re dressed.

In general I seem to be pretty immune to a lot of the symptoms of rape culture. (Mostly because my parents always made me feel real safe and got me involved in violent contact sports early on.) Yet, sometimes, all those chain emails about holding your key between your fingers sink in and I know that I am supposed to be afraid. I am suddenly compelled to move a little faster, even though I love looking at the beautiful Gothic churches and brick homes that make Pittsburgh the purely Pennsylvanian town it is. I am suddenly compelled to hold my computer against my chest like a shield. I am suddenly compelled to remember that even though I truly don’t think I’m pretty, and rape culture suggests that only pretty and slutty girls get raped because rape is really about sex, I suddenly worry that someone will come out of a dark alley and hurt me. I am suddenly compelled to remember that violence against me is, apparently, almost inevitable because I am a woman.

Yet, my friend and fellow director Sam and I have had a running joke since freshman year of drama school. He may be the only male director in our year, we say, but I’m the only man in our directing class. Why? Because I’m sexual and loud and outspoken and tend not to care about how I dress.

It’s a joke. We both know that almost (if not all) gender is constructed. Nevertheless, I often find myself “sitting like a man” on the subway (i.e. taking up way too much space, slouched down with my legs apart.) I played soccer on both coed and women’s teams and took out several forwards of both genders over the course of my career. (They were all legal hits. Don’t look at me that way!) When I was a member of the Abington Heights Mock Trial team, I was a cross-examination specialist, cornering opposing witnesses and making them look like fools. Once my soccer coach and my mock trial couch met and one said to the other “She’s our bulldog.” “Ours too,” he replied. So, in the interests of transparency,

Things I’m Afraid of Because I’m A Man (See what I did there?)

  • That my career will go nowhere because it’s the only thing that defines me.
  • That someone will find out I play the Sims.
  • That my children will be ashamed of me.
  • That someone will hurt my dog.

Okay, so here’s the huge dog mauling the gay couple story. I was walking around Pittsburgh yesterday and I saw this girl, about 12, come out of her house with a dog the size of a house.

It looked like this. Seriously. That fracking huge.

Now, I am now the owner of a rather huge dog myself. (We think she’s an Australian Shepherd/Tibetan Mastiff mix resembling a small bear. She’s a rescue dog.) So I’m thinking, “Yeah you go girl.” First of all, the dog’s name is Romeo. Romeo. If that dog is anything, it’s a Falstaff or a Macduff or a Grendel. Jeez. Anyway. This girl does not have a good hold on this dog, mentally or physically. She has no command voice (i.e. a low tone that snaps the dog to attention.) I see this emaciated, elderly looking dog coming up on the opposite sidewalk and I’m like, “Oh dear. I hope this dog is as sweet as he looks.” And he is, though the girl has to physically sit on him to make him sit down. Then this really adorable gay couple runs by with a stroller.

Now anyone who has a dog with any shepherd in them (i.e. pretty much every mutt imaginable.) knows that when you run, dogs want to catch you. That’s just how it is. Evolution at work. It’s why good parents teach kids to stand still and/or move slowly when dealing with an aggressive or unknown dog. These guys didn’t get the memo. They tensed as they got closer to the dog and then sped up, triggering Romeo’s chase instinct. So the dog goes, pulling the girl behind him, who’s yelling “No Romeo! No! Romeo! Romeo!” And one of the guys is smart enough to stop moving. The dog stops. Then the other man panics and runs away. The dog chases and snaps, threatened and confused.

The guy goes, “That dog bit me” and tears into this poor, terrified girl. Well, actually Romeo hadn’t bitten him. No skin was broken. There were no marks. This guy’s partner seemed really embarrassed of him, so I hope they don’t try and get the dog destroyed. Really unfortunate situation all around, but it was the girl and this dude’s fault, not poor Romeo’s! Oh Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou so huge that you scare people?

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2 thoughts on “Planes, Trains, and Darkened Streets: Things I’m Afraid of Because I’m a Woman

  1. Hi, I just read your post because I google searched “dog bite mastiff”. I wanted to see if other people had received similar massive, hideous bruises to the one I have from being bitten by a mastiff on Saturday.
    I “got the memo”. I am very familiar with dog behaviour and how I should behave around dogs.
    This dog, Leroy, was at the dog park that I visit daily. It was charging other dogs, and generally being a jerk. His owner, a big guy, well over 250 pounds and 6′ yelled at Leroy for not being nice, but did nothing to physically restrain him.
    My dog, who is submissive but can loves to wrestle and can take a lot of abuse, tried to hide behind my legs when Leroy started after him. Leroy decided chomping down on my leg was a good way to handle that situation. I was wearing jeans, the skin was not broken, there was no mark until the next day, but there was no doubt I was bitten.
    My dog and I left the area and continued our fun. I was stunned at what had happened. The owner did leave with his dog but there was no apology offered. 2 days later I have a lovely, very sore reminder of what a large, powerful, poorly trained dog can do. The ONLY people who should have and handle these massive animals should be willing to commit to intensive training and be able to physically control their beasts.
    Attitudes like yours frankly scare the hell out of me.

    • Sonja,

      I am so sorry that an owner’s poor behavior and training resulted in what I’m sure was a traumatic experience and injury. That said, I tried to be clear that my issue here was not that the guy complained about being bitten but that he blamed on it on the dog and not the owner. I do agree that you shouldn’t handle a large dog unless you are able to physically control it. As I said, it was a bad situation all around. This family named the dog Romeo. They obviously seemed in denial about the dog’s power and level of threat, such that this little girl thought she could handle it. That said, this situation was nowhere close to what you describe. I saw this happen and the dog’s jaws did not make contact with anyone. He snapped a foot a half away from a person. That was all.

      I say this having been bitten and thrown by a large dog as a child. I understand how much it hurts because I experienced it. Placing the blame on the owners and not the dog doesn’t delegitimize the pain of a bite victim, especially when there wasn’t an actual bite. The tragedy here is that the dog was badly handled and that a poor man got scared.

      Obviously I wasn’t clear about that in the first post, and I apologize if I seemed to be making light of your trauma. I hope your bite has gotten better and that it doesn’t put you and your dog off of the dog park in the future. I want to reassure you that I have never allowed my mastiff/shepherd mix to bite, shove, bark at, or attack anyone, despite the aggression that is supposedly inherent to her breed. I wish you and your lovely canine wrestler many safe and fun days at the park with friendly company.

      Get well soon,
      Lillian

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