I love to walk at night. Something about the cool air, the moon and the low buzz of the street lamps transforms me. I stand straighter, shoulders back, taking long strides and swinging my arms like I mean it. I own the sidewalk. Bystanders can almost hear Metallica”s “Wherever I May Roam” playing in the background as I pass. I”m ten feet tall. I”m Wonder Woman minus the tight clothing.
At least, that”s how I see it.
If you ask my father, my brother or any of my male friends, it”s a different story: I”m a moving target. A bull”s-eye with legs. A Potential Victim. I am small, weak and vulnerable. Crazed greaseballs lurk around every corner, waiting for just the right moment to pounce. I”m the helpless blonde that always dies first in B horror films minus the 44 double-Ds.
When my dad hears news reports about women and girls being robbed, raped and/or dismembered, he immediately assumes that I am next. He can”t understand why I”m not absolutely terrified to walk outdoors even in broad daylight! He wishes I would be. He tells me that not being paranoid is no defense against being followed. If I would only learn several styles of martial arts, wear a suit of armor at all times and carry some pepper spray and a sawed-off shotgun, he says, maybe I (read: he) wouldn”t have to worry so much. And worry, he does.
I blame television. Dad is a big fan of nighttime action dramas (i.e. Soap Operas for Men) like “Nash Bridges” (starring established Rebel Don Johnson) and “Walker, Texas Ranger” (Chuck Norris sings the theme song, but in a very manly way). These shows revolve around bad-ass middle-aged law enforcement officials and usually have about four female characters.
First, there”s the supportive Wife/Girlfriend. She frets about the safety of her big, strong man as he daily risks his life for the Common Good, but supports him nonetheless, God bless her. Next, the Daughter/Niec. One of the men always has a young, defenseless female relative who gets into trouble. She”s kidnapped by the Bad Guys, she”s dating a drug dealer or she”s simply forced to deal with the trials and tribulations of Growing Up. The Daughter/Niece is a constant source of agony for the main men.
Third, we have the illusive Queen Bitch, Female Villain. She”s smart, sexy and dangerous. She has a colony of male cronies to do her dirty work. She carries a weapon, wears dark lipstick and uses her sexuality (not her quick wit) to manipulate men. And finally, there”s the Token Female Law Enforcement Official, just so no one will think the writers of these programs are sexist. She”s as tough as the rest of the men, except on that one episode where she cracks under the pressure of the job.
While I am not suggesting that Dad believes everything he sees on TV, I do think it would do him some good to see and to hear about real women every once in a while. Women who love the dark. Women who never leave home without their stompin” boots.
42-year-old Chicago women who bite the testicles off of their would-be assailants and turn them into the police, only so surgeons can fail to re-attach them later. Read about that one in the News section on Bust Magazine”s website (http://www.bust.com). E-mail the link to your fathers.
On a somewhat related note, I think MTV should bring back Madonna”s “What it Feels Like for a Girl” video, which it banned on the grounds that Madonna was once again participating in un-ladylike activities such as crashing a fast car, carrying a gun and eating French fries. French fries! Now that”s power.
But you don”t have to be Madonna to get in on the fun. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes and a healthy dose of confidence. Fear nothing. Walk at night. Be aware of your surroundings, not scared of them. Radiate some good background music.
Aubrey Henretty”s column runs every other Monday. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.