The Things I carry

Carry

Women all over the world carry objects, purses, keys, water bottles, pepper spray, knives, tasers, and even concealed weapons for self-defense. We also go to and from places in groups, we “dress accordingly”, we mind our manners, and we even avoid certain events or areas, such as Greek-row at night, just to feel safe. I walk two blocks to my car after work, and I always try to be on the phone, or carry something that I am mentally prepared to fight back with. It’s a scary world we live in and even in the nicest neighborhood anything could happen. Furthermore, statistically speaking, anything is more likely to happen to women, regardless of our measures so what can we do?

Frankly, we shouldn’t have to do anything. Robbers, attackers and rapists don’t care who you are. If they target you, you are a target, there is no getting around that. However, there are measures we as women can take to defend ourselves, and though we shouldn’t have to, it’s better to know how to do it and not need it than to need that information and not know it.

From a young age I was taught how to box. My Dad is a large man, a gentle giant, and he thought that around age twelve, that I should learn how to defend myself in some way. You know when I began to go out on my own around the neighborhood, when I started hanging out with boys, and pre-emptive puberty was beginning to rear its head. It was fun, it was great exercise and I loved spending that time with my Dad. Then, there were times though he would get really serious he told me, “Hit them, make noise, and try to run away. Aim for center mass, (Groin, stomach, throat, head, nose, eyes, ribs) and, if you can’t run you keep hitting them until they can’t hurt you,” I asked him what he meant by that. He looked at me his tone getting stern, “Boug, if someone pins you and want’s to hurt you, you knock them unconscious. That might not work though, if they’re going to get up and try to hurt you before you can get away you hit them and don’t stop hitting them until they can’t. If someone wants to hurt you and you can’t get away, you try to kill them,” That stuck with me, and the boxing with my Dad suddenly became something else. As an adult this is a terrifying concept, and as a kid I couldn’t put it into words. I couldn’t fathom fighting someone off yet alone killing them. Taking a life? What did that mean?

Now that I’m older, I still don’t know that I could it. I certainly don’t want to but if someone wanted to hurt me, what could I do?

My Dad is not a violent man. My Dad has always been my safe space and protector. He fears for me on a level I am still only beginning to understand and in this world we live in I finally understand his point.

Unconscious people wake up, men fight through tasers and pepper spray, law enforcement of any kind is trained to do that, and then what? Most of the time they’re that much angrier. So how do we fight back? How do we learn?

When I was eighteen, I chose to take self-defense classes. These classes are offered at certain gyms, and on campus. It was empowering, and our class had primarily women students. I taught some of the basics to my friends. I learned how to disarm someone. It brought me peace to know my own capability, but it still wasn’t as easy when my sparring partner was a man larger than me because I couldn’t get the same momentum and I had to learn to adjust.

In the moment I don’t know that I could adjust. I really don’t, and it terrifies me. I wish women didn’t live with this fear but we do and while I’m not going to say learn self-defense, that’s your choice, but it’s not a bad idea. Learn how to throw a punch, don’t be afraid of hitting, get down get dirty, be a nasty woman, be dangerous because we live in a dangerous world. Don’t do it for fear though. Do it for you. Bring yourself peace of mind, tell your friends in your groups, at bars, show them how to fight in short skirts and how to disable someone reaching for their hijab or other religious headcovering.

Studies have shown that most attackers/rapist are cowards, and if you can fight back and make noise even for a few minutes they will run away and that could save your life. Your life matters, what you do with it matters and if you can protect it for a few minutes you could save it yourself. If you don’t want to learn self-defense though, it’s not your fault. Let me repeat that. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT WHAT AN ATTACKER DOES OR DOES NOT DO TO YOU.

Even the most prepared women can still be hurt because, as much as they try, there will always be someone stronger, bigger and more prepared for the fight than they are. Self-defense training will not magically make you the best or more able, but it might just give you the leg up to get out of there and that’s all that really matters, and sometimes it’s as simple as hitting someone over the head with your metal water bottle.

Please stay safe. I hope you never need any of it. I wish we lived in a world where I felt I didn’t need it. Right now though we do, and I hope this helps inform you.

Advertisements

Work Place Entrapment

Not asking for it

“I did work at a mall in college- I think working retail/customer service is one of the most hideous jobs in the world.” – Jayma Mays (Actress/Singer)

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so. I have in worked in retail since high school, in almost every capacity. While I made some great connections while working at those places, the job of putting on a happy face and trying to help everyone is exhausting. And what made it worse? Even after I was at my job for two years and was trained as a manager, no one believed I, a young woman, knew anything.

They would ask to speak with the department managers, or in a few cases, ask if there was a man they could speak to. Both men and women have done this and are probably doing it somewhere right now, much to my chagrin. Most of us are familiar with this narrative, but unless you’ve worked a service job or talked intimately with someone who has faced these issues, you can’t imagine how retail employees feel trapped. I think it’s high time to shed a little light on this.

Every retailer store I’ve worked at uses the classic model “the customer is always right”. That’s not a bad way to treat people who have gotten a bum product or have questions, but it is very seldom true. The customer is not always right.

Correcting customers in the wrong is like herding cats. They could just go with it, they might realize what you’re trying to do, but most of them will go their own way or may snap at you. This creates fear of the customer, especially when they change very quickly.

You’re probably thinking, but wait, isn’t the company supposed to protect employees? Can’t management handle these situations?

Companies, say they can and managers can only handle so much and most of them aren’t even prepared to handle situations. Training videos might describe and demonstrate how to handle a grumpy customer or when to get a manager, but every situation is unique and management just can’t always be there. This creates both a feeling of independence and one of isolation.

Now for the most part there is hope—grumpy customers usually just vent or go to Customer Service or can be handed off to a department. The problem I have faced as a woman is when primarily male customers start to get to friendly, flirt, ask out, or in a few cases make blatantly sexual advancements. In my case, I’m lucky none of them have gotten physical, but that is not always the case.

I worked with a girl, we’ll call her Gene. Gene worked in a clothing store, and she was helping a man find some pants. Management was in a meeting and while we all had our radios on, we all had different projects in a fairly large store. Gene helped the man even though she could “feel his eyes wandering.” They talked for a while, because in the world of retail you want to get to know your customers to help them. He started making comments, trying to flirt. Gene felt uncomfortable but was polite, trying to keep things professional. He took this politeness as an invitation to ask her out. She declined. He got very mad and started yelling all sorts of obscenities which I heard, and I rushed over to ask the man as politely as possible to leave. He called me and the other mostly female workers other obscenities, and then management escorted him out of the building.

Now if you’re wondering why Gene didn’t radio for back-up initially, let me remind you. In retail/customer service positions, politeness is key. Presentation is key. You cannot be rude to a customer unless it is a last resort, because bad behavior on your part reflects poorly on the store, and in many places can get you into trouble. We had a good management team but it’s hard to call for back-up when your customer is standing right there watching your every move. In some cases, it’s genuinely terrifying. So radioing for back-up vaguely usually results in “What do you need?” “Is it a question I can answer?”, and when you don’t have a radio, you can’t just hand a customer off to someone else in the same way at all.

I can tell you that after this, we developed phrases, we had signals, and for a while we tried to help customers in pairs because it was so scary. There is no one you protect more than your friends at work, because they really do become your family.

The worst thing is though, while not to this extreme those little microaggressions that have made me as a woman uncomfortable happen every day, and retail workers have to put up with them. Eyes will look everywhere they shouldn’t, people will get asked if they have significant others, what they’re doing later, when they get off, etc. Certain regulars will pick you and go only through your line and say “See you later” in an all-too-familiar tone. The worst things that happened to me were verbal, but I refused to interact with those customers again, and I told my management so. Did I still have to interact with them if there was no one else around? Yes. Did I plan my quickest escape route as soon as I registered they were in the store? Yes. Did I smile and do my job despite my skin crawling? Yes.

Is politeness while someone working a reason to flirt with that person?

No, it is not. It never is. They’re doing their jobs and their job should not include compromising themselves so that you leave happy.

Or at least that’s what every retail handbook says.

White Privilege

White-privilege1
Poster of White Privilege

 

By Beatrice Santiago

Privilege… It exists.

What is it?

Where does it come from?

When I think about defining “White Privilege,” I think about how it has affected me in my life. So many moments that I can’t seem to name a specific one. When searching for “white privilege” definitions, it was hard to find some examples. Here is what I found:

Cambridge English Dictionary:

“White Privilege: the fact of people with white skin having advantages in society that other people do not have. The concept of white privilege explains why white people have greater access to society’s legal and political institutions.”

Continue reading “White Privilege”

Being Mexican-American

upload146059314366628_thumb
A movie still from Selena

By Beatrice Santiago

 

                                                       “You’re from Mexico, right?”

(A question I get asked all too often.)

Yes and no. I mean my parents are Mexican, yes. But I have never been to Mexico.

So, yes, I am from Mexican descent. I speak the language and love my culture, the music (I jam to it every time), and oh gosh! our food is the best. The tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and mmmm posole. So good. However, I am also American. I was born in the United States. I have lived here my whole life. I grew up in a small town in Southern Idaho–Homedale. Out in the country, I was surrounded by endless fields of corn and many farm animals. Horses were in the backyard.

I also love hamburgers and pizza and enjoy watching American football. Don’t get me wrong, I love both cultures very much, because they are a part of who I am. My Identity. However, it is not easy in the United States. Somehow, I always find myself explaining to people why I am just as American as they are. And, just as Mexican. There is a scene in the movie Selena that explains just what I am saying. Here is the link to that scene.  Continue reading “Being Mexican-American”

Dolores Huerta

41.tif
A picture of Dolores Huerta.

By Beatrice Santiago

Few people know about this amazing woman. Although, many know Cesar Chavez. He, along with Dolores, worked to fight for the basic rights of farm workers in the fields of California. They fought for better work wages and portable restrooms for the workers, as well as fighting for the rights of Farm workers. But Dolores has not been given the credit she deserves. She did as much work as Cesar did. She is the co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association. This is an organization that fights for the rights of farm workers. Before we get to the work she deserves credit for, let’s talk about some history.

Continue reading “Dolores Huerta”

How I Can Help (And Not Hinder)

By Dave Eubank 

640px-Alanf777_Lcd_fig01
A picture of a learning curve

I have learned a lot since beginning my stint this semester as Editor of the Women’s Center Blog. This position has put me in contact with many strong, intelligent, kind, and patient, Feminist women.

I place extra emphasis on patient.

Why?

Because, I have been on a learning curve, so to speak. I have been getting an education about Feminism and how to interact and exist in this world. I have also been proven wrong. A bunch. Consequently, I have done and said things that were offensive to my feminine colleagues and friends. Patience, on their part, has been valuable to me as I stumbled along.

I spent some time trying to muddle through things on my own. Eventually, I decided to reach out and ask some of these women for their opinions/input regarding two areas:

  1. “What does a Feminist need from a male ally?”
  2. “How can males help in the struggle against Rape Culture?”

  

Here is what I found out…

Continue reading “How I Can Help (And Not Hinder)”

Choosing Not to Report

By Makayla Sundquist

Trigger Warning: This post discusses multiple survivors’ sexual assault experiences and may be triggering for others who have also experienced sexual assault. 

A woman holds a sign that depicts the words "#MeToo"
The #MeToo movement created more awareness about the presence of sexual assault. Photo from Poynter.com

If you have been keeping up with the University of Idaho news lately, you will notice the attention a 2013 sexual assault case is getting. The Idaho Statesman recently discovered a survivor’s testimony on a blog site, and ran a story that covered the investigation. (Read here). Long story short, the survivors did not receive the help from the athletic department they needed. Both people involved were athletes at UI, but the athletic department only protected the assaulter. The survivors then went to the Women’s Center, and the staff there took the case to the Dean of Students for an investigation. The assaulter was no longer allowed to play football at UI. However,  he is now playing for a team in New York (which I do not agree with, but that is a conversation for another day).

Throughout all of this buzz, I have heard some comments questioning why the survivor did not go directly to the Dean of Students. Some of these comments were in poor taste. Others were genuinely curious. Even though the two women who were sexually assaulted at UI chose to report their assault to the police and the athletic department, it is common for survivors to never report. But why?

Continue reading “Choosing Not to Report”