You know I write girl heroes. Some of them are pretty jocky, too, if you think about it. And because we often don’t have the height, weight, and upper body strength to match guys, my girl warriors work out a lot to have that chance to beat the odds. Their confidence in their training, their stronger bodies, and their causes, gives them the courage to speak out.
Not all of us are like that. Some of us have slower reflexes. We don’t do well at athletics. I was always the girl who was a tenth of a second behind the ball coming at me, and years of phys ed didn’t make me any faster. In self defense I learned ways to deal with my slowness that would save me a trashing under ideal circumstances, but in a stand-up fight against an experienced martial artist I would lose, because slow is built right into me. When something comes at me, whatever the circumstances, I freeze. When two men broke into my first NYC apartment and robbed my friend and me, we both froze. We couldn’t see what was happening to each other, so not only were we scared for our own lives; our captors were using our fear for our friend to control us.
You know what happened after? Two of our fellow students in our martial arts class were strutting around, telling us what they would have done, how they would have beaten those robbers to a pulp, asking us why we didn’t do this or that. We felt like shit. It was our teacher who told them to shut up. He told them they couldn’t know until it happened to them.
Some of us, for whatever reason, can’t respond to a harasser. (I couldn’t for years.) We can’t get back in their faces; we can’t fight back; we fear that this man may do something worse if we try. I think, if we’d fought those guys, at the very least we would have racked up some punches.
There is nothing wrong with being this way. You can only do as your instincts bid you. If you fear that if you do something, things will get worse, go with your gut. The important thing is that you survive. Not all of us are warriors. The person facing you may be crazy. You have to do with what you have to do, to come back to us in one piece. And there’s no shame in that.
A friend of mine had an abusive boyfriend, one with combat experience. He was crazy and she was terrified. I did all the research needed so she could get a license and get a shotgun to keep within reach at home. We talked about it, and I was sure she understood why I was so frightened for her—but she didn’t get the gun. I was completely baffled. I would have had that weapon in a NY second. One of the other women I worked with, hearing me, said, “But you would have pulled the trigger, Tammy. She wouldn’t—and he’d have taken it and used it on her.”
I had never heard of that before, and I was horrified. Now I’ve heard it a lot, and I understand, or at least, I know I wouldn’t condemn a woman for not being able to use a weapon. Don’t carry a weapon unless you’re convinced you’ll really, really use it. You don’t want to give a bad guy something to use against you.
Nobody knows how she’ll react in an emergency, and our reactions to different kinds of emergencies are different. And if you do nothing? Sometimes nothing is all you can do. Sometimes nothing is the right thing to do. You do what you have to. And we’ll be here, happy to see you. We won’t condemn. None of us knows how we’d react, until we’re in that position. And no one has ANY right to point a finger at someone else.