March 21, 2007

The grumpy feminist weekly reader.

I'm just realizing I had a whole ton of posts planned that I never actually made, including the grumpy feminist lyrics review and that whole modesty thing. Ah, well, no time for that now. I have a story to inspire and a story to distress. Which you do you want first?

Too bad. In defiance of all convention I'm going to give you the story to inspire first.

It comes to me via a Feministing post, but the story is here, at SFGate. A man on a date at a bar in Noe Valley slipped sleeping pills into his date's drink, and the waitress and bartender together took the drink away, warned the woman, stopped the dude from taking her home, and called the cops on his ass. Read the story. I can only hope that if I were in their shoes I'd have had the presence of mind to handle it as well as they did, and not, for instance, scream out in the middle of the bar, "Oh my god! He's trying to drug you!" and cause the whole bar to erupt in panic while the dude in question smooth-talked his date into believing it was someone else and coming home with him anyway.

The downside to the story is that after almost two years the man finally got a minor narcotics conviction with no mention of attempted rape or what basically amounts to poisoning. He gets six months in jail and won't be registered as a sex offender. Eh, so it goes. On the other hand, this woman wasn't taken home and assaulted under sedation, which is bloody excellent. I kind of want to go to that bar now and tip the bartender and waitress some ludicrous amount of money, while keeping in mind that you can't put a price on someone's personal safety and they obviously didn't do it for any kind of reward blah blah blah. Still.

Now the one that's pissing me the hell off and terrifying me at the same time, and all this from something that's never made a headline. Cast your mind back a few weeks, to a picture I posted of myself and a co-worker at a silly themed costume party. Fix your mind (though perhaps not your eyes if you have delicate sensibilities, given the costumes) upon the fellow in the picture, my 21-year-old co-worker Wes. Okay? He got jumped and beaten up by a couple of strangers last week, on a wide-open street in Berkeley a few blocks from his apartment. "Mugged" isn't the right word -- they took his cell phone as an afterthought, but only after spending several quality minutes holding him down on the ground and kicking him in the face. They never asked for, or tried to take, his wallet or anything in it.

I know, I know, it was the middle of the night on an empty side street way down in South Berkeley and he got too close to a whole gang of sketchy dudes, blah, blah, never happen to me, I'm careful, blah. Except that actually it was 10:00 in the evening in the middle of Southside and he walked past two high-school kids who whipped around and clocked him in the head and then went from there, just in case it matters where someone is at what time when they get beat up for no reason, which it doesn't. Still: we operate under the assumption that our picturesque campus is surrounded by an idyllic buffer zone of collegiate goodwill and perfect safety. It is in fact not. This is a problem.

What's also a problem is that, well, look at the picture again. Wes isn't exactly buffed out. Actually, he's a scrawny vegan who pretty much disappears when he turns sideways. So who the fuck, in their right mind, would walk past this skinny dude and think, "You know, it's really essential that I put this guy out of commission right now."? Nobody. Somebody who makes a priority of proving his stupid fucking machismo by beating up easy targets. This kind of somebody is not a commodity that I'm pleased to find in any part of my charming city, thank you very much. I happen to be an easy target myself, a fact of which I'm quite unpleasantly aware. I too am a scrawny vegan, lacking any extraordinary powers of flight or self-defense, and I keep an odd schedule which has me walking home late and alone two nights a week. What's more, I'm guilty of that ultimate error in judgement, being female after dark (as much as I would love to grow a penis and some decent muscles every evening at sunset, so far it's failed to happen). And what do people who fuck up other people for an ego boost do to women? Pat them on the hand and buy them a lemonade, of course. We all know that.

To return to Wes for a wrap-up here, because while this is disturbing for its implied threat to others it's also disturbing for the simple fact that one of my friends is hurt, he's had to cancel his spring break plans so that he can have surgery tomorrow to un-collapse his badly broken nose. He's been in and out of work all week trying to make doctor's appointments, in between midterms and without the benefit of a phone (because, remember, his was stolen). Today he got orders to stay at home and recuperate through the beginning of next week, which had him sighing. "I need to work more hours," he said, flipping through next week's work schedule, "so I can pay all these medical bills."

Think about that statement for a minute. Think really hard about it. I think it may actually be the most fucked-up thing I've heard in a really long time.

Posted by dianna at March 21, 2007 11:36 PM

that's fucked up. you're right.

Posted by: Erik at March 22, 2007 12:45 AM

Yes it is, and yes I am.

Posted by: Dianna at March 22, 2007 01:25 PM

This story about the Noe Valley bar, people getting roofied, and the issue of scrawny dudes being targets for stupid hostile activities by idiotic bro-types, came up in conversation last night here in Santa Cruz. Evidently a dude friend-of-a-friend of mine, who's not the scrawniest guy, but is a bike co-op kid and kind of indie-looking and all that, was out on Saint Patrick's Day and there were several dumb bro-hams who were giving him shit and then, suddenly, decided to be friendly and buy him a beer. Nobody knows what they put in his beer, but it so incapacitated him that when he tried to immediately get home, he made it to a parking lot about half a block from the bar, and spent the night there twitching, because that was as far as he could get before his legs gave out. He kept trying to call friends for help but couldn't make his fingers work enough to dial his cell phone, and his bike got ripped off while he was basically lying next to it. Worst part: a woman I know found him lying there when she was on her way home, and when he tried to ask her incoherently for help, she thought he was just some asshole who'd gotten too drunk, she decided she didn't trust him, told him to call himself a cab, got in her car, drove home, and left him there, because he couldn't talk enough to make her understand him. Isn't that fucking nice? Isn't what's even nicer the fact that out of the whole group of friends involved in this conversation about it last night, I was the only one who's never had someone doctor my drink, either for sexual or revenge purposes? Fuck, man.

Posted by: katie at March 22, 2007 05:45 PM

Sorry, that was a really, really long comment.

Posted by: katie at March 22, 2007 05:46 PM

Yeah, but it's a really good one.

One reason it's a really good one is because when one is being a good paranoid girly type and covering one's own ass by not giving random sketchy people too much time to decide to fuck with one, one is not excused from the responsibility of wondering whether some of the people one encounters might actually need the kind of help one would expect from them if one were in serious shit. And one (have I said one enough times here?) can stand to be reminded of that once in a while so that one actually thinks to call an ambulance or the cops or whatever and wait, behind the safety of the window of the nearest open business if one has to, to make sure someone who's probably not sketchy enough to deserve to die twitching in a parking lot does not actually do so. I don't know about anybody else, but I know that my background level of paranoia is generally high enough to need reminders like that occasionally. And it's really disturbing that I need to be horrified to be galvanized into acting like a decent human being.

And jesus christ, that's really fucked up. Is he okay? Can you please not join the rest of your social circle in getting drugged?

Fuck, man, indeed.

Posted by: Dianna at March 22, 2007 07:43 PM

I forgot to mention that this guy's evidently alive and fine, or at least alive, upset, fucked up, and without his bike. And that I'm never ever leaving a drink unattended, or with a stupid coaster over the top, without three friends watching it, even to go to the bathroom, ever again.

And yes, that even if one doesn't feel safe personally getting involved (because there are enough regularly scheduled sexual assaults on women in my town that I wouldn't ever bet 100% that some guy asking for help wasn't a rapist trying to get into my car), one ought to at least call 911 while one's walking or driving away or once one is safely somewhere else. I'd about a million times rather risk taxpayer money by gambling that it is something important, rather than bet the wrong way and, you know, have some kid die in a parking lot because I didn't do anything.

I do realize I'm going out on a limb and voicing a radical minority opinion here.

Posted by: katie at March 22, 2007 08:23 PM

Yeah, I think it might actually be a threat to the fabric of our society. Do you mind just keeping these weird ideas to yourself?

I'm currently trying to imagine what would happen if I just started taking my drinks to the bathroom with me instead of leaving them under someone's supervision. Unfortunately, I think it carries an unacceptable risk of accidentally peeing in my own beer, although I suppose the good thing about that is it's not exactly a foreign substance and not likely to be ingested without noticing.


Posted by: Dianna at March 23, 2007 03:35 PM

Actually, I just had a thought. In a small and not-too-busy bar you could probably grab a sympathetic-looking female bartender or waitress and ask her to keep your drink behind the bar while you pee or make a phone call or whatever. And then tip her really well for potentially saving your ass.

And now I'm deeply creeped out, because I'm remembering that a couple of months ago I showed up early to meet Jacob at the Starry Plough, and left my beer at the bar while I went outside to call him. Dumb, Dianna, don't do that.

Posted by: Dianna at March 23, 2007 03:55 PM