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Guilty as charged
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
In college I was walking home late one night from a party and when I turned a corner relatively close to home I noticed a girl, all alone, walking about twenty feet ahead of me. I'm guessing she was a little drunk, for she was walking erratically, weaving from side to side. I'm a pretty brisk walker so I could tell I was probably going to pass her in not too many steps and since I'm light on my feet, I knew I would probably scare her if I just kept on my path.
What to do? I was well aware how dangerous it was then for a girl to be walking alone on a dark street in a college town, and I knew if I suddenly reached her without her knowing I was behind her, she would probably jump and then identify me, quite understandably, as a very real and immediate threat. I didn't want any part of that scenario, so after a few steps, I deliberately crossed the street and started walking on the other side. When I successfully traversed the street, I made a point of kicking some stones and making enough noise for her to notice me. She did, and I could tell she was a little scared, so I pretended to be about a hundred times drunker than I really was, stumbling, talking to myself. I wanted her to see that I was so incapacitated that I couldn't be taken seriously as a threat. I continued my charade of harmless drunkenness for a couple of blocks, until I saw her pulling her keys out of her pocket, then clutching them like they perhaps could be used as a weapon, and finally walk into an apartment complex. Out of my periphery I could see her putting the keys into her apartment door, and then I could see her pause, as she checked to make sure I wasn't following her. When I saw that she had gotten inside, safe, I ended my drunken walk and resumed my usual gait.
I tell the story not to make myself look like a decent guy, for I certainly didn't do anything more than the bare minimum of appropriate human behavior. All guys, if they're not criminals or schmucks, simply have to do this; they have to take the threat away when they find themselves alone with a woman. You can't cry about it, you can't howl about how unfair it is, you can't get righteous about how good a guy you are — your lone duty, in that situation, is to accept that you are a suspect, always will be, and that it is up to you to prove, immediately, that you are not a viable threat.
The problem is, of course, that there is a significant number of guys who are criminals and schmucks. So the rest of us are thus obligated to walk a much straighter line. Which, frankly, is a tiny price to pay for being a guy in a world slanted towards guys. I'm not going to get bogged down in an impossibly intricate discussion about gender politics here, so I'll keep it simple: we get paid more for the same jobs, we hold more power, we get advanced quicker in our jobs, we get preferential treatment, we call the shots and rule the roost and get granted authority when often it's not deserved. Oh, and by the way, we're also physically bigger and more prone to violence. For all that, the lone price we have to pay is the simple acceptance that women have earned the right to be afraid of us.
And yet. . . (huge intake of breath) understanding this tacitly doesn't make it any easier to deal with, especially when you're faced with some pretty strong anti-male viewpoints. I still bristle at the memory of a guest speaker in college, brought in by the Student Union — a nationally known feminist, very popular, somebody that I was mildly curious about seeing, yet her lone stipulation for the gig was. . . no guys. No guys were allowed to attend. Her point was, Guys have brought on all the horrible situations that I will be discussing, so they don't deserve to be there. This caused a minor controversy at I.U. at the time, yet the speech went on as scheduled, with no males in attendance. At the time, I took it personally, especially since in college I was in the midst of the most proto-feminist phase of my life. It really smarted. I'm on your side! I wanted to shout. But I never got the chance to say anything, because I wasn't allowed in.
And I know, boo hoo, poor privileged, upper-middle-class white boy has to experience a tiny bit of exclusion. . . welcome to our world, I could hear the voices saying. And so I kept my mouth shut, and I continue to keep my mouth shut whenever I experience a tiny bit of anti-male righteousness or outright prejudice from women. (Being a stay-at-home dad has been a real eye-opener: it doesn't happen all the time, but whenever I go to a kid's event with other parents — say at the library — I'm always the only dad, and it's a little shocking the overt hostility I've received from some moms.) I often feel compelled to argue, with anybody who will listen, that masculinity doesn't have to automatically equate with criminality. I want to say that I, too, have had occasional bouts of masculinity — not a lot, to be sure, but a few — and that they have yet to render me a complete sociopath. But I don't say a thing. Because I don't ever want to play the "persecuted guy" card, for that puts me in legion with a whole slew of Fox News, reactionary meat heads that I can't bear to be associated with.
And really, anybody trying the "persecuted guy" card merely has to look at any stats about sexual violence to realize how infinitesimal their arguments are. The numbers are, and have been, shocking: one in four women in college will be assaulted, every 107 seconds there is another rape in our country. It is an epidemic, no matter what the cultural curmudgeons like George Will try to claim. To try and claim that sexual violence is overblown, or that there are hundreds of "false" accusations, is almost criminally irresponsible.
So I've learned to accept that in certain situations — on a deserted street, in a stairwell, in a dark basement — I am, and always will be, a suspect. If this means I'm forced, on occasion, to play a nearly catatonic, incontinent drunkard, well, what the hell — I knew those acting lessons would come in handy someday.