Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

On saying no and saying anything at all

2012 . 01 . 06 - Comments / Commentaires (4)

A few years ago, back when I was still living with my brother, our house was attacked. The culprit was some kid with a stencil and some spray paint, and I’m glad to say his assault didn’t go unanswered.

It was past two o’clock in the morning. As usual, Kristan and I were still awake. My brother had just made himself dinner and we were sitting at the kitchen table talking.

Suddenly, we heard footsteps by the front of the house—the mad stenciler was approaching a lit front porch with a serious lack of stealth. We saw a head float past the front window and asked each other if we were expecting someone. Just then something was slapped up against the frosted decorative window set in our door. As we covered the ten steps between us and the idiot, we heard the unmistakable hiss of spray paint. 

Kristan threw open the door and the kid took off before we could stop him. While my brother stood speechless on the top step, I called the vandal a bad word, yelling after him to make sure he heard my message. It wasn’t eloquent but it was something.

dried grass

Moments later, as we were scrubbing at the still-wet paint with rags soaked in rubbing alcohol, Kristan commented about his inability to comment when the kid was in front of him. And I knew exactly where he was coming from.

For years I’d been harassed by strangers who thought that yelling obscenities on the street was a sure way to impress the ladies. I’d had inappropriate gestures thrown in my face by jerks in passing cars. I’d been touched in ways I didn’t want to be touched—by perverts in movie theaters, by creeps on public transportation, and once even by a man I was seeing. And for years I had stood speechless on the top step.

But by the age of 25 I had been attacked enough times to have made it past the shock, the disbelieving silence. I had finally trained myself to be able to make noise the moment someone does me wrong.

Speaking up isn’t a talent and it isn’t something that comes from a place of privilege. It’s a skill and something that must be practiced regularly in order to be mastered.

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CATEGORIES: - English - Feminism - Philosophy -

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(4) Comments / Commentaires: On saying no and saying anything at all

-- Quieter Elephant -- 2012 . 08 . 18 --

So true! I was badly beaten in 1988. During the entire painful episode of having my head kicked while laying on the ground, I had disembodied thoughts like “do I know you?” and “Oo - stars! That’s really interesting” (Presumably as my brain bounced off the inside of my skull). I couldn’t move on to the retaliation/protection phase until it was over. Most of us are lucky enough to not have attacks made upon us often enough to normalise it, and move past the shock. Unfortunately I think the fairer sex deals with it on a much more frequent, if typically less physical basis. Thanks for sharing!

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 08 . 22 --

Thank you for sharing.  It’s true that most of us never having enough experience to move beyond the shock is something to be grateful for.

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-- Tif -- 2016 . 08 . 08 --

Also a skill that should be allowed to go unpunished, IMO. Too many bosses, friends, parents, etc. actively encourage their employees, friends, daughters, etc., to keep quiet and not ‘make a scene’ or ‘stir the pot.’ While in the Army, I had a CO order me to keep quiet about a Bad Situation, and after the Army, I’ve had a boss tell me to keep quiet about workplace bullying. So sick of that attitude. It’s so toxic. Nice post. Thanks for re-sharing on your FB page.

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-- Gwenn -- 2016 . 08 . 08 --

Yes, Tif! I feel like the people who shut us down when we stand up are people who don’t stand up for themselves. They think: “I’ve been in worse situations and I didn’t say anything. Why is this person whining?” I despise that attitude. And even when I disagree with a person’s reason for standing up, I try to acknowledge their bravery.

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