Post written sometime in Summer 2018.
First of all, I’d like to share this piece that I wrote a couple of months ago:
“I ain’t here for you to occupy my time and space”
To the guy from school who constantly posts memes shaming women:
“Girls be like “new bikini for holiday” well you’re not on holiday yet… You’re in bikini… in your bedroom… fishing for compliments”
His caption on this meme: “the worst *fishing emoji x3*” - 31 likes.
So I comment on it: “If a girl feels good about the way she looks and wants to show that off why do you feel entitled to comment on that in such a negative way?”
He deletes my comment.
If you’re gonna put your opinion out there and then not even be big enough to respond to my comment, then what the fuck are you here for?
To the three men who repeatedly shouted ‘latina’ at me the other day as I was walking along the road: I ain’t here to give you attention, I ain’t here for your catcalls, I’m just here minding my own business, trying to get along with my day, and frankly I don’t understand why you cannot be here to do the same.
To the group of 20 men on my flight home the other day: why do you think it’s okay to manspread and occupy so much space? First you let us all know that you are there by jeering and cheering as we wait to board; let us know how loud and obnoxious you can be; make us have to listen to you. Actually, we’re not here for you, we are all just here trying to get from one place to the next.
To the three of you who then sat behind me and proceeded to kick my chair and hit the back of my seat with a magazine: I told you I wasn’t here for that. I asked you politely to stop, because you were disturbing my peace, you were invading my personal space. You didn’t listen and half way through my flight you did it again. You woke up me from my sleep and I was already exhausted. I had to put up with your misogynistic chants: “Kopenhagen, Kopenhagen. Ficken und Blasen”. I definitely ain’t here to be forced to listen to your disgusting sexism. When I got up to leave the plane you all stared at me and you laughed at me. You made me feel really shitty; you made me feel like I was being bullied at school. And I also ain’t here for bullying.
To the guy in the club who complimented my t-shirt and then tried to hug me: I ain’t here to hug you when I don’t feel like it. I told you that and you said “well if someone wants to hug me, I would just hug them back.” I told you that for me who I hug is a choice and you said “well that’s the difference between me and you.” I am not here for non-consensual physical contact, and please don’t even try and explain to me that I should be.
To the guy I slept with once, who I saw in the club, who came over and pointed to my breasts, because I had my top off: I told you, I’m more than just my breasts. I’m here, because I am hot and I took my damn top off, but believe it or not, my body is not here for your damn objectification. I only went to the club, because I felt comfortable enough to be in the club to begin with. I’m here, because I have great friends who make me feel safe enough so that when I am with them, I sometimes can take my top off in the club. I’m here, because dancing and being free on a night out is an outlet for me. And when you choose to make me feel uncomfortable, then I’m not sure if that this is a space I even want to be in any more. You take one of the few spaces that I feel comfortable in away from me. You make me feel like it’s my fault for doing something as outrageous as being topless and that I thus deserve to be objectified, and I’m not here for internalized victim blaming.
To the guy who said “All I see is titties”, after my friend pointed out a stain on her top: she wasn’t there to be put in that position, or have to explain to you that what you said was not okay. And we weren’t there to then try and make you feel better about his comment, because you felt so embarrassed about it afterwards. Our bodies are not here for you to project your problematic masculinity onto.
I know that when we wake up in the morning and decide what clothes to put on that that will determine the kind of day we might have. When I feel bold enough to wear one of my lit t-shirts then I am here, because I have found strength to get out of bed, be bold enough to do so, despite not being here for the bullshit that makes me have to reclaim my identity to begin with #clitoris #catsagainstcatcalls #nothereforyoureurocentricbeautystandards.
What I am talking about is every-day-violence and I am certainly not here for it. To all you people who occupy my time and space without me having consented to your invasion of that: trust me, I ain’t here for you.
As a queer woman of colour there are not many spaces that I truly feel safe in. In most spaces I have to compromise some parts of myself. Every day I am healing, learning and growing and I am figuring a way to be here for myself. I am trying to rediscover the parts that I am forced to suppress and that is what I am here for; I am praying for the day when I can truly just be here, for myself.”
What happens when two women go out
Firstly, before you engage in reading on, please bear a few things in mind. What I am going to be writing about is about own my personal experience, which was traumatic, awful, and has left me feeling humiliated and disturbed in many ways. Before you form any opinion about what I should or shouldn’t have done, before you even draw any conclusions about how this can be avoided, before you start telling me about what you think about it, just have a think about whether or not that is useful for me, or whether you could be having this conversation with someone else. You’re allowed to have questions, of course, but if you are sharing them with me in an unsolicited non-consensual manner, know that I am not here for it.
What I am sharing is about my own personal experience. I am putting out there, because I am willing to have conversations, I am willing to talk openly about these things. But just bear in mind that this blog is about me, it is a safe(r) space for me to express my feelings. I often don’t get a space like that in society. Unless you have something kind or fruitful to say, just hold your opinion back just for a little bit and go talk to those around you about it. Google things that you are unsure of. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to talk about, because I am willing to talk and engage in conversations about these things. I am already talking about it, trust me: I am thinking about every single detail. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night and my head is constantly spinning in thoughts, so much so that I make myself physically sick. And I am talking non-stop to the people around me about these issues, and I appreciate every little bit of support that I have.
Ask me how I am, ask me how I’m feeling, say you’re thinking about me, I appreciate people checking in. Check in with me and let me know you’ve thought of me, this is different. If you have experienced something similar that you think might be useful for me to hear, ask me if I want to hear about that, I’d appreciate that.
When something like this happens, people are also quite quick to suggest what you should ‘do’. I am ‘doing’ in so many ways, thanks, and writing this is already one of those acts of doing. So before you suggest what I could ‘do’, this is my choice: I am vocal and I am telling you about what happened. That is a choice I have made for myself. It’s not one without its risks, because even retelling these stories and sharing these experiences can be traumatic, but if I have decided that this is the least risky method of me channeling a horrible experience into something productive, then let me have it. If you even have an opinion on what I am asking from you here, then please just stop reading. If you don’t like my tone, then I honestly don’t care. If you think I could have phrased something ‘differently’, then you’re just reading the surface of my words but not listening to the heart of what I am saying.
Secondly, I will warn you of some potential triggers: I am talking about being harassed on the street, about interactions with police, about being spiked in a club. If you might be triggered by these things, then please don’t read on, because I definitely do not want trigger or harm anyone with the story I’m telling.
Friday June 22nd 2018
It’s Friday night and friend and I, another WOC, after an emotionally laborious week of navigating bullshit and trying to write our thesis in between, decide to have a drink and go out! Woohoo!
We start off at my place and we have lovely conversations. We reflect back on our time together here in Copenhagen: about what we’ve learnt in the last year and how we’ve changed and grown since we first met. We talk about expectations that we had for ourselves, from ourselves and from our studies; how we’d achieved those things; how we have achieved much more in ways that we never could have imagined. We have absolute jokes and laughs, serious ones and less serious ones. We listen to old skool 00s rnb and we know all the lyrics. We drink rose and we sit in my windowsill and we speak about how lucky and how grateful we are in this moment, how good we feel. We speak about how, even if our surroundings are sometimes not chill at all, that when we look back on a day of constantly having to navigate bullshit, that we can be proud of ourselves, because we, in some, way have ‘owned it’.
It’s getting late and we decided that if we want to actually dance then we should leave now. It’s 3am and it’s Copenhagen in Summer so it’s already getting pretty light outside. We cycle to the city center, because we are going to a place near there. I put the address into maps, because I’d never been and the city center confuses me quite a bit. We lock our bikes up when we arrive in the city center and walk the last bit.
Now, this part of the story I want to be careful and be as respectful as possible when writing about, because what happened, although I was there, did not physically happen to me. What I am sharing is just from my perspective, and no one else’s. This part of the story for me is also very blurry, as it all happened so fast…
We, my friend and I, were walking along and I suddenly felt the presence of about 5 guys, probably around the age of 19-20. All I can see to the right of me is that one has poured some kind of liquid all over my friend and into her face. I hear male laughter and cackling and I feel my defense mechanisms go up. I start yelling, I believe my friend starts yelling too, I start shouting at one of the guys asking him how the fuck he thinks this is okay to do, and he just laughs back. The group surround us, so we physically push back and I start pushing at one guy specially, still shouting. I am feeling scared and angry, so I kick at one guy, because they are still just surrounding us like a pack of dogs, or hyenas, with their incessant laughter and I feel intimidated and threatened. But I also feel like running away in this moment would not have helped, that there were so many more of them than us, and that out of fight/flight, my instincts chose fight, for a reason. My usual reaction would probably have just been to run, but what happened was violent, threatening and absolutely intimidating, and to retaliate, to use my voice and my body in a defensive way was the only legitimate thing to do.
Anyways, in all of this chaos, I notice a third girl, another WOC, to the right of us. Suddenly there are police there and they put their hands on us, and they are ‘calming us down’, telling us we need to chill out. The 5 guys run away and I shout at the police asking them why the hell they are telling us to calm down, when they should be chasing these guys. I notice my friend with tissues in her hand wiping spit off this girl’ face, because these guys also just humiliated this girl by spitting and her face. I am trying to reason with these policemen about what happened. My heart is beating so fast and I am trying to tell my story, because I want to be listened to. These two white, Danish policeman just stand and nod, they get out their notepad. I immediately get the feeling that actually, they don’t give a shit about what we have to say. They were just interested in ‘keeping the peace’: shutting the mouths of these loud WOC. I mean, all three of us probably were asking for it to begin with. The men who did this to us were also not ‘ethnically’ Danish either, so maybe if we all had been white, or if we had been three innocent white girls coming to the police, they might have cared a little bit more about what we had to say, right? But these policemen did not give a single fuck about us. Not one. And would this all have happened if we hadn’t been two women, if a guy had been with us? Probably not. These guys probably wouldn’t have had the audacity or seen the need to attack us. Because God forbid that two women should go out by themselves and enjoy themselves, right?
When I realised that talking to these asshole policemen was hopeless, I asked my friend if we should just leave. There had been a random guy lingering next to us the whole time, saying that he saw what happened, that we should be listened to, that it was totally out of order what happened. When my friend and I distanced ourselves from the police and walked away a bit, this random guy started walking with us, saying to us how shitty the situation was. Then he asked for our number. We had just been attacked, and he had the audacity to ask. Us. For. Our. Numbers. He wasn’t there, because he was interested in actually helping us, he just saw his opportunity to look like a good boy in this situation and exploited our a vulnerable situation, by making his move. To try and want to chirpse us in this situation, when we are feeling so humiliated and shaken up, I mean, you have to be a real low bastard to see this as some kind of ‘opportunity’. My question again is: if we hadn’t been two women on our own, if one of our male friends had been there, would the guy have had the audacity to come up to us and ask us for our number? Probably not.
At this point, I knew there was g a y round the corner, so I asked my friend if we should go there, get a drink, and then just sit down and talk about what happened. We needed to have a drink after this, to talk about and process what the fuck had literally just happened to us.
We are in g a y and I buy two gin and tonics for us. I put my drink down on the table for maybe 20 seconds while I take my coat off. I vaguely remember that there were two guys sitting on the other side of this table, but did not pay much attention to them. They had also caught the attention of my friend and she recalls that one of them looked at her in a slightly guilty manner, and then got up to dance, but seemed to want avoid her. Anyways, I take my drink from the table, and we go outside to have a smoke. We sit down on the curb; I had drunk around 1/3 of the drink, when my friend then accidentally knocks it over. We laugh at her spilling my drink, we talk about how outrageous and gross the police had been, how we hadn’t been listened to, about the police as a fucked up institution generally, a guy comes up to us to talk to us…
And that’s when my memory goes blank.
Suddenly it’s daylight, I’m sitting outside talking to my friend, we go and get some food, we cycle home together, we say goodbye.
I wake up and I’m in my bed, I’m really confused. I see I’ve sent some voice notes to a friend. I don’t remember sending them. It’s 12am and my head is absolutely throbbing, everything around me is like a cloud. I think I’m just hungover. I ring some of my friends, tell them about the night, I tell them that I don’t remember a massive chunk of it, that I think I’ve been spiked. On one phone call, I tell my friend this and I am just laughing off what’s happened. I am definitely not sober. He sounds grave and serious and tells me that I should not downplay how I am feeling, that he’s gonna put his phone next to him and that I can ring him whenever I want to. He tells me I should ring my friend and see if she’s okay, so I do. I tell her I don’t remember a massive part of the night and that I think I was spiked. I ask her how I was acting, because I don’t remember it. She says I was acting more assertive than normal, but she just thought I was super drunk. I tell her I’m confused, because I don’t know whether my lack of memory is just a repercussion to the attack we’d experienced just before, or if it’s because I’ve been spiked. I am asking 100 questions, doubting myself, blaming myself, wondering how I could get spiked. I’m so careful and vigilant when I’m out, right? And in a gay bar, it’s a safe(r) space right? I suddenly feel really uncomfortable about the fact that I have this black out, I feel like I’ve lost control over myself and I freak out.
I ain’t here for you to occupy my time and space. Nope, I ain’t here for it.
But what happens when you take away my time, my space, and my agency? What’s goddamn left of me then? Because that is what spiking someone’s drink is: taking away someone’s goddamn agency. Now I’ve been spiked before, this is not even my first rodeo, and the sense of complete violation that you feel over yourself is inexpressible. It even makes you feel embarrassed about yourself. Grossed out. Yet how can I possibly be made to feel embarrassed about myself in this moment, when someone has chosen to do this to me?
And I’m also wondering: would this have happened if we had been with one of our male friends? Would these two guys have targeted us if we had not been ‘easy targets’. What were their motives? Two women alone in the gay club are the perfect targets of spiking, no male friends around, no one to ‘look after them’. Juicy, perfect targets. Delicious. Consumable. Objects. What I’m also wondering is: what the fuck would have happened if my friend hadn’t knocked over the drink? Luckily, I actually do start remembering the night again at a very specific point, which also did not happen the first time I was spiked. What state would I have been in? Would I have been okay?
When I had these thoughts the next day, I felt absolutely fearful: terrified and fearful: scared. I knew that leaving the house is a fucking battlefield and now I’m thinking in terms of life and death. What. The. Actual. Fuck.
It’s the next day and I’m with a friend and I tell him these thoughts. He tells me not to think along those lines and that the most important thing is that we are safe. Yeah we are safe, this time, because my friend and I are two bright, vigilant women, who dealt with all of these situations in the best way we could have. And we will not be stopped from leaving our homes and taking up space. And if we chose to stay indoors, when would we ever leave the house? Because these things do not just happen at 3am. These acts of violence are happening every single minute of the day.
8 days later and I’m still processing what happened. I am not just processing what happened, but I am trying to figure out ways to move forward.
The day after this night, when I stepped outside, I wanted to cross the road and I felt the presence of a group of men behind me and I felt my heartbeat increase. I was meant to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in years, something I then couldn’t do, because I was so upset. I felt my heartbeat increase and I realised that I was physically reacting, that I was feeling triggered by my surroundings and it freaked me out.
I spent the day in good company watching rupaul’s drag race, absolutely exhausted, but still feeling okay in his company, inside, in this safe space. I spent the night there and when I had to leave the next day, again, I realised, again, that I was being triggered. I was walking through the graveyard and just the loud sound of bikes approaching me from behind made me lose my shit. I had to ring a friend and I cried on the phone telling her how I was feeling, how all these sounds around me were just making me feel completely anxious. Her voice, and the conversation comforted me and I made the walk home.
I stayed mostly inside for about a month after this. I got tonsillitis for about 3 weeks and had to take antibiotics for 20 days. I was really fucking sick. I was anxious. I was wondering how the fuck am I gonna leave the house again.
Here is another piece I wrote a couple of months ago:
“I get anxiety”
When I watch videos online of black people, black people who are mistreated or stand up for themselves in the face of injustice,
I get anxiety.
I get anxiety that is both my own, and the anxiety of others.
Because while I watch that video I become fearful that another black person is going to have a bullet go through them.
Another life lost.
When I watch those videos, my heart starts to race, because even though that fear is not my own, I can also relate.
And boy do we relate.
Because as bearers of dark skin, we are so aware of the consequences that our skin tone has on our lives.
It’s the internalized fear of dark skin, on both these people in the videos I watch, and on myself, that fills us with dread.
It is an internalization of myself, a constant reminder:
I should smile harder at shop assistants, at shop owners, so they don’t follow me around the shop.
Incase they think I am stealing something.
It’s the internalization of myself, that means that when I look a stranger in the eye on the street and smile, them looking away quickly, not smiling back, crossing the street, choosing not to sit next to me on the train, makes me wonder:
Does their reaction have anything to with the colour of my skin?
And I can only speak of my experience as a brown-skinned woman, nevermind, the labeling and criminality that comes with being a dark-skinned man.
And I watch all of this, on my smartphone, wondering when and if it will be my turn, to have to record something on my phone, as evidence and proof to show everyone else that this is really happening. That this is really happening to us.
Because we need to prove that this happens to us, because otherwise no one listens.
For us, with our without the lens of the smartphone, this is our everyday reality.
Because the decisions we make, the way we choose to dress and present ourselves, those choices are going to impact us, and decide what kind of day we are going to have.
Turning on my smartphone, seeing a video of Mo Farah being pushed through security, reading the comments section: people asking why he’s dressed ‘like that’, when he ‘represents his country’.
When I go through security, I put on some make up and some nice clothes, not because I want to, but because it makes my life easier.
Because at least then I am presentable, and less likely to look like someone who might be criminal, right?
Because when you smile at the border police, it’s because you’re excited to go on holiday.
But for me, it’s to avoid any conflict, embarrassment or interrogation.
I’m nervous even before the white woman behind me has already asked me if I’m even standing in the right queue, when I’m at passport control.
Now I’m fucking livid.
Opening my smartphone, watching a video of a black guy asking to use the toilet in Starbucks and being denied, even though a white guy in front of him did the same, no problem for this white dude.
Cos apparently we pose the problem.
Yet statistically, we are the ones who are more likely to be anxious, to suffer from mental health ilnesses.
And you say it’s you, that’s scared, scared of us?”
I have been thinking a lot about the every day violence and trauma I’ve been experiencing. I’ve found some really interesting articles about the link between PTSD and racism, and it’s something that I want to learn more about, in order to move forward.
This one article, which situates this in the American context, states: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201509/the-link-between-racism-and-ptsd
“Racism-related experiences can range from frequent ambiguous “microaggressions” to blatant hate crimes and physical assault. Racial microaggressions are subtle, yet pervasive acts of racism; these can be brief remarks, vague insults, or even non-verbal exchanges, such as a scowl or refusal to sit next to a Black person on the subway. When experiencing microaggressions, the target loses vital mental resources trying figure out the intention of one committing the act. These events may happen frequently, making it difficult to mentally manage the sheer volume of racial stressors. The unpredictable and anxiety-provoking nature of the events, which may be dismissed by others, can lead to victims feeling as if they are “going crazy.” Chronic fear of these experiences may lead to constant vigilance or even paranoia, which over time may result in traumatization or contribute to PTSD when a more stressful event occurs later (Carter, 2007). In fact, one study of female veterans found that African Americans scored higher on measures of ideas of persecution and paranoia, which the authors attributed to an adaptive response to racism (C’de Baca, Castillo, & Qualls, 2012).
While most of us can understand why a violent hate crime could be traumatizing, the traumatizing role of microaggressions can be difficult to comprehend, especially among those who do not experience them…
It’s important to understand that race-based stress and trauma extends beyond the direct behaviors of prejudiced individuals. We are surrounded by constant reminders that race-related danger can occur at any time, anywhere, to anyone. We might see clips on the nightly news featuring unarmed African Americans being killed on the street, in a holding cell, or even in a church. Learning of these events brings up an array of painful racially-charged memories, and what has been termed “vicarious traumatization.” Even if the specific tragic news item has never happened to us directly, we may have had parents or aunts who have had similar experiences, or we know people in our community who have, and their stories have been passed down. Over the centuries the Black community has developed a cultural knowledge of these sorts of horrific events, which then primes us for traumatization when we hear about yet another act of violence. Another unarmed Black man has been shot by police in our communities and nowhere feels safe.
Research shows that trauma can alter one’s perceptions of overall safety in society. Black people with PTSD have been found to have lower expectations about the benevolence of the world than Whites.”
I would really recommend reading the full article, but I just thought I’d share these snippets as they really verbalise a lot of what I have been feeling.
When my time, my space, and also my agency was taken away from me, one thing that I said, even on the next day is: You cannot take away my faith.
The intersecting experience of being sexualized and racialised is truly exhausting. I literally don’t know why I have so much faith. I’m not sure why God made me this way, but I guess She did for a reason, because if I did not have any faith, then I wouldn’ be writing this goddamn post to begin with, and I wouldn’t even want to share my story with you. I’d probably have taken a nice cocktail of whatever I could have found and thrown myself out of my nice, high up apartment block, something that I have definitely also considered in all of this. But for some reason, even though navigating daily bullshit sometimes feels more like banging my head against a brick wall until I slowly bleed to death, I still somehow have my faith. I believe in justice, I believe in a better place. The world is fucked up, but if I chose to hide away in my 4 walls forever, then the world out there is still going to the horrible place that I left it.
So here I am; shouting loud and being unapologetic in doing so. Because I will not be silenced. This is my doing. If you felt uncomfortable reading this, have a think about why. If you don’t like my tone, then I honestly don’t care. If you think I could have phrased something ‘differently’, then you’re just reading the surface of my words but not listening to the heart of what I am saying.