The Time That Guy Shoved Me And Loudly Called Me A Bitch to a Large Group of PeoplePosted: March 16, 2011
This is not exactly the follow up blog post to SXSWi that I had envisioned writing. Not to mention, I worry about my parents’ reaction, particularly my dad’s, to this post. But I feel it would be a disservice to the many brave women who have written me in my position as a community manager for the National Council on Family Violence to not discuss what just happened.
I was at the Belmont for a wrap up party for SXSWi. There were a lot of people there and it wasn’t exactly easy to navigate through the crowd. I admit I am tired and stressed. My friend Kelly and I were making our way to the exit when a girl rudely shoved me in order to pass me. I turned to Kelly and commented on how it sucked that people from outside of Austin come to SX and then are so genuinely rude. Right as I say this I get shoved. Really hard.
My reaction was immediate. I didn’t think, my action was not premediated, I just pushed the person who pushed me back. I don’t know how hard it was. I’m sure I threw weight into it, but it was such a tight space that no one even had room to move. The person I pushed was a man. A muscular man.
I wish that my first reaction hadn’t been physical. I do. I regret that. As I sit here, still shell shocked by what happened next, I can still think clearly enough to say that I do regret that.
Next thing I know this guy shoves me back. He shoves me so hard that thirty minutes after I have left, I am currently sitting at home in my house, I can still feel where his hand touched my arm.
We were already walking towards the exit. He, being the person right behind me, is also moving towards the exit. When he pushed me, he shouted loudly, “BITCH I DIDN’T EVEN PUSH YOU!”
After he pushed me, I looked back at him, sneered and countered, “What the hell!?”
He followed me in the crowd and yelled at me. He followed me. I walked through the exterior Belmont gate, and he was less than a foot behind me, screaming obscenities at me as we parted the crowd. He followed me for a minute. I didn’t look back. I honest to God thought he might deck me in the face.
And I was really afraid.
I looked at my friend, I kept my head down and I walked through the crowd quickly. I tried to talk quickly to Kelly to get my head past this, and to ignore the fact that this guy was screaming “BITCH” repeatedly at me as I moved past a lot of people I didn’t know who were watching the scene unfold.
We get a block between us before I can begin to process what just happened. A half hour, maybe forty-five minutes ago, and I still can’t process what just happened.
The first thing I felt was guilt. I thought, “He was probably right. I was probably wrong—he probably wasn’t the one who shoved me.” Then, as I’m thinking this thought, the part of me that responded to him in the first place thinks, “Like hell. You felt him push you in the first place.” Continuing on the guilt spiral, I thought about how wrong it was that I responded with any form of physical retaliation. The me that pushed back in that moment felt justified. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be pushed around.
I walked that next block, preoccupied with small talk with Kelly, thinking of how I could still feel where he shoved me. I tried to rationalize how I was in the wrong, despite being pushed harder than I could have shoved and being publically humiliated.
I thought about how vulnerable I felt in that moment when I could feel him right behind me, without even seeing him. That feeling of a threatening presence right behind me. I thought about how I didn’t think any one of the thirty people I walked through as he yelled at me might do anything to lessen that threat.
And I thought about all of the women whose stories I hear at my job. I admit that I have moments where I am desensitized. Moments where I think to myself, “How could that have possibly happened?” because some of the stories I hear are so thoroughly terrifying.
But in that moment, I’m reminded of how prevalent this issue actually is. Violence against women. I thought he was going to hit me. I really, really did.
How could I dare expect people to be open and transparent with me, and share their stories for the good of the cause, if I couldn’t share mine?
As I type this, I fear that my readers will side with him. I fear they will think I deserve it. I fear that they will say, “Well, you were at a bar. So there was alcohol involved.” Which ultimately doesn’t ever justify any abusive behavior. But it’s one of those convenient cloaks we use when we want to hide the issue at hand. The issue that at its core is the idea that one person can want to violently hurt another.
I thought about not writing this because it will scare my dad. And then I think about the women at The Helpline or the Hotline who don’t say something against abuse because they fear how they will be perceived. How they fear they will be misunderstood.
I thought about not writing this because it will make me seem like less of a professional. I thought it might skew my blog. What if people remembered this post and not all of the previous posts?
These are the thoughts I feel in the immediate aftermath of an altercation with some guy that I will most likely never see again. If these are the thoughts I feel in my one-off experience with abuse, I can’t imagine experiencing this with someone you love. I can’t imagine how this feels when everything—every part of your reputation, your family life, your very home—is on the line.
I am deeply disturbed right now.
As Kelly and I walked to my car, we started sharing stories about times where we or someone we knew had been violated by a guy. Kelly would say one, and then I would think of one. Why do we have a depth of stories to share in the first place? Kelly told me about a time when some punks cut her in line. Guys cut her in line. Kelly protested and they started getting in her face. Another group of guys intervened and the cops were called. And they arrested the guys defending Kelly.
As Kelly tried to explain to the cops that they had punished the wrong set of men, the cop told Kelly that she needed to be quiet or that she would get put in the back of the cop car. Kelly protested further only to hear, “Ma’am, this isn’t Cops.”
I don’t usually cuss on my blog. I try to keep it professional. After all this is my brand and what not. But this time, I have to say it. As Kelly and I walked, all we kept reiterating to each other was, “That’s f_ed up.”
Because it really, really is. The fact that we have a wealth of stories for such an occasion as this is really, really messed up.
I’m not writing this to have you feel bad for me. I’m writing this because this is what we as a society need to talk about. I’m writing this because we need to do better, and women and men need to share their stories in order for us to get it.
Thanks for listening.