photo of three jeans

My Clothes Are My Armor

There are things which should not be, yet they are. We do not talk about them for fear of giving men yet another way to justify beating or raping us. We do not say how we look at drunk young women, defenseless and beautiful, their soft flesh on display, and say prayers to Gods we don’t believe in that the wolf doesn’t find them and leave them violated or dead or both. What should be safe is not. Men can’t be trusted.

I read a post on social media which asked ‘if you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would that crime be?’ One man answered that he considered himself a feminist, and pro abortion (I bet he is), but he would rape a woman and not use a condom. This is the depravity of a not uncommon male mind. How many men, knowing they could absolutely get away with rape would do it? Enough to make me nervous? Enough that we would need a female nation with armed guards? In fact we know the answer already: less than 1 percent of rape cases that get as far as being brought to the attention of the police end up in a conviction and the perpetrator going to jail.

This figure is not a measure of females lying about being raped, rather a signal that rape is already basically legal. Only the perfect victim, raped by a total stranger in a serial killer style attack is deemed worthy of her rapist being put in prison, and even then the tariffs are ridiculously short. It can be as minor as a year in jail, or up to life but only if the victim matches certain criteria.

Some rapes are more serious than others in the eyes of the law. We have to prove our innocence, prove our pain, prove our worthiness of not being raped. We have to prove what we were wearing, our pasts have to be virginal, our manners and dedication to the patriarchy, impeccable. Or else even the most violent of attacks will go unpunished, or barely censured.

I used to go out dressed in fishnets and tiny lace up the side mini skirts, tight little tops and big boots. I used to dress prettily and sexily. Then life happened. I decided that I needed a tough outer shell. Levi’s 501’s, sensible shoes I could run away in, a sports bra to push my boobs flat, shapeless loose jean jacket that provided a measure of protection. Hair cut short so no one could grab it and pull me away. Short fingernails in case I needed to punch or push a man away. Dark glasses and a baseball hat. Clothes to fight and survive in. I needed clothes that would cope with forest trails, campgrounds. I needed a strong belt that would be difficult to pull off me and thick jeans that would possibly survive an assault. I thought my clothes could protect me, perhaps make me unappealing to men.

They say rape is about power not sex, but that is disingenuous, and to be frank that is what men would say, isn’t it? “I didn’t even get pleasure from fucking you, I just dominated you.” If this was the case it would not be their dicks they seek to penetrate women with. Of course it is how they get their sick kicks. This is why I prefer druggy company, at least they get their kicks for living from powders and potions and pills, and not the bodies of other human beings.

Despite all of this my armor proved inadequate.

That day of the Japanese tv show, when he had been boiling over for hours, so I called his father and friends over to spend the afternoon with us, and I accidentally triggered an attack in front of them, proved to me how useless my efforts were. I had on sensible jeans. Eddie Bauer loose blue denim, with a cotten tee shirt, and a good belt. I sat on the brown suede chair that was in the corner of the room, trying to entertain two small children. I laughed at the terrible show on Japanese TV where a monkey and a dog go for walks together. It is basically animal abuse, but good material for keeping children quiet. He screamed at me in Japanese, accusing me of saying he ‘looked like a monkey’, I had said absolutely nothing of the sort.

I never would. My husband was an asshole, but a handsome man, and besides that is not me at all. I had said nothing. Just quietly in soft Japanese to the children that the money on the TV was so cute cuddling the sweet bulldog and how gentle his eyes were. He launched at me. Started pulling on my legs. My jeans were in tatters, the belt cut into my hips as he tried and succeeding in dragging my pants off in front of his father and friends, tearing them in the process. Grandpa came over and uselessly tried to arrange the strips of my shredded jeans over my purple and blue bruised and cut up legs. My tee shirt lay in pieces around me. My head bleeding. The chair smashed over me before they could stop him. No one could stop him in time. My clothes were no shield after all. I might as well have been wearing a little tiny dress, or daisy dukes and a bra…it didn’t matter what I wore, he hurt me anyway. It didn’t matter what I said or didn’t say…he hurt me anyway. My clothes let me down. I was cut up, beaten with a chair, bruised so badly my legs were a mass of purple and blue swollen bruising.

A man who is intent on abuse, rape and violence won’t be stopped by clothes, and I know this, so why do I persist in only wearing things I know I can run in? Why do I insist on the thickest most sturdy jeans and shapeless tee shirts. I suppose trying to blend in, disappear, and think I am giving myself a fighting chance might have something to do with it. I know I can’t run or fight back in heels. We women should be able to wear whatever we want to wear, and yet men still insist that we are frigid or man-hating if we try to repel them, and gagging for their mistreatment if we look pretty.

There is no defense. I carry a pepper spray, I look out around me, and I wear my sensible shoes I can run in. After all Little Red Riding hood in her pretty scarlet woman cloak was eaten by the big bad wolf, but let’s face it, he would have eaten her up just the same if she was wearing levis and a metallica tee shirt. Women’s clothes are built to hobble women. Heels throw us off balance and make us slow and ungainly, making us take tiny steps. Skirts allow easy access for men. But why should we have to repel men? What can’t men accept about consent? Why do men continue to abuse and rape women? Because they can. Because society lets them get away with it, because they have a million excuses and they know the court is on their side.

Today I am wearing a Dylan shirt that says “Rough and Rowdy Ways” advertising his latest album, with my usual jeans and a sports bra that pushes my boobs flat. My hair is shorter than ever. I peer through my ugly glasses at the screen and wonder, just what kind of armor women need to survive men. Perhaps the only protection is distrust and distaste. Perhaps the only thing to do is stay away from all men until the good ones bring the bad into line and say for the sake of their daughters and mothers and female loved ones, the gig is up and this shit has to stop. A pipe dream I know. In the meantime I’ll continue being trouble and raising hell and writing like I just don’t care in blue jeans and a broken down thousand mile stare.

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