Let me see how I am going to explain this now…
Following the Mayor of Port of Spain’s comments on the death of Japanese national Asami Nagakiya two days ago patrons met on Woodford Square in Port-of-Spain to share how his comments affected them and to protest his apparent unconscious discrimination towards women in a position of authority. I would like to do the same.
I hate to accuse people of indifference but if you are a man you cannot fully understand how the majority of women felt, which is why I was not surprised that so many men misunderstood the outrage, my own father (who is convinced it is a political ploy and the Mayor said nothing wrong) being one of them.
You can sympathise, as many men have. Thank you. Your support is appreciated. Trust me, it is! More than you know, because it means mind sets are changing.
However, there is just something that you will never fully grasp about what it literally feels to be a woman in this world. Especially a woman whose life isn’t sheltered by anyone (sheltered women tend not to get it either). For the kind of woman who takes chances and faces the world on her own terms, there are real dangers that lie await for her that just do not exist for men. And these women know this and live with the fear of it every single day.
Asami seemed to be one of those women. I am sure it was not easy and even a little terrifying for her to leave her home literally thousands of miles away and travel to another country to pursue a dream. This requires courage and faith, no matter who you are. Who knows what predators could have been waiting to dupe and take her away from the time she stepped off the plane that first day in Trinidad many years ago. I don’t need to know her to assure you as a woman that she had those fears, they were very real to her. She knew the risks of having to trust in the help of strangers and came anyway.
Now I am going to say something very controversial.
Every woman is afraid of men.
“I ain’t afraid of no one! This lioness run shit!”
Now before you triumphantly cast my opinion aside with your own ‘I Am Woman, Hear me Roar’ stance, understand this.
Saying that women fear men isn’t a statement to belittle them. It refers to a history long ingrained fear that most women are not even aware of. Much like the ingrained discrimination towards women and even misogyny that many men are not aware of. It refers to a fear that is continually perpetrated and confirmed by society’s actions towards women.
It doesn’t matter if on a scale of 1 to 10 you are a “scream and run away from even the sight of a man – 10” or a “mild fear but I’ll bust a cap in yo ass if you try something – 1” on the scale. There IS still a fear.
Women, I want you to imagine. Just a moment with me, really immerse yourself in this scenario and imagine you are walking completely alone in a car park or on a dark road somewhere. How you got there doesn’t matter. Where you are going doesn’t matter. This is a general scenario.
The point is that you have been sensing that someone or something has been following you for a while now. You feel in danger and finally you hear the footsteps coming clearly behind you and turn around quickly to see…
…… according to Mayor Tim Kee, let your imagination roll a bit.
Now be honest with what the ‘figure’ looked like, down to built, clothing and, most importantly gender. What IMMEDIATELY comes to mind? A cat? A dog? Another woman? What? What you see is a mental stereotype of your inner fears, the first thing you would expect should you be in that situation which is a common situation faced by many women around the world.
Mine would look like one of two things.
Yes, I am deathly afraid of dinosaurs, particularly velociraptors. Thank God they are extinct. Not kidding.
And the second most likely thing to come to mind which I am sure came to the minds of many women (be honest), is a shifty, crazy eyed, hungry looking man who is following me for God knows what.
Now with all of this in mind, I think it is understandable that the discovery of Miss Nagakiya’s body on Ash Wednesday and the subsequent discovery that she didn’t just have a major heart attack and die on the spot but that she was STRANGLED to death would make me and I am sure thousands of other women squirm inwardly, in the most horrible gut wrenching way.
That could have been me. I come home after dark all the time. I walk down dark roads, busy streets, take public transport at late hours ALL the time.
Does it make sense that I take these risks which to others might clearly be situations I can avoid? Because according to our Mayor Tim Kee I am responsible for my own safety.
So I should wait an extra hour (even though I am tired and know the longer I wait the harder it will be for me to get transportion) until an almost full car with at least two other women in it comes by. And I should take the long way around (and it real long eh, like a 40 minute walk longer when the short cut is two minutes!) instead of cutting through a side street to get home.
No, I should do that. It is after all my responsibility to keep myself safe.
Or maybe I should just stay home, hide away from the dangerous world and never do anything or pursue a dream that requires me to come outside, in my life, EVER. But at least I would be safe, right? I am sure some woman who has been attacked in their own home where they thought they were safe had the same idea too.
What I want to ask the Mayor is why should these simple actions, of getting up and going to work, to school, having leisure activities, why should these things even be a risk for me? Why should I have to be afraid of being attacked alone on a dark street at all?
Is that a concern for my male counterparts because I see men taking that same short cut all the time but I wonder if they have the same fear as me or if they SHOULD be attacked will they be accused by our Mayor of being irresponsible with their safety?
Honestly, I wasn’t so much offended by the Mayor’s comments as I was hurt. Yeah, I was angry at first. The proof is all over Twitter. But later it just really upset me. Like the time I read that report about the pitbull that attacked and killed that little boy who was deaf and dumb. I couldn’t eat all day thinking of that. Imagine he never even ‘heard’ the dog coming and couldn’t speak to call for help. A truly terrifying death.
I looked at Miss Asami’s body and saw myself, saw my sister, my mother, saw every woman who I have ever cared about and felt an unsettling pain in my stomach. To know that this was all any of us would get if we were in that situation. A dismissive smile (yes, the man smiled in the report like it was actually amusing) from the authorities who are meant to help protect us. And while he may have later reflected on his comments as not being appropriate, why say it? It is very telling of some hidden beliefs he might have.
I agree with the march. Simply because (what Margaret Mead said) and also I had to really ask myself, do I really want someone with such underlying negative views on women making decisions about my safety? This is not me excusing people for not making better choices. This is me being genuinely concerned for my safety and saddened by the effort that would be put into bringing my possible demise by a madman to justice, because those responsible for bringing about that justice thought that maybe it was my fault!
The fact is that someone else’s bad intentions for you is not your fault.
Your comment could not have been more ill-timed and insensitive, Mr. Tim Kee. I would have had no problem if a circular was released a fortnight later from the mayor’s office, urging women (I am not kidding myself into believing they would say ‘everyone’. Please.) not to travel alone and beware of their surroundings while in the city and what not, because even though I find it unfair to always have to be looking over my back for the predator that might be lurking behind me, it is the reality.
But if that was your daughter Mr. Mayor, the ONLY thing you would have wanted to hear at that moment was, “I am sorry for your loss. We are doing everything to solve this. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.” Full stop. All of this outrage against you could have been avoided so easily.
Yes, Carnival was just around the corner. Even I find myself often shocked and confused at the display of revellers (not JUST women) during that time. But this woman’s death had nothing to do with the revellery of Carnival.
It had to do with someone who wished ill on Miss Asami. Someone who probably watched her and planned and acted on this wish (unless you also think she did something to make someone want to strangle her to death) subsequently ending her life.
And whether it was Carnival, Easter or a Christmas lime at home or whether she was dressed in a Carnival costume, or in a jeans and a t-shirt, or a burka, or with a sign around her neck saying ‘Please Don’t Hurt Me. God is watching you’, it wouldn’t have changed a damn thing if they wanted to do that to her.
And if you don’t understand that Mr. Mayor then all you are doing is continuing to assert the psychological fear that women have for men. You are proving that you don’t really understand the injustice of this woman’s death or the negative affects your comments have had as they reinforce a social stigma and belief that places half the population in danger.
Asami Nagakiya, another woman I don’t know but for whom my heart bleeds for the injustice of her death. Again, every woman thought it. ‘That could have been me.’
And that is how I feel about the comments the Mayor made. I am not even going to talk about his passive aggressive ‘sorry-not sorry’ apology that just added insult to injury. It was ridiculous. After all the love and commitment she has given to playing the steel pan, a pivotal achievement in our culture, Miss Asami Nagakiya deserved more than your assumptions.
The women of this country are waiting to trust in your judgement again. Please think of your gender and do better.
– Written by Travesaou
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