Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Guardian Angels in Chicago

On Saturday, August 11th another woman was raped in my neighborhood. This one occurred at 11:30 in the evening on Fullerton, a very populated street, about a block from the DePaul campus. The Chicago police have released a sketch of the offender. His description matches the rapist in four of the other cases that happened this summer.

This attack has Lakeview residents even more on edge, and rightfully so. I am terrified, this one happened on a street that I walk down regularly! Every attack makes leaving my home seem scarier and scarier. All of the pepper spray in the world does not make it any easier.

Of course with any tragedy there are opportunists waiting to benefit. Today my room mate encountered a group called "The Guardian Angels." They are a group of militant men who escort women around the city to 'protect' them. I cannot find a website for them other than this from Hawaii. Basically they are a group of guerilla misogynists.

As far as Sarah and I could discern, the service is free. Still, I maintain that they are opportunists. They instill fear in women by telling them that they are not safe unless they are escorted by a man. If this is what America is coming to I wonder how different we really are from Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan where women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative in tow. Already we are told not to walk alone, not to walk too late, not to dress provocatively, to carry pepper spray. How much more terror must we be subjected to?

I wonder why the solution to sexual assault is always changing the behaviors and attire of women. These changes suggest that we are somehow responsible for our own rape if we fail to comply. Why does the discussion NEVER focus on why MEN rape and how to stop it? Why are women expected to live in terror and to live by a rape schedule that limits their movement? Men do not have to do this. In all of my life I have never heard a man talk about the consequences of wearing an article of clothing or going to a bar alone.

Rape and other sexualized violence against women is terrorism. Rapists are terrorists and need to be regarded as such. Until women can wear whatever the hell we want to wear, until we can walk home alone, until we can leave the pepper spray in our purses, until we do not have to have a 'cell phone' buddy and a rape schedule we will never be empowered as full human beings. This is one of those things that so many men just DO NOT get and the Guardian Angels prove it (I am sure that they are well-intentioned in their own phallocentric way). Living in terror changes a person. What would women be like if we did not live our entire lives in terror?


Wendi Muse said...

it also posits men simultaneously as protector and violator... we will use men to protect you from just seems like they are sending mixed messages...

Cortney said...

Exactly! And how do you tell the difference between so-called 'protectors' and violators?? Is it the fatigues? I mean it just seems really stupid to call up a guy you do not know at all and say "um, I am really vulnerable and walking home alone right now... could you come to me." Sheesh.

Fei-Wen said...

You do know that we have 4 women on the Guardian Angels team, right? All four of them are combat specialists who have been training in martial arts since they were children. You also know that Dragon, a middle aged lady who immigrated here from Korea is our combat instructor....right? you know that?

You're ignorance clearly places you in bliss...I suppose that when I was stabbed in the gut three years ago on an El stop to protect a college aged, young lady; I was also being a misogynist...

You can sit at home and insult those who want to do something about crime or you can shut your mouth and do something. I was given a choice, I clearly picked the latter. Hopefully one day, you will too. Until then, let the bitching commence.

Cortney said...

I certainly can respect that you feel the need to do something. So do I. The things that we choose to do are just very different. I have already posited my opinion on the matter. I just think that the Guardian Angels are a band-aid over the MUCH larger social issue of misogyny which normalizes violence against women to begin with. If there were no rapists women would not need to be protected.... that seems pretty logical to me.

cruiser said...

The problem is, you call us misogynistic because we exist to protect women and women only? Newsflash for you, we dont just protect women. We protect anyone we can. Since I've been on the team, I've protected men AND women. Key word being AND. I once protected a gay man from a mugging but I garuantee that the only intention was to stop the mugging. His orientation had nothing to do with it. My point is that you are making it about women and women only.

If there were no rapist, guess what? That just means I would never have been in Lincoln Park neighborhood that week. All it means is that I would go back to my usual patrol of watching over the subways at night.

We've been around since 1979. What we do works. You can spin it anyway you want but fact is, we've done a lot more good than anything else. You may not appreciate what we do but I'm sure the several civilians who I stood up for do.

If there were a rapist on the loose, preying on men, I would surely protect them as well. Issue is, the rapist was only attacking women. Because of that, we patrolled for a few weeks in a neighborhood full of stuffy/snobby people who dont know what danger is. I've never received more hate than from those who live in the most sheltered/upscale communities. It's part of the reason why I try to patrol neighborhoods where the people have their heads in reality, I have enough problems with gangbangers attacking me, last thing I need is the misinformed public.

Cortney said...

I suppose I should have been more clear, knowing that not every one who reads this is well versed in feminist theory. I say women in here because women are much, much, much more likely to be victims of sexual assault and men are much, much, much more likely to be the perpetrators. (If you had read more of this blog than just one post you would have seen that I clearly outline these statistics.)

Men are certainly victims of violence (especially men who display non-normative gender) and women certainly can and do engage in activities that perpetuate the patriarchy. These theories are not about individual people but rather about social institutions that perpetuate male sexualized violence against women. That does not mean that there are not individuals who do not fit neatly into these categories.

Further, I want to be clear that I would absolutely appreciate someone helping me out of a dangerous situation. Women (and men) consistently navigate the terrain of a phallocentric, patriarchal society and that sometimes means making compromises. As I said in an earlier entry, even though I believe that sexualized violence is terrorism and I don’t want to be intimidated by it I know that I will change my attire and walk with my pepper spray to avoid dangerous situations. It is a delicate balance and we certainly do need help. The question really should be what kind of help. Asking men to solve the problem of patriarchy by bringing more men in to save us poor helpless women seems terribly misguided to me and that is all that I was trying to say with this post.
I moderate another blog called Holla Back Chicago in which women recount their stories of street harassment in this city. The thing I hear most often from them is that even worse than the harassment is the fact that nobody who witnessed the abuse did anything. I applaud you all for taking an active approach (and I did say that in the entry, I think you do what you can in the system but that doesn’t mean that the system isn’t horrendously flawed).