e-WAVES Issue # 1 : Women and Fear

Women and Fear by Sumithra Durai

By my own estimate, approximately 100% of Malaysian women suffer from a critical condition called Fear of the Man. The symptoms include, but are not limited to:

1.clutching your bag tightly whenever you leave your house, even when you are at a restaurant and eating a bowl of soup, which could easily spill onto your bag and leave a permanent stain

2. sweating profusely in an air-conditioned lift when you are alone with a bearded man

3. walking briskly from office to car/ train station/ bus stop after work without making eye contact with anyone in case they take it as an invitation to follow you, rape you and kill you

Yes, that is the Fear. And many of us have been suffering the brutal effects of this condition from childhood. When I was just a little girl, I would ask my mother to drop me off at a tuition centre that was a ten minute walk from my house; Fear having crippled me because it was a ten minute walk from my house. When I was older, I got a little braver and made the journey on foot, accompanied by my maid, my brother and our dog, and although the adrenaline rush was akin to swimming in a shark tank, the ten minutes of constant vigilance on top of the sweaty exercise made me much too tired to learn about sums. Thankfully, when construction began on a nearby house, my mother promptly pulled me off the streets and back into the safe haven of the car.

After the breezy, devil-may-care university years, I thought I had recovered from the Fear, but just a couple of months ago, I found my carefree, Fearless self sprinting from the office to the carpark, umbrella swinging menacingly from one sweaty palm and car keys forked like a claw in the other. And I realized that the Fear still lives on inside me. Malaysia is not the most comfortable country in which to be a woman. Sexual harassment is a daily cross women have to bear, be it in the form of lewd kissy noises from passing lorries or lecherous stares when you’re sitting on the train. No wonder we are so paranoid about violent crime – who knows which icky wolf-whistler or starer will actually move on to more illegal activities? However, having spent a great deal of time pondering over my next few lines, I have come up with three simple, if unorthodox ways to treat the Fear (note: these tips are not fool proof and you should not think of them as a safety jacket that will protect you from all crimes – these tips are not going to turn you into Wonderwoman or Oprah.

      1. Practice makes perfect

Let’s assume that a great number of petty criminals are repeat offenders – if they’re not caught, there’s not much that’s going to stop them, is there? If so, then they have a great edge over you – they have a game plan. They know exactly what they’re going to do and they’ve done it so many times, they’re like ballerinas doing a dance routine. And the last thing a ballerina in performance is going to expect is a dance-off.

Instead of spending hours daydreaming about what you’re going to have for lunch, take a bit of time every day to think about how you’re going to outwit the fool who tries to attack you. If you’re a tough nut, think about what kick you will administer when he’s got you in a chokehold. If you’re not confident in your fighting abilities, rehearse falling down and rolling away. If you’re alone, practice screaming. Have lots of back-up plans and try to imagine your reactions to a great variety of situations. Have these situations in your mind whenever you feel the Fear descend, and you will not only distract yourself, you will also be a little more prepared to react if anything should actually happen.

      2. Face repellent

As a young, attractive student studying near a dodgy apartment block, I often felt a pang of fear walking around the area, which to me, was teeming with potential criminals. Luckily, my friend who also had high-risk good looks, and I discovered that we could make a variety of facial expressions that were repellent to men (as well as women, children and most animals). One was the ‘Death Stare’, in which you try as much as possible to look like a cast member of an American prison movie, very sneery and perhaps as though you are seeking revenge. Another was the ‘Doofus’, in which you let your face go completely slack, and then push your jaw back to produce a gormless, foolish expression.

 face repelentI have found this one very successful with all men – so you can not only repel men on the streets with this, but men in bars, men in offices, even men online, if you take a photo. And finally, for extremely dire cases, there is the ‘Demon’. My inspiration for the ‘Demon’ is Jack Nicholson in any movie – wild eyes, crazy grin, maybe a bit of cackling or hissing. It takes a lot of effort and skill to master a sufficiently scary Demon, but the effects are extremely impressive – try it for yourself!

I have found that applying these faces in public makes all people, criminal or innocent, feel extremely awkward and uncomfortable and desire nothing more than to get out of your line of sight. A trusty tool for the lone lady trying to make her way through a car park!

     3. Equip yourself

One confidence boost for your cowardly attacker is the fact that he thinks he’s stronger than you, and perhaps that he has brought along some weapons. But one thing he has probably not considered is that your womanly charms can be quickly converted into your womanly arms. Find out which arm throws a better punch and always wear a ring on it. Make car key claws in car parks and swing your shopping around like a windmill. High heels, handbags and handphones can all be used to cause serious damage to a man’s delicates, while elbows, knees and teeth were made expressly for attacking would-be attackers.

Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a defensive sport or martial art – if anything, so you can work on your running, kicking and punching enough to be able to do it confidently. Imagine a big ripped guy walking down the street – he’s not afraid of someone stealing his handbag! Now, be that guy.

Here is the antidote to the Fear: doing something about it. The fear we feel in dark, lonely spaces is completely justified, looking at the dark history of crime against women in Malaysia. However, if we just get used to being afraid and accept that these spaces are dangerous for women, we will never be able to shake the terror of simply being alone in a public place. We will be reducing ourselves to helpless children, needing women’s-only train coaches and security guard escorts to save us from the big bad Man. Of course, looking at the bigger picture, women cannot shoulder the burden of crime-fighting all by ourselves, and it really will have to be a team effort that eradicates gender-targeted crime. However, walking boldly down a street as opposed to scampering timidly down it can make all the difference when there is no one but yourself looking out for you. Save yourself; grow a pair!

Sumithra Durai is looking to buy a waffle iron. Please get in touch if you have one to sell, or know where I can find one.

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