1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in? Emotional spaces? How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?
Realized again this month I have a fragile sense of safety. Thought I was absorbing the sadness around me after Sandy and Boston, a week each time of feeling unable to cope. Realized I was feeling fear. Related to being Jewish, the particular way I was raised because I have no Jewish friends who seem to feel the way I do, or even close it seems, out of many. physical and emotional.
Felt unsafe, the exact word I used to describe it, in my college department. Afraid of 3 male colleagues. In the last year, I stopped checking my mailbox till after 5:00 when one who’s office was there would be gone. I didn’t want to be alone with him. So there was a little physical fear, actually. Didn’t feel afraid of 2 women colleagues who treated me similarly.
I very often feel more secure, as a woman raised in a middle-class “professional” family, than does my partner, a man raised in a poor family whose 4 sisters and brothers and parents didn’t graduate high school (except him).
2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women? How do you think others perceive you physically? What elements contribute to these perceptions?
I can tell you what I notice in other women’s appearance:
I notice how fit and “firm” they are, regardless of weight. (I have no idea if this is relevant.)
I notice how grey hair “ages” women or doesn’t; my brown hair is 100% fake.
I’m transfixed by plastic surgery on women’s faces. Oh, didn’t need to say “women’s.”
I think others see me physically as middle-aged, plump, often Jewish but not always.
3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman? Safe, unsafe, targeted, ignored, harassed, invisible? Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?
I feel, like, fine walking outside. Not sure I did as a younger woman, in terms of verbal stuff. Have felt safe physically going back at least 30 years (of 57), I think.
At a Mika concert with my daughter last week (who insisted on standing nowhere near me, so I looked like I was alone) I felt VISIBLE because of my age. In a good way. Kind of an intimate night club, and when Mika played first notes of each song, we all cheered. But after 3 notes of one, I was the only one around me who could i.d. the song, and I got props! Took great care in how I dressed. Tho who knows how what I chose to wear was perceived. I was going for hip but not “young,” whatever that is.
At my college, I felt invisible, again the exact word I used. First noticed it when I was rushing to class pulling an overflowing briefcase and trying to balance armful of other materials and no one held the door for me. I think students literally didn’t see me, middle-aged woman.
4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you? I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.
I strrrrruggle with the intersectedness thing. Just have never been able to grasp it. Or articulate it. How embarrassing is this.
Love the word “woman-ness.”