The Man of Few Words

The Man of Few Words

Trigger warning: SA

As a woman, men scare me. As a woman of color, I am a minority in a white man’s world. While stereotyping is never justifiable, people often form opinions based on other factors, whether that be ethnic background, religion, or personal experiences. Due to past experiences and real-world events,  I stereotype men as cunning, conniving, crude, and almost always potentially threatening creatures.

I was on my way home from college one afternoon. I just got used to using the bus, confident that I had finally memorized my bus route. The bus was late, again. Unfortunately, the bus stop smelled ripe with human piss, already spoiling my cheerful mood. As I was waiting for my bus to arrive, one stopped in front of me, letting passengers disembark. A man spotted me and as he was passing, he touched my arm and said “Damn lady, you got it going on,” and went on his way. The experience for him may have seemed miniscule and even boosted his confidence a bit, but it left me flabbergasted and disgusted. My skin convulsed. My mind was racing. I retreated to the corner of the bus stop and hugged myself, trying to forget the whole interaction. I felt my heart rate pick up as another man joined me at the stop, hands full of groceries. My eyes were on him like a feral cat, pressing myself into the corner hoping he wouldn’t even look in my direction. It felt like an eternity of waiting for him to do something, the minutes seemingly stretching into hours. It was akin to waiting for thunder after lightning. But, nothing happened. His bus came and he went on his way. I felt myself calm down and my rational brain finally kicked in. What is wrong with you? You just stared into a man’s soul for ten minutes straight for nothing! It screamed at me. I felt horrible because I started to think about how he might have felt. I had been staring at him, like a maniac, and expecting him to do something that another man had done before. All the while, he was peacefully eating an orange, enjoying the breeze and waiting for his bus to go home. He had done nothing to warrant suspicion, and yet, I acted defensively. Moments like these stick with me. They remind me that not every man is the same, no matter how paranoid I am. Yet, this same thought process occurs every time I run into a similar situation.

Reflecting on why I think this way was difficult, yet simple. I am half White and half west Indian, but I grew up primarily with the West-Indian side of my family. While being in touch with that side of my family gave me a sense of community and a collectivistic mindset, it also exposed me to some disturbing family secrets, with almost every woman in the family having experienced sexual assault by a male family member. Later down the line, I realized why my family always made sure I was properly dressed before greeting family, even in the wee morning hours. The practice of dressing modestly before family interactions became a precaution ingrained in my upbringing. I myself have experienced the consequences of not covering up, as a woman with an involuntarily larger chest. I haven’t been touched at all, but I might as well have from how they look at you. It’s a completely inappropriate and demeaning stare. It makes your skin crawl and you feel your body shrivel into itself to attempt to escape their view.

I’ve also witnessed male violence myself. In the past, my father’s irrational behavior fueled by alcohol shaped my opinons of men. He would become mean to my mother and I for no reason, requiring the intervention of the police at one point. High school fights also impacted me. Most fights were male-on-male violence and even gang violence during school hours, which resulted in a two-hour lockdown and an ambulance. These experiences definitely left lasting impressions, shaping my perception of male stereotypes.

To make matters worse, my fear of men was amplified as I entered the world of social media and the news. I learned that there are, in fact, more men than women in the world, with a 101:100 ratio. Media also brought stories of kidnappings and these major serial killers like Ted Bundy getting away with such vicious murders, spiking my paranoia exponentially. Now, living in the city, I am constantly strung out on paranoia and the fear of being cornered by a man I’ve never met, or worse, a man I know.

While I acknowledge the importance of avoiding judgment based on gender, especially given the diversity of opinions and experiences, I stereotype men in this certain way.  This is not a habit I will overcome anytime soon, especially with the existence of sexual assault and domestic abuse or as long as I have to think about the way I dress every day in order to keep myself safe or think about what I say to people to never put myself in a vulnerable position or get picked up from my night classes instead of riding the bus home. I don’t mean to sound stuck-up, but I honestly don’t feel very guilty about stereotyping men. I find solace in my hyper-awareness and paranoia because in the back of my mind, I know that I’ll probably need it one day.

Jyoti Souza

About the Author

Jyoti Souza is a young adult living and schooling in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. She is the daughter of Dr. Deepa and Dr. John and writes these blogs as part of her commitment to informing the world on the perspective of young people.

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*