"The thing people have to understand is that we don't hate men."
"Of course you don't! If feminists hated men, I'd be praying that you didn't bring a knife with you into my cab."
I try to avoid being explicitly political in my entries. While I have not hidden where my values lie, I think it would distract from the point of this record, if the reader was constantly aware that I am a communist. Or an objectivist. Or an anarchist. Or a libertarian. Or conservative. Or whatever.
However, I can say that I am a feminist. Which is to say this:
I believe in equal rights for everyone, regardless of gender, creed, etc.
I believe that there are structures that inform and underlie many of the things we take for granted in society.
I believe that many of these structures are harmful, regardless of your gender.
I believe that the harm these structures do to women is greater than the harm done to men.
I believe that (much like Abolition after the outlawing of slavery) feminism will cease to be a relevant movement once equality is achieved.
All of this can be debated, expanded, extrapolated to an insane amount of detail. I will not do that. Suffice it to say, these are my core beliefs when it comes to the sex war. And once I realized this, however reluctantly, there was no way I could not call myself a feminist.
And after all, how could I not? I come into contact with sexism on a daily basis. Name your brand of sexism, I have encountered it in my car. Though most of it is the everyday boys-are-playas-girls-are-whores kind of bullshit, every once in a while something truly awful rears its head.
What I am talking about specifically is that of abusive relationships.
"But Crabby!" I hear some of you cry. "Men get abused in relationships too!"
Yes, yes we do. We also are more prone to getting beaten up, robbed and murdered (sometimes in that order). We are also taught to repress feelings, and to constantly measure our dicks with friends and foes alike. But none of this informs the way we as a gender take on the world. None of this polices our behaviour or keeps us from seizing opportunity. Men, as a rule, are not afraid of walking home alone. This cannot be said for most women.
So, where was I? Abusive relationships. All right.
I've seen my share of battered women. On my very first week, I helped a particularly awesome one to flee her home (though that's a story for a later date). I've driven biker chicks with bloody clothes and busted lips channeling their pain into some truly astounding and ghoulish gallows humour. And I've been begged to pretend to be the New Boyfriend when the Abusive Boyfriend makes a phonecall (which I declined).
Tonight I want to tell you about Amanda.
I like to think this was a few months ago, but it could just as easily have been a year ago. I was out in the western end of town where I received a fare from the harbour in Kingstone. I arrived, and there she was.
She was tall, blonde, and hid her middle age well beneath her tan. She wore what I first assumed was a sweatsuit, which was stained with what I assumed was wine. Around her eyes, she was heavily, but sloppily painted. As she approached the cab, I noticed a wobble in her step, and when she opened her mouth words slurred out, I understood exactly what I was dealing with: a fading beauty who escaped her oncoming age through excessive, pathetic partying.
I can be a judgmental fuck at times.
She stumbled into the cab and sat down next to me.
"You're gonna take me to Linnaeus Street".
And thus began our trip. We kept up a disjointed conversation, which mostly was her rambling damn near incoherently and me nodding and muttering in acknowledgment.. But as the trip went on, a darker, more sinister picture emerged:
Amanda had spent the past two days at sea with a man. This man was your typical landlubber, the kind of asshole who gets a boat and automatically assumes he's fucking Admiral Nelson. The kind of guy who thinks that the sea is nothing more than a great big swimming pool. Amanda knew differently. She had (much like myself) grown up around boats and the ocean. She knew that whether the sea is calm or rough, you do well to give it the respect and fear it deserves. Or at the very least, not be a dumbass around it.
Admiral Nelson, however, did not share her sentiment. In fact, he thought it jolly good fun to get hammered and then take on the huge ocean waves head on, laughing at her for insisting he wear a life jacket. All of these things are fun in their own right, but none should ever be combined. When she finally put her foot down, he flipped his lid. They argued, and the argument ended when he lifted the anchor and smashed it accross her face. He then had taken her back ashore and dumped her there, wearing nothing but a blood stained pajamas and a rapidly blackening eye.
That's when she called for a cab.
I wasn't sure what to make of this. Or rather, I wasn't sure of what to do, aside from assure her again and again that what he did was wrong and that he was an idiot. As we approached the area of the city called Linnaeus Town, she started staring at the people around her, all of them dressed to the nines and on their way to various pubs, clubs and bars.
"I wanna have fun," she said. "Look at those lucky bastards, they can go out and have fun. Me, I gotta go home. They won't let me party."
"Who?," I said.
"I live in a sheltered housing. They don't let me go out..."
"Really?" I said, finding it harder and harder to keep up with her rambling.
"Drop me off here! I wanna go out and have fun!"
Fearing that she might wander off (without paying), I insisted I take her to Linnaeus street, so she could get changed before she went out. She reluctantly agreed, except
"I don't live on Linnaeus street."
At this point I was beginning to lose my patience. "And where do you live?"
"In a sheltered housing. In Maytown."
Fortunately Maytown is right next to Linnaeus. So I nodded and changed directions. "So how come it says Linnaeus street on my screen?"
"Because that's where he lives."
She didn't say much after that. But as we approached the shelter in Maytown, she fished out her phone and called a number. She started talking, angry and anxious. I gathered that she was talking to her abuser, the one who lived on Linnaeus. I assume that he was (though I am in no way sure) Admiral Nelson from before. She angrily told him that he was an asshole for mistreating her, and that she could consider coming over to him if he straightened up and paid for the cab. By now, we had stopped at the shelter and I was patiently waiting for her to hang up.
She did. And she looked at me with dead eyes and spoke in a dead voice: "Take me back to Linnaeus."
At this point, I knew too much. "Are you sure about this?"
And so we began the trip back in stone cold silence, and I was stunned. I wanted to do something, but what? Bravely take her away? And go where? Call the police? And tell them what? Take her back to the shelter against her will? With her abuser within walking distance?
She sighed. "He is not nice to me. He is not nice at all."
"You sure you want to go to him?" I asked. "We don't have to."
She smiled sadly and shook her head. "Let's just go."
So I began driving. And she began whimpering, saying "I'll be good, I'll be good this time" and "Stupid girl. So stupid. No more than you deserve."
Again and again I made the offer to turn back, that she didn't have to go to him, and again and again she declined. Finally, we arrived and my heart was bleeding.
"How much?" she asked, rifling through her wallet.
"No," I said. "I can't take your money."
She looked at me, almost fearful. "Please-"
"No," i said. "I've already driven you to someone I know is going to hurt you. I can't accept payment for that."
"But its your job," she said. "Compensation..."
"Let me take you back to Maytown."
She looked at me, and for a moment I thought she'd agree. But then she shook her head.
"I can't," she mumbled. "Not now."
"Help me get my bag from the trunk," she said.
At this point, its kind of a blur. I suppose I did help her open the trunk. What I do remember clearly is that she wanted to give me a hug goodbye because I was "so nice" to her. So I obliged.
Something broke, and she started crying. She wrapped her arms tightly around me and clung to me, as violent sobs tore through her body and shook us both. I don't remember how long we stood like that. All I remember are hot tears streaming down my neck and how clumsy my hands felt as I stroked her hair. I like to think I whispered that she didn't have to go through with this. That I'd take her back to Maytown.
Finally, she let me go and she squeezed my hand.
"You are a nice one." she said. Then she went over to the door and rang the bell. It was opened by a fat man wearing a wifebeater and a sour scowl. He let her in and gave me a quick, dismissive look.
Numb, I clocked out for a moment and took the cab up a nearby hill, where I sat with a view over town.
Once I had regained my senses, I called the police and reported the situation, that one of my customers was probably being abused. They thanked me for my report. And I asked them if what I had told them was anything to go by, if there was anything they could do.
"No. Not without further evidence."
There is no punchline to this entry. No bombastic declaration of war against injustice or some defining turning point to set you on the course to better living. At best, I suppose, this illustrates the disconnect between values and reality. We can all agree that it is never enough to merely state your values; you have to live up to them and, if possible, embody them. But how exactly do you do that?
To this day, I really don't know what I could have done for her. Sure, I'm a "nice one", but how the hell does that help the Amandas of the world? Would the pain and humiliation she suffered at the hands of that fucker be in any way less awful, just because the guy who took her there was nice to her? And yet, short of forcing her, I really don't know what else I could do. She already had sheltered housing. If I had refused to take her, would she have stayed in Maytown or was she too far gone to break the pattern?
A friend of mine says that I had encountered her too far down the line. That there was nothing I could be expected or able to do at that point. Maybe she's right.
But there it is. Amanda's story. She is not unique. She and all others like her, are merely symptoms of a sickness in humanity. And while we're beginning to realize just how sick we are, we are still far from a cure.