Updated: Jan 9
How feminist was I, really, when the shit hit the fan?
“Get out! GET OUT! You’re going to get arrested!”
There was a kerfuffle of some sort. I don’t know what else to call it. I was poised at my apartment door, peering through the peephole. I couldn’t see anything. The couple in the hall weren’t in my line of sight.
Something maybe knocked or thrown around. But not, I thought, a human body. Hard to tell.
I suspected it was the young girl in my wing. I didn’t know her, I had only seen the back of her head once, following her down the hall.
I couldn’t see or hear the man, but she clearly wanted him to leave. Was he her boyfriend? A friend? Some guy she’d picked up and poorly chosen to allow into the building?
Would I be wasting 911’s time if I called? I hadn’t heard clear sounds of actual violence, nor real fear yet in her voice.
“If you ever hear something that sounds like a domestic disturbance, Nicole, call the police! You don’t know how many times, when J was threatening me years ago, that I was backed up against the wall praying to God someone had heard what was going on and was calling the cops.”
That’s what my roommate told me thirty years ago, when we shared a house in a small town in Connecticut. She had gotten out of a long-term abusive relationship and was living in peace with myself and her two children.
I called 911.
I wasn’t sure if I should have, but after I hung up things escalated.
Loud whispers I couldn’t quite make out except for the occasional, “Get out! Get out!” They were still in the hall. I could hear the man’s voice but not if he was threatening her. He didn’t sound like a criminal, at least, like a street tough. My guess was that he was middle-class.
My own fears kicked in. What would I do? They wouldn’t know who called 911 but I’d be a suspect as one of the apartments in that end of the hall who could hear.
What if she was now in real danger?
“How feminist are you, really, Nicole?”
What was I going to do?
Would I cower and hide in my apartment? Would I call 911 again? A little voice piped up. Not my old roommate’s.
“How feminist are you really, Nicole? How truly committed are you to stopping male abuse? If a woman is in danger, can you put your money where your mouth is and STOP IT?”
It was that sort of come-to-Jesus moment about what you really believe in.
How committed was I to stopping abuse if I could?
What if I did something RIGHT NOW to stop it? They’d know who I am. They’d know who called 911. They’d know where I live. And if the man, who I didn’t think lived in our building, came back for me, he only had to consult the tenants board at the entrance of the building to find my apartment number and last name.
The sounds of physical disturbance grew louder. Now I wasn’t sure if the muffled thumps and thuds were objects or a body. But the woman now sounded really scared and like she was in immediate danger and even if I called 911 again they wouldn’t get there in time.
What was I going to do?
The shit was hitting the fan. It was up to me.
I left the chain lock in place as I opened the door just enough to yell, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW, BUDDY-BOY! LEAVE HER ALONE! DON’T TOUCH HER! I’VE CALLED 911 AND THE COPS ARE ON THEIR WAY RIGHT NOW! GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!”
“Oh God, now you’ve got to go!” the girl hissed. “Come on, go, leave, before they get here!”
I heard the stairwell door open and close. She was safe.
Now I was terrified. For myself.
NICE JOB YOU DUMB BITCH! What if he comes after me?
What do you do when the shit hits the fan?
I don’t call myself a feminist anymore because I associate it too much with the fragile, easily triggered, misandrist, ‘patriarchy’-obsessed, chronically aggrieved perma-victims of the modern age. But that night I came to Jesus as my old-school feminism, the kind that taught women empowerment rather than relentless powerlessness, kicked in. I put my money where my mouth was. I shat rather than get off the pot.
I’ve criticized other women for being too weak and ‘nice’ and putting up with too much shit. When that young girl told that guy he had to leave, I