The other day I was in a car with a friend of mine, she was driving. We came up to a crosswalk and there was a girl waiting to cross the street so we slowed down.
The girl on the street looked back at us, smiled and began to walk. But just as she did my friend (accidentally) let her foot off the brake a little and the car moved forward. Not aggressively. Not quickly. Just started to move, right toward where the girl was walking.
The look on this girl’s face said everything.
She pointed her finger at us, wrinkled her brow and, with the sheer power of her eyes, let us know that she wished very terrible things for us in the near future… and perhaps forever.
From the drivers seat my friend said, “Sheesh. Calm down. I’m not going to run you over.”
And right after she said it a thought entered my mind – unsolicited, unapologetic, inconvenient. I thought, “Hmm… easy for us to say. We’re the ones with 3,000 pounds of steel protecting us…”
Then I thought,
I wonder if sometimes, as women, we get defensive because we feel like we’re out in the middle of a crosswalk, just walking along…
When suddenly we worry we might be in danger of being bowled over by a vehicle more industrial, more powerful than we are.
And I wonder if sometimes men feel like they’ve been accused of something they didn’t ever (intend to) do.
In fact I recognize a frightening correlation between the look I saw on that girl’s face – the glare that said, “I hope you die” – and the attitude we, as women, sometimes flip to men – even men who have no intention of hurting us.
I know that many women have reason to be on guard. If you are a woman who has been abused or raped or molested or mistreated – or if you have known other women who have been abused or raped or molested or mistreated…
Fear and anger and defensiveness can feel like the only right response.
But the problem isn’t just that defensiveness is wrong, although in a way, it is. The problem is that defensiveness is unattractive. Defensiveness is isolating. And defensiveness almost always renders us alone.
So what to do about it? I think there are lots of things. 10 specific things that I want to share with you next week.
What about you? Do you think defensiveness is wrong? How do you find yourself being defensive?