Why I Bought Pepper Spray

Why I Bought Pepper Spray

“Self respect by definition is a confidence and pride in knowing that your behaviour is both honorable and dignified. When you harass or vilify someone, you not only disrespect them, but yourself also. Street harassment, sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based violence and racism, are all acts committed by a person who in fact has no self respect. -Respect yourself by respecting others.” ― Miya Yamanouchi, Embrace Your Sexual Self: A Practical Guide for Women
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I live in Elmhurst, Queens. Many know it for its massive Asian population and for being home to many shopping centers. The streets are abundantly occupied by Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Taiwanese restaurants (I'm sure I forgot some). Broadway is animated with people throughout the day strolling to the array of bubble tea shops, getting to the M or R trains or going out for groceries at the New Golden Sparkling Supermarket. For a while, I had overlooked Elmhurst's flaws mainly because I loved being a part of such a mixed neighborhood. I take pride in belonging to a close-knit area that lives in harmony with its various cultures and immense history.

I decided to write about my neighborhood this week because of a problem my friends and I have encountered (and that's actually happening to me on the train as I write this) not only in Elmhurst but in various parts of Queens. Now, I'm not in any way saying that this is the only place where this happens but I thought of it as my responsibility to record it. I am in no way implying that all men are this way. I’m simply putting in writing, what other women and I have had to endure on a daily basis.

Elmhurst, along with other neighborhoods, is plagued with men who feed off of the exploitation of the female body and the fear that emanates from it.

Every morning before work I leave at around 5:50 A.M. At first, I thought the streets would be empty at this time but they are fairly populated. The people in the subway are mostly men and I never thought much of this until now. I realize now that women do not come out before sunrise because they don’t feel safe. It's difficult being one of the two women waiting for the train while almost every man who walks by, tries to get as close as possible to my face and body. I jerk away each time even if I sense the slightest attempt to get close to me. I immediately become defensive and I can't help but look past my shoulder every few seconds. I walk up the stairs in fear that someone may want to touch me from behind. Or that I might hear a sneering voice behind my neck, telling me how "beautiful" I look while walking up the stairs.

Sexual harassment (both verbal and physical) can happen all throughout the day, but in the absence of others, harassment is that much more threatening.

I have been smacked in inappropriate places. I've been followed, pulled, hollered at, honked at etc. Just last week on my wait to the train, a young man grabbed me by my arm and tried to pull me towards him as he whispered something incoherent and smiled at me. Once I finally got out from that altercation, I got on the train and was confronted by another man standing by the doors rubbing his crotch over his pants as he stared at me. THIS is why I purchased pepper spray. I no longer feel safe in the neighborhood I loved so much.

Personal space no longer applies to me in this neighborhood I once called my home. A man sees a woman walking down the street and sees it as an opportunity to cross a boundary and make her as uncomfortable as possible. It's as if they feed off of women being vulnerable victims. I hate having to walk down the street constantly looking behind me, checking to see if someone is trailing behind. Wearing earphones has become a necessity so I don't have to hear the inappropriate slurs, or the honking, or the whistling. I despise not being able to wear what I feel like wearing because I know men see certain wardrobe as an invitation to harass and exploit women. I try my hardest not to bring attention to myself when in reality the problem should be fixed from the other end. I have had to adjust my persona outside of the walls of my apartment because of this.

I hate to say it but I know I'm saying it for a lot of women when I say the only time I feel safe is when I have a man standing next to me. Men will only respect your personal space if another man is next to you because a lone woman is immediately an object. When I'm with my boyfriend, I can walk freely without being harassed and most of all, I feel safe. I can stand in the middle of a train without being stared down. But it shouldn’t be this way. I want to let my guard down and be able to walk down the streets calmly. I would like to think that I am sufficient for my own safety and that I am capable of getting where I need to be without fearing that I may be inappropriately stared at or sexually harassed.

Julia (Whitestone, NY)

Says she has been a victim multiple times. When she was learning how to ride a bike, a man blocked her with his car and asked her if she wanted to perform oral sex on him while he masturbated in the car. Another time, while walking back to work, a man followed Julia to her workplace and stood staring at her from outside the store. She also tells me of a time when men yelled out “slut” and “whore” as she was walking down the street.

Panny (Elmhurst, NY)

Katie (Elmhurst, NY)

Says a seemingly polite young man approached her one time and called her pretty. After she said thank you, he proceeded to put his hand on her backside.

Nadia (Bayside, NY)

"My sister and I were walking by the precinct in Bayside when a cop car came really close to us and they started whistling at us. Like what can we do about that? They're supposed to be protecting us yet they made us feel really unsafe and uncomfortable... They (men) think they have every right to scan your body with their eyes and want to let you know there's nothing you can do about it"

Joseline (Astoria, NY)

"It's always a matter of opportunity to the people who catcall and harass girls on the street. When I'm on the train, there are the people that will look you up and down as if it's completely okay to do that. The worst that has happened to me was when a man decided that it would be acceptable to grab my backside on his way off the train and I wasn't able to do anything about it."

Yin (Corona, NY)

When Yin was just a child, a man stood in front of her on the train and took out his member and started fiddling with it. "This was before I even knew what a male appendage looked like." Says when she was in high school, a large man squeezed between her and another person on the train and used the space issue as an excuse to rub her breasts with his elbows continuously. Yin says even though she tried to move, his elbow "followed" and was too "afraid even to get up." Another time, a man on a train stood very close to her against the door, and while reading the newspaper, rested his arm on her breasts. "...I told myself, don't let this happen again, and I imagined myself telling off this man in so many ways, from scathingly and sarcastically polite to outright cursing him out, but my shameful fear kept me mute yet again. And so the result repeated itself. It fills me with shame, regret and self-loathing whenever I think of it.

Ana (East Elmhurst, NY)

During my mom's road test, the instructor caressed her leg. Afraid she would not receive her license, my pregnant mother had kept quiet about it until now.

Adiba (New York, New York)

"I work in an upscale retail store where we have to offer close assistance to all of our clients. A client I had was trying on some jeans in the fitting room and called me for my assistance. I go over to help him and he tells me "these jeans aren't fitting me" and he opens the curtains and his penis is out and is staring at me smiling. I quietly walked away and told my manager. I'm still grossed out till this day"

Many people have told me to accept it. It's just a fact and you can't change it, I've been told. "Men are dogs." Just don't show so much skin, they say. And to the women that are fully clothed? Shall they stay indoors because their wardrobe didn't function as a way to stop these predatory men? We are neither safe on the streets nor on the trains nor at our jobs but I refuse to let the actions of imbeciles dictate the way I dress. These men see clothing as a facilitator but will never see it as an obstacle. No matter what women wear, whenever they walk out of their homes, they are running the risk of being disrespected and humiliated in public. The longer we continue to blame women and take the blame off from the men, the more prevalent this problem becomes. We have to teach our sons to learn how to take responsibility for their actions. "Men are dogs" is only another excuse that makes men think they can get away with whatever they please. Men are human and they are fully capable of owning up and taking responsibility for their actions. We must teach our sons to respect the space of a woman and to never make her feel like she does not belong. Women are under no obligation to wave back, say thank you to compliments, say good morning, or smile back. Do not take advantage of a woman's vulnerable position in public.

To those who watch these things happen, the blame is on you too. Bystanders only fuel these predatory men. To those who celebrate catcalling and sexual harassment, you are part of the problem too. You are the reason why women look over their shoulders and run quickly past groups of men. You are responsible for the continuous torment of these women. To those women who are enduring this harassment but still continue to live their lives on a daily basis, this is dedicated to you. Do not be afraid to go to your local police station and report what has happened to you. If it isn't you, the next day it will be another girl.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepysue/6320454272/in/photolist-aCvYRw-cK6Wpo-aCHXaS-9T6QpD-bwo5zc-9Sx6Au-9x2KZg-fP1GZv-8LreWL-dH2q7n-ag1tPe-9PR7kL-9j25tw-nh2jgK-87fCdV-fvaDdd-dzcbc7-eyB9KU-dV3f5M-bfhvuB-dC9sJy-9bZqGr-7kBAtG-s2ojrS-9g77Wn-eaNgr5-9i6J1U-9byrxx-fy8Kxo-jVfpuj-a8AiVe-zqw2u-fzRfCR-em8szK-qSKrXN-8GfEnm-qdTN4C-bCqeny-8f22Gn-zqw32-nF5wJq-bcSruH-AmEhSa-fLBkQ-avu1Bg-sFeueH-6o3AjF-Dwc98b-oZek8i-rS3yy1

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I'm An 18-Year-Old Female And I Will Never Be A Feminist

Honestly, I'd rather be caught dead than caught calling myself a modern-day feminist.
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"A man told me to have a good day... I'm triggered." How ludicrous does that sound? Tune in because that is the extent of modern day feminism.

Sure, I think boys are stupid and that I'm probably better than 90% of the male population, but that doesn't make me a modern-day feminist. Now I believe that woman should stand up for themselves, and Golding's quote: "I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been," is by far one of my favorite quotes... but modern day feminism is not something I want to be associated with.

I'm all for "anything you can do I can do better," and "We can do it!" but realistically speaking in some situations, that isn't feasible. As an 18-year-old woman who works out regularly, and is stronger than the average female, I couldn't carry a 190-pound man back to a safe zone after he was shot on the front line of a war even if I tried. It is not anatomically possible for a grown woman to be as strong as a fully developed male.

Reality check: Men and women are not equal.

They are not physically equal, they are not mentally equal. Modern-day feminism is equality between the two genders, but corrupt and on steroids. I support what feminism used to be. I support women who work hard and have goals and ambition... not girls who hate men and stomp around with no shirts on to piss off the public. Feminism has developed into a polluted teaching that young men and women are plunging into.

We are built dissimilarly.

The human brain is literally an organ that is sex oriented. There is a cognitive difference, that singlehandedly destroys gender equality.

I will not spend my time running a revolution against anyone who likes Donald Trump. I am not going to binge watch Trump's twitter in an effort to start some leftist gob of drama. I refuse to be part of this head hunt to attack all Republicans on the newest Instagram post made about how feminism is stupid. I do not hate men, and society would crash and burn without the successful men and women who work together to create what we call the United States of America.

Why, you ask? Why are the 15-25 year olds of our society clinging to feminism? They are hopping on the rapidly growing bandwagon where all the hipsters, feminists and Trump haters reside. It's "cool" to hate Donald Trump. Twitter is a world of liberalism, hatred and fake love towards all. Social media is where this generation is living — and modern-day feminism brews there.

We need to keep separation in the household within roles.

We must raise our children to do what they are best at rather than trying to do something they are incapable of just to prove an irrelevant point.

Women must stand up for what they believe in and be strong in their shoes, while not getting so caught up in what your modern day feminist says she thinks is right.

We cannot let this briskly changing society sway us away from what is going to keep the world working precisely.

Cover Image Credit: Macey Joe Mullins

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President Trump's Government Shutdown Is A Threat To National Security

National parks are unstaffed, but not closed. Americans can visit them without paying an entrance fee, but it is "go at your own risk."

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Just as Americans were settling in for the holiday season, President Trump intiated a shutdown of the federal government by rejecting any budget that did not include funding for a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is a four-way wrangle between, Mr. Trump, senators who are for the wall, senators who detest the wall, and senators who are clueless about what to do next. About 380,000 of federal government employees(civil servants and government contractors) are on unpaid leave while another 420,000 essential security personnel (FBI agents, Border Patrol, Secret Service agents, airport security agents, etc.) are working without pay. The shutdown began on December 22, 2018, and is still continuing in mid-January, 2019.

Mr. Trump's is asking for over $5.6 billion of homegrown American taxpayer dollars to complete the wall. Neither Mexico nor Central America countries have indicated any desire to pay for it, another promise Trump campaign on. Mr. Trump states that "Drugs, terrorists, violent criminals, and child traffickers are entering our country" with consequences of "drug debts, violent murder, gang violence." Of course, we cannot allow that to happen. From his "state of emergency" and "TEXT BORDER" advertisement, it looks like America is in a war zone.

But are we?

A concrete or steel wall might be practical if there were a stamped of drug dealers, gangs, and violent criminals charging toward the U.S.-Mexico border. The only war zone there is on the U.S. Senate floor, where neither party nor the president can come to a conclusion about border funding. President Trump is also pushing for the establishment of the United States Space Force to keep our country safe. The issue is that if the country can't even maintain a ground force at the southern border, how can there be a Space Force?

On a more serious note, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be missing their first paycheck. While raising the minimum wage is debatable, receiving no pay is not. This past Christmas, many federal employees, and their families had to cut back on Christmas gifts and spending in general as they face financial hardship. That's not even the worst part. The 420,000 essential security personnel are forced to work for no pay because America cannot be kept safe without them. Recently, close to 21% of TSA employees, who work in airport security, have called in sick. The men and women who work in airport security usually earn an average starting salary of $15.50 an hour. Airports now have fewer screeners and security agents, which entails shutting down security lines or conduct more brief security checks. Longer lines will lead to more frustrated passengers and lateness for those traveling for business purposes. It is very likely that airports will move towards looser security check since impatient crowds of people aren't going to sit still. It is also possible that more people will avoid flying and drive instead-if the route is driveable.

National parks are unstaffed, but not closed. Americans can visit them without paying an entrance fee, but it is "go at your own risk." Bathrooms are unmaintained or closed, there are no rangers to ask for guidance or help, and few if no one to call in an emergency.

The FDA is affected by the shutdown, meaning food safety inspections will be conducted even less frequently, which will increase one's risk of foodborne illness, especially the elderly, those with weak immune systems and younger children.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is still in operation, but the staffing is down to 45 percent, which will reduce their capability to detect and prevent cyber security threats. These individuals already overworked, and not paying them would only decrease their morale, further lowering productivity. DHS was also received one of the lowest ranks in the best places to work in the government, which can lower prospects for seeking new employees to fill vital roles in government cybersecurity.

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