We went into a shop, a small one, because we wanted to see something that had been displayed in the window. We approach the young woman who works in the shop only to find her quietly telling a man, who is not listening, to put his mask on. He is talking about an app on his phone and how wonderful it is. He opens the app and it plays a military kind of anthem. He keeps walking towards her, she keeps backing up, he's talking loudly to be heard over the music playing. Her hand is up. But stop did not mean stop to him and he kept advancing. She was being backed into a corner with no escape.
We took all this in in an instant. And it took an instant to respond. She was talking to him trying to take control of the situation. Would our help be wanted? Would we be intruding on a battle that she needed to fight on her own. I didn't want to take from her the victory that she would feel if she got it under control. Was my urge to intervene driven by sexism or by her actual need? Then I thought, hell, if I was a woman I'd probably intervene too. Then I thought I'm not a woman and can even presume to know what a woman would do.
All that thought took just enough time for panic to show on her face. She didn't even notice that we were there. And though we were in plain sight, neither did he. I rolled forward, Joe was right behind me. I spoke loudly "Hey, where is your mask" I figured it was safer to call him out over the mask than his behaviour towards the woman in the store. He turned towards me briefly and in that moment I saw her dash to the desk to call security.
Joe and I are not people who have threatening bearing. We look like shmoos, or maybe schmucks, who could throw a punch into a bowl. But he eyed us up, forgetting her for the moment, advance towards us and then brushed by us heading to the door where he was stopped by security.
The woman thanked us for intervening and helped us to see what we'd come in looking for. She rung us in and sent us on our way.
She looked very tired.
At home I wondered, was she tired because a man kept advancing on her in the store.
Or was she tired because we intervened in a situation that she felt in control of.
I don't know.
I think you did the best you could. This isn't some woman objecting to a door being opened, it is a potentially life threatening situation. I liken this to the Black Lives matter movement. It has taken white people lending their voice to lend it more power. As sad as that is, it takes those who have privilege to lend their power to others sometimes. In an ideal world I suppose you could get his attention and say "Excuse me. Did you hear what she said?." I am not sure you had time for that, or whether this would have made matters worse for you. As you imply, you are also potentially a target. Privilege is so layered and complex. On one hand you may have it, on the other, you may not. You have definitely experienced both sides of this Dave. I think that helps you to be more understanding. Kudos to you for recognizing how "assisting" can take power away. I a pretty sure she is thankful you landed where you did just in time.
A little positive intervention lightens the darkness of this pandemic.
That's why she thanked you :-)
You did the very best thing, to address the unmasked man from your own ethical center. She got a break without being "mansplained".
I read you daily and I'm almost never logged in. Thank you for continuing to blog for those of us outside the socials.
My guess is that she was happy for the help - I'd have been terrified if I'd been her! Even without a pandemic, being cornered like that by a strange man would be scary as all get-out.
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