In the event you observe me on Instagram or Fb, you understand I just lately went on an intense 4 day backpacking journey within the Adirondack mountains, and that I’m neither into cardio/endurance sports activities, nor an outdoorsy form of particular person… so this was extraordinarily far outdoors my consolation zone.
The journey was a hit, regardless of loads of adversity, which started the primary evening when a bear invaded our campsite.
Yep. A fucking bear.
After a tricky seven mile hike the primary day, we had gotten into camp somewhat later than anticipated, and shortly started organising and making dinner. Simply after we’d eaten, and only some minutes after darkness had simply settled, my brother went to seize one thing out of the bear canister.
For these of you who don’t know what a “bear canister” is, it’s the “bearproof” container it’s important to hold your entire meals in when mountaineering within the Adirondacks. The factor is, it’s solely bearproof when it’s locked, and ours had unintentionally been left open and unattended for a couple of minutes. Whoops.
So anyway, it was darkish, and my brother Jason went to seize one thing from the bear canister when he realized a big ass black bear was gleefully pulling out all of our rigorously packaged and dehydrated meals and consuming it.
Right here’s the half I discover attention-grabbing: since I used to be about 20 toes away on the time and didn’t see all of it go down: Jason, who’s a seasoned camper and backpacker, made a very bizarresound. It was form of like a muffled, excessive pitch whine. It begin out fairly weak, after which bought a bit louder, like an incoherent “….ehheehhhhehEEEHHHH…”
When he got here all the way down to the place my mother and I have been sitting, his fingers have been oddly caught up within the air, he had a bizarre smile on his face, and he stated in a good sing-songy voice:
“So… there’s a bear…?”
We didn’t consider him at first, as a result of he was form of smiling and since Jason is all the time joking round. Ultimately it landed, and we ran to look at helplessly because the bear munched his method by half our journey’s price of meals.
The following few hours have been spent screaming and banging pots and pans and throwing issues on the bear whereas we scrambled to maneuver all foodstuffs distant from camp. Pepper spray bought deployed (protecting all our stuff and pores and skin and lungs), we thought we would must abandon the entire journey, and we went to sleep nonetheless capable of see the bear’s glinting eyes close by.
However I’m not right here to speak about bear security. (Professional tip although: Don’t depart meals unattended after darkish within the Adirondacks.)
I’m right here to speak about the way in which my brother, who had by no means encountered a bear earlier than, acted fully fucking WEIRD.
My favourite a part of the bear story is now the half the place I do an impression of the whiney noises my brother made when he first noticed the bear. I’ve by no means in twenty six years seen him behave that method, and looking back it was fucking hilarious.
My mother’s husband, a boy scout chief and bear security fanatic, was baffled by this conduct. He was like… WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST YELL “BEAR!”??
However Jason couldn’t yell “bear.”
He was just a few toes away from a bear for the primary time, he froze, and he began wracking his mind to recollect the “guidelines” for this sort of bear state of affairs. (There are completely different guidelines for various sorts of bears; some you’re supposed to carry completely nonetheless, and others you’re purported to get huge and make plenty of noise.)
As soon as he determined to make noise, he needed to overcome the physiological freeze response, and nonetheless wasn’t considering clearly or confidently. So as an alternative of shouting “THERE’S A BEAR IN CAMP!” he simply made these unusual whining noises.
That stated, I assure you that having mentioned and practiced yelling “bear!” over the following few days– if Jason ever encounters a black bear once more he’ll reply shortly, confidently, and appropriately.
This story struck me as a captivating analogy (given the present political local weather) to what plenty of girls expertise relating to sexual harassment, assault, and rape.
When a girl is confronted with sudden and sudden hazard, she freezes. She racks her mind to determine what sort of “bear” she’s coping with, and which guidelines apply.
Is that this a bear who could be scared off if she screamed “no,” or would he attempt to kill her? Is that this a bear who would destroy her profession if she pisses him off? If it safer to play lifeless? To make an excuse and flee? To faux you’re into it and get it over with shortly?
We make the very best resolution we are able to throughout (and after) harassment and assault, however usually our tales come off as… unusual.
When one other coach grabbed my ass within the gymnasium as soon as, I laughed. Hours later I used to be so bothered by my very own conduct. Why did I chortle? Why didn’t I inform that creep off, and make a scene?
These moments of strangeness usually make us really feel too ashamed and embarrassed to report, as a result of we all know folks will hear our story and ask us “why didn’t you simply do such-and-such?”
And we gained’t have a solution.
However survival mode makes us do unusual issues. It overrides logic, and locks up our voices, and plasters frozen smiles on our faces.
We should make room for folks to inform their tales of feeling threatened with out questioning their conduct. We should acknowledge that being afraid makes us do unusual issues, act in methods which are out of character, and make selections that appear objectively poor from the skin.
Simply because we didn’t scream “NO, GET OFF ME!” and instantly report it doesn’t imply we have been complicit, mendacity, or mistaken about what we skilled. It simply means we have been scared, frozen, stunned, and lowered to a gut-level survival mode.
Take into consideration what number of girls take self-defense and krav maga lessons to be able to study and follow responding to an assault. This has grow to be a standard response to residing in concern, and an acceptable one.
However it’s additionally a bit misguided.
In any case, the mass majority of sexual harassment and violence is finished by somebody we all know, like, and belief, beneath non-violent circumstances. Shouldn’t we study and follow responding to the precise risks that the majority (if not all) girls will face in some unspecified time in the future?
How are we supposed to talk up after we’ve spent a lifetime avoiding battle and never hurting anybody’s emotions? How are we anticipated to seek out our voices when our our bodies are frozen? Similar to in self-defense lessons, we have to have practiced if we anticipate to face up for ourselves when the time comes.
And relaxation assured, the time will come.
Whether or not it’s talking up when a co-worker makes an inappropriate sexual remark, or realizing what to do when somebody gropes you on the subway, self-assertiveness beneath stress is a learnable talent, and it baffles me that it’s not a required a part of feminine schooling.
We have to have practiced the abilities of asserting our boundaries in a secure surroundings, a number of instances, and loudly, identical to some girls follow responding to assault with a knee to the groin and a palm to the nostril. We want these abilities to be so well-practiced and in our bones, that after we are afraid, uncomfortable, drunk, or stunned, we are able to nonetheless assert our boundaries with readability and energy.
So let’s begin practising.
Severely. Seize a accomplice or just a few mates, and position play asserting your boundaries in each situation you possibly can consider. Communicate loudly, clearly, and confidently. Replicate your boundaries in your physique language. Make daring eye contact. Say it with out smiling. Discover how uncomfortable that’s, after which do it once more.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Listed here are just a few phrases to attempt practising:
Depart me alone.
That is sexual harassment, and it’s worthwhile to cease.
I don’t like this.
I wish to cease.
I modified my thoughts.
That’s not humorous to me.
You’re making me uncomfortable.
I’m not .
Problem one another to take care of basic responses from “loosen up, I’m simply joking,” to “come on, you understand you need it.” Do it till it feels simple, and begin practising each probability you get in on a regular basis life.
We will’t “out-logic” the weirdness of the freeze response. However we are able to certain as hell put together for it and reduce it with follow. So let’s try this.
And in case you’ve ever acted like a whole weirdo when afraid or stunned, and felt ashamed or embarrassed by your individual conduct, please let my brother’s story be the start of self-compassion and forgiveness.
It’s not your fault, and your conduct doesn’t make your story much less legitimate.