Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Not really a book review: Give Me Everything You Have, by James Lasdun
It was interesting to read a man's account of having an obsessed woman to cope with in everyday life. I know that it happens, because I know a woman or two who have slipped towards that kind of behaviour when they felt wronged (and they were mightily offended when I suggested that their actions were stalker-ish).
In my experience, more women suffer stalkers than do men. If you haven't read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, I would urge you to do so. Women need the reassurance he offers (its okay to be on high alert under certain circumstances) and men need to realize the challenges that women face on a daily basis. We may live in the same society, but our realities have significant differences. As Margaret Atwood once said, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." And this scenario is played out hundreds of times per week in North America by obsessed ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends.
There was a point in time a couple of years ago when I wondered what the hell had happened to my quiet life. Suddenly I was surrounded by creepy guys no matter where I went. At home, there was Creepy Smoking Guy in the next condo who was wayyyyy too interested in my life, plus Creepy Maintenance Man who can't seem to speak without making an inappropriate remark. At work, there was Creepy Guy From Another Department who would spend wayyyy too much time standing around staring at me without saying a word. At my volunteer position, there was Creepy Visitor who found me every week and started bringing me presents for no particular reason. Thankfully, all of them seemed to lack the ambition or focus necessary to become stalkers--they were just creepers. My sister, on the other hand, has had to deal with a serious stalker in her 20s and a stalker ex-husband in her 40s. When you are in one of these situations, its really difficult not to become completely paranoid. I'm pleased to report that CSG moved and I left my volunteer position and CV behind. I'm still dealing with the other two, but I've got the creepiness in my world cut down by half.
In contrast, I'm struck by Lasdun's situation: its his professional reputation that is one the line. He worries about his physical safety or that of his family only tangentially. It is his professional image that is being attacked and it is all done covertly on the internet. Its the uncontrollable aspect that makes it such torture--if someone is showing up at your house, you can move. If someone is shadowing your workplace, you can attempt to find a new job. There are actions you can take. But if you rely on the internet to provide your professional image, what the hell can you do? There are very few concrete steps you can take, besides complaining to relevant web sites (as Lasdun did, getting Nasreen's reviews removed from Amazon) and explaining his unusual situation to his colleagues and potential employers.
I've been fortunate--when I reported to my volunteer co-ordinator that I was distinctly uncomfortable, he helped me make appropriate changes to my routine. And my work supervisor promised to never leave me alone in the presence of the man whose behaviour concerned me. I still have to check carefully before leaving my condo and sometimes take alternative routes, but I only have to watch for one guy now, not two.
Who would have thought, that a chunky, middle-aged woman would have to worry about crap like this? I guess the main lesson is that stalking is not about attraction or sex, its about power. Its about powerless people trying to find some kind of power by controlling the person that they are stalking.