All this week, Humboldt State has been hosting a series of Take Back the Night functions. You could silkscreen a T-shirt on Sunday, do some dance therapy on Monday afternoon then map out patriarchy in the evening, engage in a roundtable discussion about gender violence on Tuesday, partake of some end-the-violence-and-rape-culture theater on Wednesday, maybe belt out your thoughts and feelings at an open mic on Thursday and then rally and march late on Friday with others wanting to take back the night.
Well, that's all definitely to be supported. The sooner we turn thug-think around so that we're all producing decent, kindly intentioned offspring who become decent, kindly intentioned grownups, the better. And all of this empowerment might even go toward helping out some of our current crop of good, bad and indifferent humans.
But say you're walking on Clam Beach one late afternoon, enjoying the return of the long days, basking in a fog-free moment, and when you get to the end of the beach where the Little River joins the sea there's a pickup full of fledgling shitheads — six of them — who decide it'd be funny to scare you?
Two of them leave their group and head straight for you, one on a bike and the other on foot. When they get close they circle around you, smiling creepily and never taking their eyes off you. And when you turn to walk back, pretending you don't care about them while noticing that all the other walkers have become specks or vanished altogether from the beach, they follow you a bit. And when you're halfway back to the car and the sun's very low — it seemed like such a pretty idea, originally, to time your walk for the sunset — you hear the roar and rev of their pickup as they jerk up the beach, flooring the gas pedal then letting up, then flooring it again. And when they get next to you they slow down, roll down the window, and talk at you meanly as lowlifes do.
What do you do? The ocean is close to your right — you're walking in its white riffles. The truck is to your left, between you and the dunes. Yes, that's right, you think for a split second that you'll just dash into the ocean where you'll freeze. You keep walking.
The shitheads finally drive on so they can harass another lone woman farther up the beach. Then the truck begins to turn back your way. You run up into the dunes and make your way like a scared fox back to the parking lot that way. It's pretty in there, in the dunes, where the shrubs are beginning to look like spring, birds are chittering and there are all kinds of animal tracks. Another time, you'd have enjoyed it.
What can you do? Do you do the unthinkable and carry a gun? It could be used against you, they say. Pepper spray? The squirrely wind can disarm you. Do you quit going out into the lovely world alone? Gone, the solitude. Do you finally get some martial arts training under your belt? That may do against one assailant, but a pack of them ...? Bring a big dog? Can't, if you're allergic.
There is no satisfactory answer. You can just be very, very pissed off.