The NYPD Says My Fall Wardrobe's Not Safe

Summer, the logic goes, is over thus and therefore so is the incident of "easy access" rape in Brooklyn and perhaps Washington (or any other city featuring women).
Publish date:
October 6, 2011
rape, skirts, assault, nypd, M

It's faaa-aaaaalll (sung in Jess voice) and after a whirlwind month of "vamps" being blamed for other people's heinous crimes (see Amanda Knox and the women of Park Slope) I've been sufficiently skeeved out of my closet.

Summer, the logic goes, is over thus and therefore so is the incident of "easy access" rape in Brooklyn and perhaps Washington (or any other city featuring women). If the NYPD is to be believed, as women dress less "provocatively" and their inanimate clothes stop "asking for it," then criminals too confused by shapeless bulky sweaters and sexless bubble coats will go into hiding with the rest of the angry bears.

With summer gone the assualt on women should just fall off like so many wilted leaves. We'll all be safe! Hooray for the seasons. Thank you, planet earth, for rotating around the sun. Here's the thing, though, I wear short skirts and mini dresses in the fall/winter too.

I'm from Southern California, a former desert where hot days and cold nights make for schizo sartorial choices. You can wear a tank top with a long skirt, knee high leather boots with a frilly (notice I didn't say flirty) mini. When I moved to Manhattan for college I owned exactly one pair of jeans and another pair of what Frances, my mother, calls "nice slacks."

In the decade since those numbers have increased exponentially but my boot with short skirt/dress has not. You know how I feel in these bad boys?

Like a daggone superhero. These boots are shiny and black and stealthy. I've worn them over jeggings, with a short cable knit sweater dress and all manner of non-burqa attire. Men respond to these boots in strange ways. They yell, "Would you look at that?" and "Get it in them sexy boots, girl." But it's not the boots (although they are awesome) or the skin (though it is deliciously brown) it's me. My attitude when I'm in them. Which is why I wish I was wearing this other pair when I got mugged.

These babies make me want to kick some ass. I'm like six-foot-one in them. I stomp around the block like a giant on a mission when really I'm just putting our mail in the thingy. They're all scruffed up so I also think they make me look hard, seasoned, like nobody to fuck with.

When I got mugged five years ago someone wanted to assault me -- not sexually but I didn't know that at the time. I was wearing nice slacks, an umbrella and flats. Two boys approached me from behind and boxed me out against a parked car. It was past 11 pm. I'd just finished my night shift as a news assistant at the New York Times' Washington bureau.

I walked in the dark and the rain. It was a dumb decision, I'll admit that and I should be able to without feeling blamed or like an assault apologist. I was supposed to take a cab or the train but I didn't. One block from home, two teenagers who I'd been trying to keep my eye on pressed me against a car within a blink. One patted me down while the other rifled through my purse.

I was waiting for it to happen. For this to turn into something more than just a mugging. While a stranger put his hands against my body, I kept thinking, "Scream fire, scream fire, scream fire!" But I couldn't say anything besides, "Please. Don't do that. There's nothing there." I knew from self defense class how to yell, what to yell, where to poke, when to run. But it happened so fast I didn't have time to prove myself.

My mother, the staunch feminist, was livid -- with me.

I shouldn't have walked home alone at night. I know that. But teenagers shouldn't be robbing people! Just like men (or women) shouldn't be raping people. And in this current revision of an old adage -- the clothes making the criminal -- to place all the onus on something so historically subjective goes beyond enforcement profiling into the dangerous terrirtory of explaining away.

Maybe if we cultivated a national conversation where potential criminals aren't given an invisible wink when it comes to attacking "that kind of girl" then the phrase "easy access" wouldn't refer to all virtually women. On any given day a person with a vagina might wear a skirt (easy access) or walk near a dark alley (easy access) or breathe. Alls I know is that there are too many variables to vet the victim as opposed to the attacker. Too many maybes.

Because maybe if I had my boots and miniskirt on five years ago, I would have had the thick heel and free range of motion to kick that asshole kid in the face.