“She will leave the house on her own. She will have friends. She will learn to drive. She will go out. And there will be men who she is not interested in who will be interested in her. Some might catcall from cars and corners. Some might grab her arm or her waist at the bar. Some might buy her a drink. Some might approach her on the street.
Some of these advances will be ignored or unacknowledged. Some met with kind but deliberate body language to convey her lack of interest. And some will even be met with actual words; her actually saying some form of “I’m not interested” out of her actual mouth. But, while she can control how she responds to the approach and how she communicates her lack of interest, she can not control the response to her response. She will have no idea if the guy she says no to will cuss her out. Or spit in her face. (Which happened to my wife before.) Or follow her five blocks to her apartment. (Which has happened to a friend before.) Or follow her outside the bar, ask again, get rejected again, and kill her. Which happened to Janese Talton-Jackson.
That the world is a specifically dangerous one for women and girls isn’t some grand epiphany…”
She Was Killed Because She Said No
If you walk through this world presenting as a person with a vagina, you have a story. And your story is probably Janese Talton-Jackson’s except that like an Encyclopedia Brown mystery, the ending played out differently due to a specific, if arbitrary, set of circumstances.
He took sex instead of your life; maybe the glass bottle he threw at you missed; you were named “bitch” and any other list of monikers that do not appear on your birth certificate; the old woman turned on the porch light and startled him and his pistol away; he left you in the street alone and lost in a city that was not your own.
You made it out alive.
None of those were missteps of the fragile male ego or drunkenness. They were not about how you lead him on or were rude or rash when you refused to comply to his demand for your attention.
They were about the agency you have over your life and how you live it and being denied that agency so often that you hardly realize that you could be; could have been Janese.
We have all died a little inside; shrunken some of ourselves to be safe in spaces that offer little to no protection. How do we know? That this man thought it okay to shoot Talton-Jackson in the chest–that shit is personal–for something that happens to us all every day–rejection?
No. That it is her death that brings attention to the crime consistently waged against women and it is only a death that we treat as the anomaly. My story; the story of the women I know tell me it not an anomaly; it is a rule. It is an unspoken rule by which we live, a fear that informs our words and deeds. It is a culture in which we participate daily where we shrink a little, are vigilant, have always known we are only a breath and a fool away from being Janese.
This is not one of those posts to try to expose the hows and whys of what brought us here or even suggest solutions. I don’t know any of those. My personal history just reminds me how easily I, or anyone presenting as the owner of a vagina, could be Janese. And it’s tiring and deflating. That’s all. I’m tired and just felt like I’d feel better for sharing.
Here’s a little of my story. What’s yours?
Be better y’all.