Calgary Sun

July 18, 1999

Kickin' Vixen is simply wrong

By LICIA CORBELLA
Calgary Sun

I have, on occasion, clobbered the odd guy. I have also, on numerous occasions, wished that I had or could have.

So you'd think I would therefore support the so-called Kickin' Vixen (so dubbed by my colleagues at the Toronto Sun) as have many women and men of late.

Well, I don't and here's why.

I don't like double standards.

I believe strongly that what's good for the goose must also be good for the gander -- that the rules which apply to men should apply to women, too.

Doesn't it strike you as odd that the very columnists and commentators who so frequently rant on about men being violent, and the ones who say that a man is never justified for hitting a woman, tend to be the very same women who are cheering the loudest when the Kickin' Vixen hauls off and slugs some guy for mouthing off?

It's simply wrong.

The Kickin' Vixen is a rather paranoid- and fierce-sounding, petite, 30-year-old Toronto woman by the name of Corinne Branigan,who has become a bit of a cause celebre for kicking an 18-year-old man "where it counts" after being followed and harassed by him and six of his wolf-whistling friends.

Many Canadians have responded with: "Good for her. That'll teach the little jerk."

But think about that for a second. If we applaud this behaviour, what we are in fact advocating is winding up and hitting someone when they say something we don't like. It would be like: "Say what? You talkin' to me?" And then, pow, right in the kisser.

Not very civilized. Besides, we columnists would likely be sporting a fresh shiner every week if that became the norm.

Now don't get me wrong. I believe very strongly that women should train or at least mentally prepare themselves to fight back physically if they are attacked.

I always get incensed when some police officer out there counsels women not to put up a fight if a man grabs them and tries to rape them. Nonsense.

Go for the eyes, girls, and don't stop until you can squish those baby blues under foot. Get as much DNA evidence under your fingernails as you can to ensure you mark the rapist up as much as possible and to ensure that he can be caught in case you get killed in the process. In short, fight like hell, unless, of course, he has a knife to your throat.

But women should only physically fight back when they are physically threatened.

And fighting back I have done.

I had just moved to Toronto from Vancouver, back in 1989. I was walking through a mall relatively near my house one summer day when I was grabbed by a snickering teenager.

This young male, accompanied by a buddy, walked right up to me and grabbed my breasts and then continued walking, laughing all the way.

I could hardly believe it. I stood in the doorway of a store and watched the teens join a group of other teens. They were having a great laugh at my expense.

At the time, I had this lovely black leather handbag which looked like a little attache case, with a small handle at the top of the bag and a longer shoulder strap as well.

I grabbed my handbag by the small handle, walked right up to the still-laughing teen and smacked the jerk as hard as I could across the side of his head.

I knocked the smile right off his insolent face and he was doubled over with pain, holding his ears.

I truly believe I helped teach that boy a valuable lesson that day without having to go through some costly court trial to do it. What's more, it was enormously satisfying.

While I won't tell you what I did to the French train conductor who grabbed me in the middle of the night between Marseille and Paris, I can assure you, that too was satisfying.

In short, I respond to violence with violence when I can do so safely.

One time I was walking quickly down the hall of a Toronto court house on my way to cover some trial and I had my crotch grabbed by a group of young males.

I was outraged, but I did nothing -- I was outnumbered and in a hurry.

But when I am harassed verbally, I respond by either ignoring the catcalls or whistles, or I return a verbal arrow.

Get it? Physical with physical (when possible) and verbal with verbal.

All of this is not to say that I don't understand Corinne Branigan's frustration, because I do (all women do).

I can remember when I was a teenager working at my summer job as a bank teller having to pass a gauntlet of construction workers every day.

My bus used to stop a few feet away from the construction site. The catcalling and comments were bad enough, but by the third or fourth day some of the cads started awaiting my arrival and would actually stand in front of me and block my path.

The things they suggested I do to them or that they would like to do to me turned me so crimson with embarrassment and rage that several of my bank colleagues and customers commented even half an hour later that I must have been sitting out in the sun and got a burn -- that's how flushed I was.

Ultimately, I solved my problem by getting off my bus

one stop earlier, crossing the street and cutting between two buildings well out of their sight to ensure I didn't have to endure that humiliation every day.

Virtually every woman alive has suffered through similar indignities. Should I have had to go out of my way to avoid those men? In an ideal world, no.

But in my attempt to help create an ideal world, it certainly flies in the face of logic to use a kick to respond to words.

Jam-packed women's shelters are evidence of that.


Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, can be reached at 403-250-4129 or by e-mail at lcorbell@sunpub.com. Her columns appear Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Letters to the editor should be sent to callet@sunpub.com.

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.