Consequence follows the adventures of Loolwa Khazzoom, as she pushes the envelopes in responding to daily doses of sexual harassment. Whether grabbing the balls of a soldier, hitting a security guard in the face, or taking on the whole damn system, her boldness and humor will bring you on a breathtaking roller-coaster ride over the edges of socialization.
Despite my reaction, Khazzoom’s attitude at the podium – confident, righteous, even a tad amused – was invigorating, and I found myself dying to know what happens when you go up to an Israeli soldier who’s staring at your chest and sock him in the balls. It was then I realized Khazzoom’s book is what Ladyfest is all about: education meets entertainment, with a visceral smack.”
Dan Strachota for San Francisco Weekly
Loolwa does women’s self defense classes and an important part of self defence is unlearning this stereotypical feminine passivity. However, Loolwa wants to take self defense further. This book puts across a new radical feminist thesis including: Men need to be less violent but women need to become more violent. All non-violent responses to sexual harassment only reinforce the harasser’s position of power. In sexual harassment situations women should be aggressive and should be the first to act with physical violence
Consequence is Loolwa’s account to a trip to Israel where she decided to test out her theory. She attacks Israeli soldiers, calls the police after boys in her hostel and pursues a rapist ex-lover. Loolwa is creative and fabulously powerful at dealing with the many men who try to give her trouble, and she is a terrific storyteller.
I have not made up my mind how I feel about this particular aggressive approach but this book has certainly influenced me. Quite soon after I finished reading Consequence I got a man verbally harassing me on the street. This never happens to me so I was not particularly seasoned at dealing with such things but nevertheless I stopped immediately, turned to face this guy and gave him a barrage of verbal back for about 3 minutes finishing with the words “and you should have respect for women”. He was too shocked to speak after that and I felt pretty good. I think most women would feel pretty energized after reading this book. Have a look at Loolwa’s website as well for more examples of her excellent writing.
Laura Wirtz for Synthesis
At began when one of the guys, the drunkest, would attempt to sit in one of the stools at our table every time one of us got up to use the restroom. Each time we asked him to leave. After about the fourth incident we began to get aggravated and told him that we did not appreciate the rude intrusion.
Apparently this defense of our space was as seen cute by the men and it encouraged his other friends to join in. With his friends behind him, the drunk asshole began to get bolder and started talking at us‹at our backs actually. His first comment was to my friend‹he said he liked her tattoo. The next comment was to me: “Those are really nice jeans‹and you have a nice tattoo too.” We ignored him, hoping he would go away but ignoring him only seemed to engage him more. He proceeded to ask my friend what her tattoo meant as he touched her arm. This infuriated me, so I told him it meant, “Don’t touch me” in Japanese. His reaction was to say, “What is your problem?” He had asked, so I told him‹I simply said, “my friends and I are attempting to have a conversation that is continually being interrupted by your rude behavior.” He had no comeback so he went to whine to his friends.
The result was that another drunk guy in the group began to harass me for being “hostile.” I couldn¹t believe I was the one accused of being hostile to a drunken asshole when he was the one who insisted on rudely interrupting our conversation and placing his hands on my friend. If anything, I was being extremely polite given the harassment my friends and I were undergoing.
I followed this attack by asking the asshole to define “hostile” for me. He seemed perplexed (no surprise there). I then asked if he had a mother or sisters -and he confessed that he had a mother and three sisters. I then asked what he would do if he witnessed the same situation happening to one of his sisters and his response was-“I would probably hit the guy.” My point exactly.
Perhaps it was the strength of off our backs beneath me, but this was the first situation of harassment that I decided to handle in a way that was empowering for me. I didn’t back away and I didn’t get “hostile.” But given the final response I kind of wish that I did get “hostile” and hit him. The final insult was that he tried to flirt with me, telling me he really likes intelligent girls!
Such “hostile” situations happen to women on a daily basis. They often make women feel weak and vulnerable, keeping them as caged creatures in a so-called free world. It is this exact torment felt by all women that is addressed in Loolwa Khazzoom’s book Consequence: Beyond Resisting Rape.
No matter what women do, it seems that men are always there making comments and even violently attacking them. In this short, yet extremely illuminating book, Khazzoom retells some of her own experiences of harassment by men. Most of the incidents take place on her vacation in Israel, but her experiences in no way are limited to that country alone.
Khazzoom describes situation after situation, during her trip in which men felt that they had the right to infringe upon her space simply because she was a woman. She discusses all of the frustrations that I and numerous women go through on a daily basis. Throughout the book Khazzoom struggles with ways to confront the men who harass her. Should she answer their rude and disgusting behavior with violence? Or would that just be sinking to their level? Or would she feel better by standing up for herself and showing men that there are consequences for their actions?
After much internal debate, Loolwa was finally pushed to the point in which she decided that violence was indeed the only way to handle the situation. She decided to finally hit a man who was harassing her. Interestingly, after she did it, her overwhelming feeling was ecstasy.
I must admit that I felt a good deal of ambivalence while reading the book. I kept finding myself thinking, ³Come on, you know if you are dancing in the streets that men are going to harass you.” As I read on, I realized that it was precisely this kind of thinking that the author is attempting to eradicate. I, like most women, have been socialized to think that I must moderate my behavior or else I should expect, and even deserve, any harassment I receive.
Instead, Khazzoom asks: Why can’t women walk around with the freedom that men do? Why can’t women walk around at 1:00 am and not fear being mugged or raped? Why can’t women dance in reverence and celebration of a beautiful moon without being harassed or called crazy? The answer is: we can¹t only to the extent we shy from challenging the patriarchal order. Sure we may put ourselves in danger if we decide to dance in the moonlight or walk the streets at night but as Khazzoom suggests, this is no more dangerous than the state of being a woman in our society. Given the fact that women are subject to countless acts of harassment and violence, Khazzoom asserts that taking risks for our freedom by acting in ways out of the script for women is no more dangerous than simply living. Khazzoom suggests that if we don’t take risks and refuse to moderate our behavior we will never experience true freedom.
After reading this book and after doing some extensive thinking on the author’s points I am not sure that there is ever a “right” way to handle situations of harassment. What makes it the right way is that the choice is empowering and affirming and is a conscience and autonomous choice on the part of the woman to stand up for herself, and therefore, for all women.
Vanessa McMullin for Off Our Backs
It is time for consequences. Khazzoom hits the first soldier in the penis. Soldier #2 thinks this is funny. In fact, it gives him an erection. So she slams him in the balls. And suddenly–what do you know?–it isn’t so funny any more. She slaps soldier #1 around some more, and walks away, falafel in hand. It’s *Thelma and Louise* come to life, except Khazzoom doesn’t end up dead. In fact, nothing bad happens to her. Her point is simple and compelling: Saying something–anything–is perhaps better than not resisting at all. But let’s go beyond the bare minimum already. Let’s do something that has impact, consequence; something thtat will deter assault and give us power instead of taking it from us. Let’s go beyond merely resisting what they are doing to us; let’s start doing something to them (p. 4).
And she has a plan. In the second half of Consequence she addresses the philosophical and political considerations that any liberation movement must face regarding the use of violence. “If we are going to fight for our freedom, we must be willing to risk as much as our lives. Let us not forget, however, that if we are not going to fight for our freedom, we *also* must be willing to risk as much as our lives. What woman, after all, can be certain she will come home alive or even stay home alive? (p. 67) Burning questions, asked by a woman who has proved herself by fire.
She ends with an eight-step strategy for revolution. She suggests:
1. Discussion Groups to swap ideas for fighting back.
2. Visionary Art to create alternative models to inspires us
3. Research into how dangerous or successful different fight-back tactics are.
4. Creating Books to spread the word about revolutionary self-defense.
5. Training Camps to prepare women for battle.
6. Community Patrol Groups to protect women, with guns if necessary.
7. Underground Railroad to help women who have killed in self-defense get to safety.
8. Legal Networks including feminist lawyers to defend women who fight back.
9. Guerilla Groups to introduce the “terror factor” to men. These groups would beat up, castrate or kill perpetrators.
This is serious stuff, but Khazzoom is a serious woman. She writes, “For anyone who ever questioned why more Europeans did not hide Nazi prey, here is your chance to prove you would have done differently. We need to think seriously and act subversively, and we need to do it now.”
Buy this book. Better yet, gather your friends together and have a good, long talk about the price of freedom and whether in the end we are willing to pay it.
More than likely, you have already read something written by Loolwa in the pages of Clamor. If you are like me, you were inspired and challenged by her don’t-take-shit stance to harassment and sexual assault. Consequence, then, is no letdown. The pages are filled with stories recounting day-to-day encounters with sexual assault, and more importantly, her calculations on how to deal with this harassment.
A major theme in Consequence is freedom, how we define freedom and how it is defined for us, and also what it means when we reclaim our lives as free individuals. Loolwa speaks to the daily experience of being a woman in a patriarchal society that is horrifyingly accepting of violence against women. She describes numerous situations in which she attempts to simply take up space, to do whatever the hell she wants to do, but constantly comes up against men infringing on her will, whether verbally or physically.
Beyond Resisting Rape, though, suggests something more than self-defense. Loolwa asks what our tactics are for dealing with (or not dealing with) harassment. Avoidance, silence, and politeness are all too common strategies that women choose when confronted by the odd stare, grope, or nasty comment. What she suggests, and actively demonstrates in her experience, is a strong reclamation of our space, our sense of peace, our bodies. Loolwa fights back, not just with words but with fists. She encourages women to find whatever tactics they are comfortable with, whether that is hitting, running, yelling, laughing, singing, talking, or dancing. By “living in the threshold of possibility,” we have at our disposal a variety of methods with which to address harassment.
The act of re-examining what our options are for dealing with those who assault us is an acknowledgment that the daily shit that happens to us, as women, is unacceptable. Being leered at, being afraid to walk alone at night, being talked over and talked down to, having to explain to strange men why being whistled at is not a compliment, being physically violated, etc., is simply the daily experience of a woman.
And Loolwa says it’s high time we start taking matters into our own hands. Instead of “legal self-defense” which calls for a certain amount of violence to already have been achieved, why shouldn’t we rely on our own judgment and intuition? We need to set our own limitations on what is acceptable, when it’s time to fight back and what tactics we will use to defend ourselves.
“Let’s do something that has impact, consequence; something that will deter assault, something that will turn the assaultive energy around – in the head of the moment – and give us power instead of taking it from us…Assault against women happens every day, every hour, every minute, every second, multiple times a day in every woman’s life, in many different forms. None of this assault should be happening, period. And I think it is time to stop it, whatever it takes.”
Loolwa kicks a lot of ass, both on paper and for real. It gives me courage to know not only that there are women out there actively and creatively fighting back against assault, but also that I have the option of doing the same.
Khazzoom calls for the laws permitting such assaults to change, and in the meanwhile, to empower women to consider physical retaliation, i.e., hitting, as a possible response. If women provide a palpable, injurious consequence for harmful, oppressive behavior, Khazzoom argues, the basis for sexist oppression will wither away. The alternative is to continue living in the small spaces of fear and avoidance produced by a “realistic” (i.e., accepting without challenge) view of menÕs danger to women.
After two decades of experiencing and witnessing similar encounters, I found it hard to resist KhazzoomÕs response to being harassed by a group of men. She singled one out, told him to leave her alone, and he mocked her cruelly. Rather than flee, ignore or crumple, she recounts, “I will never forget the strength, rootedness, and pure, radiant glee that filled me, as I witnessed the play-by-play follow-through of choosing to raise my hand and give that fucker what he deserved.” Now, I wonder if I have been, as Loolwa suggests, shortchanging myself by ruling out hitting as a viable option.
Some of her claims are too universal: “women everywhere” are not oppressed or endangered in exactly the same ways. I would also like to have seen more autobiographical writing about how Loolwa came to gather the chutzpah to actually throw those punches. But these are small quibbles compared to the books gargantuan, and long overdue contribution.
It is no small thing to suggest we stand up and literally, physically STOP harassers from continuing their quest to keep us in our place. Loolwa reminds us that we matter, we count, every single one of us, and the ability to fight violence against women is in our hands.
Whether or not one agrees with her proposed methods is up to the individual woman, and is almost irrelevant. The main drive of Khazzoom’s point, however, is one that most women (and hopefully men) can agree with: There are no consequences for visual and verbal assault. (Khazzoom is very careful to make the distinction that, for the sake of this book and this particular argument, she is specifically and only referring to male-to-female heterosexual interactions.) Through various examples of her experiences, Khazzoom works through the many issues and complexities that arise by experimenting with methods of reacting and creating consequences for the men attempting to objectify her body and usurp her right to be left alone.
Since CONSEQUENCE does raise so many complex issues, it is bound to be controversial, both between men and women, and amongst women themselves. But the fact that Khazzoom has been brave enough to fiercely raise the question should prompt us to read this book, and, at the very least, consider how we live our lives and how we would like to live our lives. Are our actions (or non-actions) truly choices or are they forced upon us as we grow up in a patriarchal society and made to look like choices? If Khazzoom can convince them of nothing else, readers will not walk away without a new sense of awareness of their own choices, decisions, actions, and the reasons behind them.
Alexandra Devin, for The Street Harassment Project