Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work


Small, possibly uninteresting, everyday scenario that I - and probably you - have experienced countless times.  But I need to get this one off my brain.  Here's the rant:

I came home from work on Friday, changed into my yoga clothes and sat in the kitchen.  I was tired and the house was cold.  Then I remember that I had forgotten something in my car so I put my coat on and went outside.  I walked down to my car, got what I had forgotten, and started walking back to the the house: about half a block up the fairly steep hill in front of my house.  It was twilight, no cars, no people, just me walking.  Then a truck drove up the hill, beeped and turned left at the corner.

I have always reacted to these beeps with outrage.  My heart jumps and blood, literally, boils.  Back in the old days, as I walked in the sun along the Avenues of Miami Beach, I would try to moderate my reactions by kidding myself that it was a compliment.  That I was that cute.  But I am way past that stage now.  On Friday afternoon, it was a very tired 43-year old woman, in faded clothes and clompy boots, who was trudging up that snowy hill in the grey light of a deeply February evening.  A beautiful sight to behold for those who love me, for sure, but not hot, not sparkling.  But even if I was a sight to see, it was never about me.

This horn beeping is patriarchy enacted. This is man who - consciously or unconsciously - is asserting his presence across the horizon.  Performing his masculinity through my objectification. Scholar, mother, daughter, blogger, worker-bee no more, his horn recognizes only my female self.  Reminding me that I am alone in the face of his power should he wish to control me.  While it may be a far cry from rape, for me, it's on the continuum of violence that oppresses all of us.

A few years back, New York's Mayor Bloomberg instituted laws against honking horns while driving.  In an effort to make the city less noisy and aggressive, drivers who honked at other cars could be ticketed.  I'd like to propose a similar initiative here in the Elm City against the Beeps of Patriarchy together with some kind of public education campaign.  Every two minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted.  Let's take on this culture of violence against women from all sides, including this most minute and insipid habit.

That's the rant.