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Womanising in Wellington

Andrew Feltoe



Who wants to be a woman in Wellington? Assuming the sex-change was successful, I’d see the world in a new, ominous angle. I’m not just talking about sitting down to pee. If I were a nubile lass in the city, I’d keep my pepper spray, taser, and knuckledusters in my handbag, and pray to God each night I go out that it won’t be my last. Oh, and I’d become a black-belt karate champion. Definitely karate.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world according to TV1 recently, and in the wake of some Karori guy washing up minus key appendages in Red Rocks, the nation has been told to get paranoid. Predictably, the message is the same. Woman be warned: your life is forfeit. Every man is a misogynist. Park your car in well-lit areas. Trust nobody. Don’t even think about that run around Oriental Bay – some pervert with a knife and an erection is waiting at Greta Point to get you.
In fact, experts interviewed by TV1 recommend you keep to the pack. Stick to groups. It’s best to include a man wherever you go – to tip the odds in your favour. Our nation’s news has advised you to find yourself a good job, scrape your pennies together and move to the safest suburb your meagre income can afford pronto. I hear Whitby, Wellington’s white suburb, has a few houses up for rent. Your mother would sleep well at night knowing her princess is safe.
And this pisses me right off. This reporting it the sort of shit we’re used to seeing in confederate America. We watch Mike Moore ‘documentaries’ (and I’m using the term liberally), and we laugh along at rednecks training for the incoming invasion of Ruskies and Towelheads, but New Zealand? Wellington? Tell me I’m dreaming.
It appears not. With perfect levity, One Network News ran a story on women’s safety. “Women now live lives of freedom unimaginable fifty years ago, but experts in self defence warn that freedom might have come at the cost of safety.” Now please don’t misinterpret me. It’s a good and fine thing to promote safety; it’s certainly a noble cause. But is an expert in self defence the most reliable barometer on the level of safety in Wellington? Not whatsoever.
Don’t believe me? Hear from our ‘expert’, Jill Gower: “I’m hugely pessimistic. Actually my big message is don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. Pretend you’re not home if you have to, if you’re home alone. If you’re living alone pay as much rent as you can and live in a safe area or get a boarder that you trust. Try not to live alone.”
Jill has a black belt in Karate, and I can safely say could kick my ass if it came to a fight, but she’s wrong.
It’s not what she’s saying, rather what she’s implying. It’s like interviewing crazy Jo in his tinfoil helmet, convinced that “the Martians are coming! The Martians are coming!” Jill defines a dangerous situation, as any situation where you’re alone, and as such, with her glass half empty, she lives in perpetual fear.
My mother lives in fear. According to her, everything kills you. Anything will destroy you, and, bless her heart she’s spot on. The world is fraught with danger, but just like Jill, she’s obsessed with it. Jill begs you not to answer the door, pretend you’re not home. It’s sensible, so sensible in fact that no-one thinks of the terrible consequences her doomsaying promotes. If I were living in Johannesburg or Mumbai, I’d certainly adapt to the circumstances, but the day I let myself crumble to this hypochondria in Wellington, is the day I castrate myself.
We become flaccid when we wrap ourselves in woollen mittens, we loose touch with the world around us when we build our tiny towers of safety high above the terror below. I know, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The consequences of fear strung out in barbed wire and electric fencing. And surrounded by alarms and burglar bars, we forget that this part of the world enjoys a phenomenal level of safety. Jill’s case is simply grossly overstated.
Within reason. But that’s bloody obvious now, isn’t it. We don’t need the telly to tell us what we already know. What we certainly don’t need is our nation’s station rattling the cage without reasonable cause.
But of course, no-one’s going to listen. Fear sells, and we appear to lap it up. I’m already looking forward to the letters that denounce me because I have a penis and therefore no right to hold this opinion. I’ll advise you to approach cautiously. Two insurance salesmen and a plumber later, I’m getting the hang of this taser business.