I'm sorry that I live in China, where it's so easy to be taken advantage of.
I'm sorry I live in a world where men are more powerful than women.
I'm sorry I have a fiancé who, when I tell him I was scared and was chased and called for help, asks me, "Did you do something?"
They fucking told me I should be polite.
Those words are what I wrote in my "Notes" application, at 11:44PM Friday night.
I'm worried I don't have the words to adequately describe what happened or express my feelings and opinions, but I've decided that something is better than nothing.
Long story short, I and two friends were trying to get a cab home after a regular night out—getting nails done, dinner, and drinks. I had already been yelled at by one cab driver, seemingly because he didn't want to take foreign passengers, wanting instead the Chinese woman and her friend, who got to the cab after me.
Another cab driver. He has his doors locked, says he won't take us, but we know the rules; they can't refuse us. The passenger window is down, so I lean in, take a photo of his ID, wanting him to know that we know the rules, that he can't—shouldn't—take advantage of us. He unlocks the doors, lets us in, and I think it's worked. He has realized that we're not just naive tourists.
He starts to drive but refuses to turn the meter on. Tells us we must pay him 50RMB. We argue, try to turn the meter on ourselves, unwilling to be taken advantage of. We just want to go home.
He gets angry. Pulls over. Pushes my friend, who is sitting in the passenger seat. We're still arguing with him. Try to tell him we will give him extra money, just not the 50 he wants, if he will only turn the meter on. Then he punches my friend. That's when I say a phrase I just learned, a phrase Tony has told me I shouldn't say, but he taught me. I've heard people use it. The driver doesn't seem to care. He punches my friend again. My other friend says we should just get out, but we're angry. We keep arguing. The friend sitting beside me mentions that cab drivers sometimes carry knives. That makes me angry, and scared, but I'm not ready to give in yet. Neither is my friend in the passenger seat. She argues, he punches, I use another "bad word." This time, he looks at me. He's really angry. And he reaches for his door handle, is getting out of the car. That's when I run. I'm scared, so I run. Trip, lose a shoe, think, "I'm in China and people don't help people here! They keep to themselves. Oh God!"
There's a man and a woman walking by. I run to them, grab the man, yelling "Help!" the whole time. They are the only ones who stop at first. The cab driver stops chasing me, but keeps yelling at us. Luckily the man I stopped speaks English, tells me the number to dial for the police. I'm hesitant, don't want to get in trouble.
Passerby stop, a group of Chinese men. They seem to take the cab driver's side, listening to what he is yelling. They, too, yell at me in Chinese, and the man helping me translates: "They say you should be polite."
My friend calls the police. The cab driver drives away. But I am still scared. We take a tuk tuk home.
I want to clarify: Tony was asleep when I got home, so he wasn't fully aware of what was going on when I started telling him my story. But as soon as I told him I was chased, he did ask, "Did you do something?" That made me angry, sad. Hence the note I wrote.
Later Tony tells me, "Well, I thought you might have said some bad words to that driver. To make him chase you."
I get angry again. Because yah, I said "bad words" but how does that give the driver the right to chase me? People say bad words all the time. He was taking advantage of us first! I didn't say a "bad word" until he pushed and hit my friend. What would you do?
In a way, I'm happy, comforted that Tony knows I probably "said bad words." I'm happy to know that he knows I'm not willing to just do nothing. I will stand up for myself.
The next day, Tony and I had a long talk, about what happened, about how what he said is not okay, about how what the cab driver did is not okay.
We also talked about what I should have done. What we should have done. We should have just got out of the cab, no arguing. We're foreigners in this city, still, after 2 years.
Other people expressed those sentiments to us, not just Tony. And I know they are right. We should be safe, walk away from conflict. We're not in
Kansas Canada any more.
But the thing is, what I tried to explain to Tony, we are targeted here, taken advantage of. People try, at least. And I can't just let it happen every time.
I've heard people, other foreigners, other women foreigners, tell these kinds of stories before. And I've always thought, Wow. Thank God that hasn't happened to me.
But after this, what happened Friday night, and while talking to Tony, I realized it has happened to me, just on a smaller scale.
About 2 weeks after I moved to Beijing, I got a taxi home after a night of drinking. The cab driver was nice, trying to talk to me the whole way. When I payed him, he gave me the wrong change, shorting me by more than 50RMB. I think he thought because I had been drinking, because I was foreign, obviously new here, I wouldn't notice. I did notice though, and although I knew no Mandarin then, I let him know. I yelled and refused to get out of the cab until he gave me my money. Eventually he did. I've barely given it a thought since.
Last summer, I flew back to Beijing by myself; I had to take a taxi home, instead of the bus usually provided by my employer. I joined the taxi line outside the airport and the driver I was matched up with refused to take me, pretending he didn't understand where I wanted to go. Finally, an airport attendant stepped in, telling the driver he had to take me. They yelled at each other. The driver gave in. He opened the trunk and left me to lift my own suitcases in.
We started driving and he refused to turn on the meter. We were already on the highway, what were my options? I yelled. In my limited Mandarin told him I wasn't a tourist, I was a teacher, lived here for more than a year. Eventually he laughed and turned on the meter.
There have been countless other times, too, that I have been taken advantage of. What am I supposed to do? I asked Tony. Ask all of you. I can't give in every time. We can't give in every time. I would never get anywhere. Literally and figuratively. We would never get anywhere.
Both of the situations described above aren't very different from what happened Friday night. Only the ending is different really.
I know I'm a foreigner. I know I'm a woman. I know I'm in the weaker position, on both counts. But I won't, can't, give in every time.
I told Tony, now the problem is, I have to figure out when I should walk away, and when I should "fight."
There's so much more I want to say about this. So many more feelings. Every taxi I've gotten into since Friday, I've looked at the ID before getting in.
The #yesallwomen hashtag already resonated with me, but I thought about it more Friday night.
Everything going on in the news lately.
Why are women victimized? Why are we taken advantage of? Why do people think it's okay? Why do we have to walk away? Why do I have to walk away?
Why am I told to be polite?
Why do I have to decide when I should stick up for myself and when to walk away? How will I know the difference?
It is not automatically the woman's fault. Ever. Don't think that. If you do, you need to not only look at the actions of the other person, but at your own.