It's late fall, a Monday, 5pm. You have to stop at the grocery store after work to pick up a salad for dinner. (oh! and don't forget the beer!) The parking lot is crowded so you're slowly circling, looking for a spot up front. As you near the end of a lane, a woman crosses in front of you as she heads to the entrance of the store. She sees you waiting for her to cross and gives a little wave, tucks her head down and quickens her pace, scuttling across the clearly marked pedestrian area so that she can get out of your way. You find a place to park and enter the store, deciding to do a little extra shopping for the week.
Pushing your cart up and down the aisles, you see the woman from the parking lot again. You are strangers, yet she gives you a smile as you pass each other, and then she quickly looks away.
Cart finally full with food for the week, you find a lane and wait to check out. A few people ahead of you is the woman from the parking lot. She is arguing with the cashier about a coupon for cereal. The cashier insists the coupon is no good and the woman relents, tilting her head to listen as the cashier explains the store's policy. She shrugs and makes a palms-up "whatever" type gesture. She pays for her few bags of groceries, picks them up, juggling keys and a cell phone as she heads out into the dusk to her car.
I'm sure everyone has seen this woman. Hurried, heading home to her family, a million things on her mind. Unaware even of how her own body language might someday make her a victim.
Submissive gestures are things that predators look for when searching for prey, and women do them so unconsciously. They are gestures that go back to the days before we came down out of the trees. They are "I'm small, I'm harmless, please don't hurt me" gestures. Women do them now because we think we need to be sweet and accommodating to everyone, even strangers. This, combined with being smaller and physically weaker, is what makes us victims.
So if you run into me at the grocery store, don't be surprised if I don't smile as I pass you in the soup aisle...and remember that I quicken my pace for no one. Honk at me in the parking lot and I will most scowlingly give you the finger.