I am a strong woman. I’m smart, I’m capable, I’m (usually) confident.
I also have common sense.
I don’t walk alone in the dark. I make sure I never lose sight of my friends in a bar. I always tell someone where I’m going when I meet a relatively new acquaintance–and I make sure we always meet in a public place.
I’m not paranoid. I’m sensible. And I wish like hell my brother would get over his teenage male self-righteousness long enough to see that.
We all wish we lived in a world where it was safe for people to walk alone after dark, where women didn’t have to be sure to always stay in groups and be careful getting into their cars. But we don’t.
I don’t like having to take all these precautions. I feel like I’m imposing whenever I ask someone for a ride after dark, or ask a male acquaintance to go out of his way to walk me home. Part of my brain thinks I’m being ridiculous for feeling uneasy in dimly-lit parking garages or when a strange man comes up to me on the street. But I’m not being ridiculous. And I’m not imposing. The people who care about me would much rather walk home with me or drag themselves out of bed at three in the morning to come get me than have me walk home alone. Being on guard in dimly-lit places or when approached by a stranger is prudent, for anyone, and for women especially. I live in a university town; we have a fairly low crime rate, but at least once a year a female student is abducted and raped.
I don’t like feeling anxious when I lose sight of my friends in a bar. I don’t like that I sometimes need their protection from a guy who just won’t get the message. I don’t like that we have to pretend to be lesbians necking in an attempt to get the guy to go away. And I don’t like that my friends have to spend the rest of the night watching and steering me away whenever he comes near. I appreciate knowing that they’re looking out for me, and I would do the same for them without complaint. In a strange way, it’s reassuring to know that we love each other and protect each other and keep each other safe. But I wish it weren’t necessary.
I don’t like living this way. I don’t think any woman does. I think it’s especially hard these days, when we expect ourselves to be wholly self-reliant, when we tell ourselves we can do anything a man can do. It’s hard to admit that we’re in more danger because of our sex, and it’s degrading to know that we have to rely so much on others for protection.
But you know what’s the most degrading? Men who DON’T GET IT. Most of the men that I’ve met do, and I am so thankful for all of the fathers, teachers, uncles, brothers, and friends who have looked out for me and my friends, just as I am thankful for all the mothers and sisters and aunts and girlfriends who have banded together to keep one another safe. But there are some men who don’t, and it honestly makes me sick. To be judged, to be sneered at for taking sensible precautions, to be treated as alarmist and whiny for my reaction to a situation over which I have no control–
I hate it. I truly do. It makes me feel angry and helpless and ostracized. To be made to feel silly and weak and less than, to be dismissed as foolish by men who have no idea what it’s like, who have never had to plan their schedule around when the sun goes down (which is even more fun for an astronomer, let me tell you) or flee the clingy guy in the bar…it’s wrong. It’s just plain wrong.
So all of you men out there, so confident in your own abilities, so secure in the privilege that comes with a penis, so self-absorbed that you can’t step into another person’s shoes for even a minute to try to understand how the world treats them: Listen up. Wake up. Get over yourself. Try trading in your blind eyes for someone else’s. I guarantee you’ll see a whole new world.
And to all you men out there, all the gentle, kind, honest men who look out for their sisters and daughters and wives and female friends, thank you. It seems silly that I should thank you for being a decent human being, but I do. Thank you, thank you, thank you. If all men were like you, I wouldn’t need to write this.
Ladies, be careful. Men, be supportive. Let’s see if we can’t make the world just a little bit safer.