I’ve recently been discussing with various men in my life everything that is required as a woman to try and feel safe. Leaving stores with your keys between your knuckles, making sure a girlfriend knows what to do if you don’t get back when you say you will, and so much more. What baffles me in light of these conversations is that the things we do every day as women to simply protect ourselves baffles them. It seems to not be commonly understood what so much of being a woman means.
Being a woman means making sure I have a safety whistle in my purse before anything else goes in.
Being a woman means checking over and over to make sure you locked your door when you get into your car.
Being a woman means having to tell your girlfriends when and where you’ll be at all times if you plan on going out.
Being a woman means having to defend your clothing choices based on other’s actions.
Being a woman means not being able to take a tranquil walk alone at night, even if you’re just in your neighborhood.
Being a woman means rushing to your front door after exiting your car.
Being a woman means checking to make sure no one has followed you home before you pull into your driveway.
Being a woman means having men catcall you, only to be called a “bitch”, “tramp”, or “whore” when you ignore them.
Being a woman means walking with your pepper spray out and ready if you have to walk alone at night.
Being a woman means protecting your drink like it’s a child.
Being a woman means 1 out of every 2 of women you are close to have experienced unwanted sexual violence at some point in their life. (1)
Being a woman means having to explain why you say “no”.
Being a woman means having to say “no” multiple times before it’s actually listened to.
Being a woman means we are in a constant state of fear. Many men don’t realize everything women do to keep themselves safe. Worse yet, many women don’t realize how accustomed they’ve become to these personal safety measures. This is the most bizarre thing of it all; it’s so common and so accepted that we don’t second guess what we do to not be harassed, raped, assaulted, etc.
When I tell these things to the men in my life, they often say “they understand”. But the thing is that they don’t. This ignorance isn’t their fault. It’s simply that they will never truly “understand” until they feel the need to protect their bodies as much as we do as women. They will never truly “understand” until they feel a need to justify why they didn’t accept a stranger’s display of sexual attention through cat calls.
When I was younger, I worked at a local ice cream shop. It was primarily a bunch of high school kids, pretty evenly split between boys and girls. The owner never let nighttime hit without a male employee being present, for obvious reasons. And that’s the problem; the reasons are obvious! It blows my mind that this is still a problem, that there is this complete lack of self-control in so many (not all) men that it is expected for us to have someone to protect us at night.
I completely understand that there are certain biological roles between men and women, and that men are inherently able to become physically stronger due to their biology. I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is that I desire a man I know will protect me with me if I want to go for a walk at night so another man can’t hurt me. I’m not okay with that.
I’m not okay with high schools changing their dress codes so “men won’t be distracted” by what a young woman chooses to put on her body. Why on earth is it justifiable to remove a young woman from her educational environment so that her male classmates “won’t be distracted”? It’s not. I’m sick of putting men and their needs before that of women’s.
Through my own travels, I have experienced countless harassment in countless places. This happens all over the world, and it is a global crisis. We cannot continue to ignore what is happening to our fellow humans all around the world, every day. This is a problem that everyone needs to know exists; men and women alike.
Fixing this crisis starts at home. Let’s raise boys to be respectful men before we teach girls they need not distract their male counterparts with their bodies. Let’s raise boys to understand that just because they see something they like, it does not mean they are inherently entitled to it. Let’s raise boys so that they help those in vulnerable situations, not take advantage.
While I can guarantee the problems above aren’t true for all men, I can also guarantee that it is true for a larger than necessary percentage. One man behaving this way is too much, and yet we have millions behaving this way. We have millions of people harassing YOUR friends, YOUR daughters, YOUR sisters, and YOUR neighbors.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as women, felt safe just existing?
Resources: Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved July 21, 2016, from http://www.mecasa.org/statistics-2/