In writing this piece, I think it’s important to acknowledge that I was advised by many people to be careful with what I write with a topic like this. Of course, they had good intentions and their opinions were valid. On the other hand, this was honestly my first indicator that even though women have to deal with inhumane treatment in society today, we are still reminded to watch and monitor how we talk about it. Not only is that tragic, but it’s pretty backhanded.
In Think Like a Feminist, Carol Hay makes a distinct difference between men and women: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Not only that, but rape culture is exceedingly normalized. People may believe that this is dramatic, but it becomes evident through what women have to do everyday to avoid being raped or harassed.
Travel in groups. Have a defense mechanism on your keychain. Avoid eye contact with strangers in public. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t walk alone period. Hold your keys in between your knuckles.. just in case. Look under your car before getting in. Keep your head on a swivel at all times. Cross the street to avoid unwanted conversation.
(learning different ways to hold keys is a normality)
The tragic part is that I can list 100 more things that become part of a woman’s every day routine in this unfortunate world. They all involve changing some normal aspect of life in order to be safe.
In my personal experience, when I go out in public alone, these thoughts never leave my brain.
Is he following me?
Should I be worried?
He’s whistling at me, walk faster.
I should probably cross the street
Avoid eye contact. Avoid eye contact. Avoid eye contact.
When I put myself out into this world with a male presence, whether it's a friend, my brother, or my dad, I feel invincible. Untouchable. This could be as simple as going to a gas station with a male figure, unafraid that I won’t get whistled at or that unwanted conversations won’t arise. Unfortunately, when I’m alone in these situations, I feel small. This isn’t a confidence thing, this is a societal issue kind of thing. It’s crazy how much the presence of a trusted male can make you feel like you’re on top of the world when it comes to safety. I think this is one of the saddest concepts.
Other women and I have no choice but to feel uncomfortable. If we did, I would trade this fear of harassment for anything.
If anything threatened the ego and comfortability of men, this society gives the impression that the issue would be eradicated or fixed with more urgency. Because… god forbid… right?
Additionally, saying no to some men becomes a whole other issue. It’s being told “you’re killing my vibe” when a guy uncomfortably backs you into a corner of a basement, holds your waist, and asks you to come home with him after you refuse several times. It’s also having your body be evaluated by a grown man in a bar, telling you he hopes your drink isn’t spiked, and commenting on your figure … as if you asked for his opinion. These moments, for me, have only been stopped completely when another guy steps in. It seems as though some men only stop their inappropriate advances when another guy calls him out, but when a woman tells him it’s wrong... she’s a bitch.
Don’t me wrong, these instances can also happen to men. But, like Carol Hay explains perfectly, “Rape is no less tragic for male victims than it is for female victims, obviously, but we shouldn’t pretend that the risks are the same for both sexes. They’re not.” We don’t see men changing their routines to avoid coming in contact with women. We also don’t see the constant need for defense mechanisms against women in public. No man that I know deals with this uncomfortability, but these thoughts and worries remain permanent in women’s lives.
Lastly, I feel the need to explain that there are good guys out there. If anything is found offensive in this article, you may need to reevaluate how you perceive issues today and unfortunately ponder if you are part of the problem.