This is my experience, my life.
As a girl growing up in a patriarchal society, you learn a lot of things. Namely, that you have to always be on guard because the world is not safe for you. As a kid my parents never let me go out with friends or have sleep overs at their houses because they thought there was the possibility of their fathers, brothers, or relatives being there and “doing something to me”. Code for: they thought I would get raped. I remember overhearing my dad tell my mom about a horrific dream he had in which I (his only daughter) got brutally raped, his worst fear had manifested itself into a dream. I would cry and protest this because I still hadn’t absorbed The Fear. It was a much more innocent time for me.
Now, as a 20 something year old woman I have had countless experiences with men that have left me weary and on guard. From unwanted sexual advances and comments to creepy probing eyes and straight up sexual and physical assault. And I know I’m not alone, I’ve experienced these things even in groups of women. So much for safety in numbers. And whenever I get frustrated and talk about it with other women they can all relate. Every woman has a story.
I want to run away. I try to shake my head and make it all go away but I can’t. It’s a constant thing. I got my car towed yesterday, and when I went to the towing place they were closed. So I went again today, and I had to take a taxi. The man who picked me up was much older than me, and I could feel his creepy eyes on my breasts and thighs. I tried not to talk too much for fear that he would misinterpret it for something else. He missed our turn twice, and just kept driving and talking to me about how he was a professional driver and “trained”. He said he would keep me safe as he drove erratically down the street. All I could do was fix my eyes on the GPS and pray we arrive safely. I was terrified that he would try to do something to me. I’ve heard so many horror stories about men who kidnap, rape, abuse women in their cabs. Just recently an Uber driver in Florida sexually assaulted a woman passenger. This was the service I was using, too.
I really wish I didn’t have to be afraid. For people who have never experienced these kinds of things, you’re lucky. You also might not understand. People like to victim blame- your clothes, lipstick, chattiness were to blame. You asked for it. I never asked for any of this. For those people who have experienced this fear, you know. The problem is this culture that puts the blame on the person who got hurt. They have countless campaigns to “teach” women how to avoid getting raped: use the buddy system, never travel at night, don’t dress like you’re asking for it. And what does this do? It creates a culture where women are constantly looking over their shoulders. But the silent menace never gets confronted directly. We don’t tell men, hey- don’t rape! Don’t make catcalls, don’t harass women and feel entitled to their bodies. Nope, it’s the elephant in the room.
I’m not really sure what we can do to stop it besides all becoming super karate ninjas.
When I find the solution I promise you’ll be the first one to know.