My friend was attacked the other day. (You’ve already pictured her as a girl, and you’re right).
The men we know were shocked, horrified. How could this happen?
The women were concerned for her, but it wasn’t really a surprise. I mean, to some extent, this is what we fight against every time we leave the house.
From a young age, society tells us that victims are women and women are victims. We are the ones that get brutally attacked on film, in ads, and on TV.
Women are the ones warned about going out late, despite the fact that men are more likely to be assaulted by a stranger. We are told not to go home alone, to tell people where we are, and to cover up. The implication is that it is our responsibility to keep ourselves safe.
No one has said this to my friend who was attacked, which is nice. Although she has been told to be more careful in future.
The man followed her home and got into the elevator with her. When it arrived on her floor, he got out with her and lunged at her. Her screams brought out boxer-clad neighbors who scared him away, but not before her nails tore some welts into his face.
“All in all I was pretty pleased with my reactions,” she told me. “My screams were loud and I managed to do quite a bit of damage.”
But this is not good enough for our male friends. Now they want us to drive home and to call when we leave the office. Their loving concern feels a little like house arrest.
And their shock pisses me off. In our neighborhood, there are large groups of men who hate-fuck us with their eyes every time we leave the house. They make vile suggestions in a language we don’t understand as we walk past.
But this is not unique to this neighborhood. I have lived in five different countries on three different continents and in every one of them, there are groups of men who explain how they want to fuck you when you walk past. There are men who grab your arm and men who follow you home.
Both of my breasts, my ass, and my crotch have all been groped by men while on public transit. (Not that it is relevant, but I’m a pretty conservative dresser and do not invite these attentions at all).
This is part of being a woman. This is what happens when breasts begin to develop. A segment of the population considers our body public property and we have to learn how to deal with it. We walk home a certain way to avoid certain areas. We pay attention to who is walking behind us and who is walking towards us. We cross the street sometimes to avoid innocuous things which might be dangerous.
So this attack wasn’t a surprise. It was expected. In some ways, it is what all women are preparing for once they hit puberty.
And their concerned shock pisses me off because it shows just how unaware they are of what is means to be a woman. We know how to stay safe. Maybe men should learn how not to be such a threat.
Kate Harding explained what men can do to keep women safe in this passionately written post. Because at the end of the day, women can only affect male culture so much. What is discussed at the dinner table doesn’t matter when compared to what is discussed in the locker rooms, at the bar, and in your buddy’s basement.
Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about “crazy bitches; dumb sluts; heh-heh-I’d-hit-that; you just can’t reason with them; you can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em; she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid. If they can’t stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen; if they can’t play by the rules, they don’t belong here; if they can’t take a little teasing, they should quit; heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning; they’re not fit to be leaders; they’re too emotional to run a business; they just want to get their hands on our money; if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims, they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…
I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.
But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women–to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.
And that guy? Thought you were on his side.
[emphasis in original]
If you want the women you love to be safe then maybe focus your attention not on what we can do to prevent this, but what you can do.
We love your concern. It’s nice to know that you would wake up at 3 a.m. to fight off our attackers. But we can do that ourselves. You can protect us by letting men know that this behavior is not ok.
Defend us when we are not there to do it ourselves.
Although we’d hate to admit it, we still need our knights in shining armor.