I’ll set the scene, you and a few girlfriends have gone for dinner and drinks ( remember when we could do that??! ), after a great night of conversation, laugher and reconnection, you call it a night and head your separate ways. You all share hugs and your last words to each other are, “Text me when you get home.” You casually agree and head home. Such simple, yet impactful words, but let me tell you why I think the statement itself is problematic. This week on the blog, I’m mentally vomiting my thoughts on the idea of female safety, hear me out.
I get it, life can be unexpected and the “Text me when you get home” statement may not always be said in the context of something untoward happening. It’s a simple well wish for someone to return home safely and unscathed. But let’s be perfectly transparent, we say it because as women, we are fully aware of the dangers we can and do face merely existing in this world. As a mother of a daughter and an eternal optimist, it kills me to know that my daughter is 98% ( I made that stat up ) likely to experience some form of sexual harassment in her lifetime. But it won’t take you long to look up the figures and see that it’s a massive issue. Even closer to home, with the murder of Rebecca Love Harry, making her the 7th murder in 7 weeks in Montreal alone! Even as I type this, yet another woman has lost her life at the hands of her partner. So, I can almost be certain that this will be my daughter’s fate, it’s happened to me numerous times, it’s happened to literally every single one of my friends, it’s happened to my co-workers and if you follow the hashtags #, then you will see how overwhelmingly common it is. Almost a fact of life as a female. My issue is, how has this become such an accepted norm? To the point where we are expecting the potential victim to be the one the who has to be vigilant in order to avoid the harassment or attack? Why have we not shifted our gaze and asked why do some men feel the need to be the aggressor? What in their make up believes they have the entitlement? It’s called the patriarchy and the belief that women’s bodies do not belong to them. We see it with the restricting of religious wear (France/Quebec), we see it with the social commentary on what women chose to put on their bodies.
Feminism is the radical idea that women’s safety is more important than men’s feelings.
One the back of Sarah Everard‘s murder, where she literally did many of the safety maneuvering we do as women, and yet was still murdered by someone who should have protected her. Ignoring the fact that this story gained so much traction and outrage probably because the victim could be any one of us, but also because she was a White woman, which is a whole other blog post. What is our response to her being murdered? She shouldn’t have been outside her house after sunset? At what point do men take responsibility for the toxic behaviours their gender is responsible for? When do men stand up and protect women and speak up and against the other men who are “ruining it” for the rest of them? What behaviours are men standing by and letting happen without intervening or without distancing themselves from?
One of the things I used to HATE growing up was the level of “drama” I perceived my mother associated with going out, especially going out at night. I used to get mad at the interview that would ensue the second I said I would be going out and always hated the fact that my brother never had the same treatment, he never needed to give any information ahead of time. He would declare he was heading out approx 2 mins before he left the house and it was met with an acknowledgement at best. I, on the other hand, needed a full scale investigation- the differences were obvious and it used to boil my blood. But as a mother, I know and understand that my mother was doing it out of love and I accept and love her for it. I just find it frustrating, that the onus isn’t on the person who is misbehaving, but it is on me to essentially disappear into the background and not draw unwanted attention, which to be honest- doesn’t work. I literally have story after story of different incidents, which made me uncomfortable, crossed major lines of inappropriateness or harassment; so yes my mother had right to be worried, but I shouldn’t have been the one to be made to feel in the wrong about it.
Going back to the blog’s title, don’t get me wrong, I understand the statement stems from a place of love and care, you don’t want your friend to get hurt in any way, and we’re merely wishing each other to get home safely. But, there is a deeply rooted trauma reaction there and we need to address it. The fact is, we’re fully aware, especially if your friend is travelling alone, there is a high chance she may be made to feel uncomfortable, she may run the risk of being in a situation which puts her in a vulnerable position. I can’t think of how automatic it is for me, to hold my car keys a certain way, I know to be talking on the phone, I know to NEVER walk down an alley, I know to take the longer, well lit way, I know to unlock my car only when I’m near it and to only press the unlock once, so only the driver’s side opens. These are trauma responses, but they are responses I have had to learn and have had to adapt to. All, unfortunately because I have been sexually harassed, groped, wolf-whistled and rubbed up against. I have even been followed home, I have been made to feel extremely unsafe and every time, I have only been able to get out of it through wit or being able to call on a friend or someone for back up, because let’s be honest- this 5’1 human ain’t scaring away no one- no matter how tough I think I look. And while I know that in some instances I was approached because they “wanted my number”, had a romanticized idea of getting to know an “eye catching” stranger, the fact of the matter is a “no” wasn’t good enough and they then felt the need to be persistent (some didn’t even bother trying to talk to me or seek “consent”) and that “persistence” is what made me feel unsafe adding to that they only backed off once another male stepped in. Think about that.
People don’t always say I love you,
Sometimes it sounds like be safe.
Did you eat?
Call me when you get home.
I made you this.
So again, I ask the question- why aren’t more men calling out this bad, reprochable behaviour? Why aren’t more people stepping in when they see someone in an uncomfortable situation? Because from a female perspective, not all men are like this, but we don’t have the luxury to wait to find out, so we have to make the assumption in order to be safe, that any man is a potential threat. And let’s face it, in the case of domestic violence, the men we know and love can sometimes be our biggest threats. Like the saying goes, better to be safe than sorry and in many cases, it’s a matter of life and death. So let’s do better, and hold more men accountable for their behaviours and not expect women to bear the brunt- a woman’s safety shouldn’t be a luxury.