I’ve written about feminist issues covering these problems in many other blog posts. But I felt like dedicating a full post to the fear which is felt by women, everywhere, always.
The fear of being the victim of sexual harassment. Or of rape. Or a violent crime by unknown individuals. This fear is real, and brutal, and prevents women from doing so many things. And it needs to be addressed.
It’s very hard to put forward to men what it’s like to walk home alone at night as a woman. Whether I’m returning home from a night out, or I’m walking back from work, I keep tense, ready to punch, and always stick to light areas. I put my head down when I pass groups of men, and I pull my jacket in to hide myself a little more.
A man might argue that this is just defensive- and that they too feel scared when alone at night. But do they feel scared of being raped? Of being the victim of a crime, and then not knowing what to do about it? Or even of being blamed for their crime? Or, even worse, blaming themselves? The fear of having someone take advantage of your body is one of the most scary feelings in the world.
And it’s not just the crimes that are the problem. Passing a group of men at night when wearing something short and skimpy can be intimidating in itself, especially when you can hear them talking about you, sizing you up, or even just looking. “Well, that’s just harmless,” some people may argue. And yes, these men have not perpetrated a crime against the woman.
But think of all the women who have stayed inside that night because of anxiety over what men will do, think or say. Think of all the women who have changed outfits thousands of times before going out that night, to wear something that doesn’t show as much skin as they’d want to. Suddenly, this fear becomes something which inhibits women in their daily life, and something which encourages them to make decisions based on avoiding this victimisation. Why should anyone’s decisions be based on what someone else might do?
As girls, it is reiterated over and over how important it is to stick to groups, to avoid being alone, to wear appropriate clothing, to not aggravate men. And while this is very important to tell our daughters, we shouldn’t have to.
We should live in a society where women are not brought up to fear what could happen to them. I envy boys. They can go out, and not have to put contingency plans in place. If I lose everyone, I’ll have to get a taxi home alone, will that be safe? If I wear that, I might get groped, am I prepared to deal with that? If I sit there on the bus, that man might touch me and I won’t be able to do anything about it. If I keep drinking, someone could take advantage of me. If I go out just with girls, we’ll get surrounded by drunk men in the club. So many ifs that often I just want to stay in!
I’m not saying boys should have to feel the fear we go through. I’m saying women should also have this kind of freedom.
Now, obviously, it’s hard to say there will never be crime, and it’s always a good idea to be conscious of what’s going on around you. But equality is about attitudes. So many men do not understand what it’s like to constantly be in fear. We need to alter attitudes and mentalities in order to teach men to stop raping women, rather than teaching women to forever be in fear.
One day I want to walk down the street at night, and not feel scared. Imagine that. One day we’ll achieve this for women and young girls. But we’re a long way off yet.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Is it normal to feel fear, even in a seemingly normal situation? I think that it’s a complicated and difficult issue to solve, but we really need to reiterate to our sons, brothers and friends how difficult it is, and how this mentality is pushed into us.
I would also like to add that I realise I have only spoken about women here. I know many minority groups experience the same fear as women do, on a daily basis. I chose to focus on a group and issue to which I can relate, and the specific issue of the fear of rape, but I’d love also to hear all your thoughts, whichever social group you relate to.
Happy reading x