Here's A Running List Of Things Women Unconsciously Do To Protect Themselves From Assault

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via Istock/Getty Images/Facebook/Drew McKenna

Want to know why women are so angry? This is why women are so angry

Women are angry. Scratch that. Women are furious. Some might assume our rage stems from current events, such as last week’s hearings to determine if it’s OK for the Senate to confirm a Supreme Court nominee who’s been credibly accused of sexual assault, or the fact that a self-proclaimed pussy-grabber tweets obliviously from the Oval Office, disrespecting women at every opportunity.

We have a lot of reasons to be livid — but our anger isn’t new.

Not only are men who’ve been accused of sexual assault holding positions of wealth and power, women, all women, are forced to navigate the world with the idea of avoiding sexual assault by men in mind. I’m not kidding. Think about it. Some women might not even realize all the emotional and mental energy they routinely devote to not being raped or assaulted — all the precautions taken that come as naturally as breathing. But those of us who’ve come to grips with the infuriating hold these fears have over our daily lives are absolutely over it, and this viral Facebook post nicely encapsulates that feeling.

Drew McKenna shared a passage from a book by author Jackson Katz called “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help.” Katz, a prominent social researcher, has done an exercise with his audiences many times where he asks men and women what they do on a daily basis to prevent themselves from being sexually assaulted — and then comparing their responses.

He first describes the reaction on the male side. “At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.'”

‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’

Then, he asks the women, and they have plenty to say. “As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.”

The replies, arranged in a chart, is long and shows the stark contrast between the men, who had nothing to offer, and the women, whose list could go on all day. It includes such typical measures as holding car keys as a potential weapon, avoiding jogging at night, never leaving a drink unattended in public and coming back to drink it, using a male voice on the answering machine, not wearing headphones while jogging, not using parking garages or highway rest areas, not meeting a man in public for a first date — the list goes on. Because this is what we do. This is how we live and how our mothers lived and how their mothers lived — this is normal.

But this should not be normal.

Like most women, I’m always cautious — because I have to be. I won’t wear headphones during my early-morning runs, because it’s too close to dark and I won’t feel safe. I hesitate to grocery shop alone at night, at least not at the really big store where I’ll probably have to park too far away to feel safe as I walk back pushing my heavy cart. I watch my car from afar as I approach it in public to make sure no one’s lurking around it — to make sure no man is lurking around it.

As I rapidly look behind myself every few minutes while running a somewhat secluded park trail I really enjoy, watching the clueless dudes run by, blithely unaware of my constant state of alertness, I quietly boil inside. I think of how much I could do with my life and my brain and my energy if so much of it weren’t devoted to just not getting raped. If only I could pick up and go without a care in the world — to the gym at 9pm, the park trails at dawn, the grocery store at any hour I pleased — and have my only concern be where in the hell I put my keys.

This chart displays the immensely unfair difference between men and women — men can go about their lives with every expectation of physical safety. Women absolutely can’t, and if we do, and heaven forbid the unthinkable happens, we’ll be blamed for it.

I would be blamed for it.

If I dared strike out at 6:30 AM for a run in my neighborhood and decided to blast some ’90s hip-hop and a man decided he felt like knocking me to the ground, tugging down my shorts, and violating me, the articles and comment sections about my attack would undoubtedly include plenty of admonishment and tongue-clucking. “Why wasn’t she more careful?” “She’s a mother and she put herself in danger like that?” “Why was she only in a sports bra and shorts?” “Why didn’t she leave the headphones at home?” “Why didn’t she do more to protect herself?”

Those articles and Facebook comments and chit-chat between fellow moms at preschool pick-up should include plenty of admonishment and tongue-clucking — for the men that do the raping and attacking, not the women who dare to live life without considering that they might be raped as the result of their choices.

But for now, this is how we live. And unless we teach our sons differently, this is how our daughters will live too.

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