When I first started running four years ago, the first thing people starting telling me to do was to be careful, tell someone where I was going, and never have my music turned up too loud so I could be aware. And this list went on.
Now, because I am a person with a vagina, I already knew this. And when I go running alone, I tell someone where I am going, make sure they know my exact route, when I will be home, I grab pepper spray, make sure I don’t take the same route at the same time too many days in a row, charge my phone, and remind people I love I will try and leave a trail if I get attacked.
Running with a male friend the other day, I asked him what he does to get ready for a run. “Nothing,” he said, “I just get to go out for a run.”
When women get prepared to go on a date, they don’t just have to worry about their hair and makeup and what to wear and whether their deodorant is working.
They have “a person” who they tell where they are going, who they are going with, along with a picture of their date and a promise they will let them know when they are home safe.
If we are meeting someone we met online, we ask for a picture of their driver’s license, do a background check, or at the very least a Google search and deny all requests for them to pick us up. If we go somewhere that wasn’t in the plan, we text our person.
Men just show up for the date, and maybe stop to buy a pack of gum on the way. I know this because I’m dating right now, and I’ve asked.
When a woman parks her car, she has to make sure she’s under a well lit area, she holds her keys placed between her fingers to be used as a weapon, and is constantly aware of her surroundings. Her eyes and ears aren’t able to relax; they are too busy listening and scanning.
Women aren’t comfortable sitting in an unlocked, parked car. We don’t have the luxury of exiting an elevator and just walking to our room if there are men around.
If women decide to do something alone, like go for a hike, we have our hand ready to grab our phone and our voices ready to scream. We don’t have the privilege of being carefree for the day without putting anyone on notice or carrying a knife.
This isn’t paranoia. This is from being taught at a young age this is what women need to do to protect themselves.
This isn’t overreacting. This is because we’ve experienced a tragedy or know someone close to us who has, and, as infuriating it is to have to do this, there’s a tiny peace of mind that comes with being proactive.
And this is on our mind all the time, this manner in which we have to live our lives and get to the store and go for a damn run.
We put up our hoods so there is no ponytail to grab.
We check the entirety of our car before we get in and don’t use our remote control to unlock our doors until we can reach the handle.
We don’t take a shower with our doors unlocked.
We don’t just say “Goodbye.” We say “Goodbye, I will be home in three hours and if my plans change I’ll let you know.”
Ready for the man hiding in the bushes who might jump out at us.
Ready for the man we met at a party who seemed “normal.”
Ready for the family member who has gotten away with incest and assaulting women.
Ready for the coworker who pushes the limits and feels it’s okay to make unwanted advances despite the fact we’ve told him to fuck off.
We don’t just grocery shop; we use the glass cases as mirrors to make sure no one is following us too close.
We don’t walk home alone from parties or to our car after a get together; we travel in groups.
When we are out, we keep our eyes on our drinks at all times — it doesn’t matter who we are with.
We measure every conversation, look behind us all the time. Our antenna is always up because it fucking as to be.
While some men take note of where exits are, or tell someone where they are going on a run, their reasons are different. They take these precautions in case they get hit by a truck or get lost or get mugged.
What they don’t carry with them is the the conscious and unconscious thoughts women have in order to stay safe.
What they don’t worry about is having to walk by a group of men, listen to cat calls, and hope they can walk by without being groped, called a whore, followed, or raped.
What they don’t feel is the weight of our thoughts that have become cemented in our mind and all the “paranoia” that comes simply because we have a vagina.
What some men don’t realize is this is the world their mothers, daughters, and sisters live in.
It’s more dangerous for a woman to go out in public–the statistics prove it. Men need to hear what it’s like for a woman so they will realize why a woman they approach may act “bitchy,” and that they need to back off, now. Or why they are asked so many questions before a first date. Or the importance of stepping in if they see another man demonstrating aggressive behavior toward a woman, even if he’s just using words.
Men need to understand and show compassion and support us.
Men need to be aware of the mental work it takes just to be a woman and go out into the world to run a single errand or get exercise.
We refuse to live in a bubble, and that comes at a price. We are not “paranoid” or “scared little creatures.” We are women who want to protect ourselves, and we need to talk about it in hopes of making changes for our daughters.
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