Going outside unsupervised

I like to go places and do things. I’m not sure what my problem is, but I get bored easily and need new experiences constantly to occupy my mind and to entertain myself, which is probably why I like living in big cities and traveling. And those are two things women are often warned not to do, especially (dun, dun, dun) BY THEMSELVES, lest they be raped, killed, molested, stared at funny, etc. I know that the main predisposing factor to being raped is being female, and I know that we live in a world in which women are victimized much, much, much, much, much more often than men are, but that isn’t what I want to talk about right now (I’ll get back to that soon, I’m sure). What I want to talk about right now is the fact that women’s lives are constricted by the mere threat of male malfeasance, and by the threat that engaging in activities that aren’t sufficiently in line with what’s expected of women will result in (oh, no!) spinsterhood.

I like to travel. I’ve been to 31 countries in the last 7 years (no, I’m not counting Canada), all of them by myself, and it seems like every time I’m planning to leave the US, the media, my family, and even some of my friends align themselves into an Axis of Warning in order to keep me from getting on the plane, which nearly works every time. They succeed in scaring me enough to consider NOT going and doing something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and that will make me a more interesting person. If I listened to movies like Brokedown Palace (which, in addition to trying to scare women off of traveling, sucked worse than Lord of the Rings) and to overblown reports of one in like 9 zillion female travelers being kidnapped or otherwise victimized, I wouldn’t have any of my awesome stories that start with, “Dude, you would not believe what I saw this guy eat/do/stick up his ass in _____.”

And it isn’t just that. Every time I turn around someone is telling me, overtly or implicitly, that I’m taking my life into my hands by living in a major metropolitan area alone and daring to ever exit my triple-bolted apartment door. It seems that if I were to heed the advice explicit and implicit in the news and entertainment media, as well as our culture in general, I’d live with 75 of my armed male relatives in one big house 200 miles from the nearest Post Office and I’d never go outside. Then I’d be safe as hell. As long as none of my 75 armed male relatives was a rapist or anything.

But, were one to move into a house with 75 of her male relatives, she still wouldn’t be safe from being single, that most terrifying of prospects that we women are threatened with by our well-meaning mothers and aunts. I used to be married to a dude who knew when we got married that I’d be traveling 3-4 months a year and had no problem with it, but my aunt was nonetheless constantly telling my mother to warn me that I’d better knock that shit off, stay home, and start having kids lest he leave me for someone who more closely matched her idea of what a married woman ought to be up to (that isn’t what happened). I also keep reading articles about how women are more likely to be killed by terrorists than to “find a husband” past this-or-that age, and about how bad the “odds” are for single women in the city I live in, since there are 100,000 more of them than there are single men.

Is anybody telling dudes any of this bullshit? I know they get the message that if they don’t grow up and make a bunch of money they’ll never land that trophy wife, but are they getting messages from 15 different directions telling them that they need to be afraid, afraid, AFRAID all the fucking time?

Like I said, I know women are more likely to be victimized by men than vice versa, but isn’t part of the goal of rape and violence to push women into a corner and limit their freedom and movement? Aren’t the threats of rape and violence terrorist tactics? Didn’t the president tell us that we shouldn’t let the terrorists win? Alright, I’ll stop joking, but I mean it. Limiting our own lives out of fear of male violence is just as self-defeating as not being aware that the threat exists and failing to take the necessary precautions against it. And so is heeding the bullshit idea that our main objective in life ought to be landing a husband, any husband, and that we ought to tailor our interests and activities toward that, and only that, goal.

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26 thoughts on “Going outside unsupervised

  1. You know what sucks? Womens magazines. They are such contradictions.

    Take Cosmo-fucking-politan as an example.

    Say there’s this great article on how “You totally don’t need a guy to be happy” which pretty much involves going out with your girlfriends and getting hammered and having casual sex with a guy ANYWAY.

    Then, between 5 double page spreads for Revlon, you get another article on how to get a man. And how slipping your foot in and out of your shoe means you want sex?

    Then, there are boost your confidence articles (“Remember, a man doesn’t care what you look like, he’s just grateful you’re naked” – greeeeeeat life lesson) in between pages of models so skinny and airbrushed that they don’t even recognise themselves.

    So… what are magazines telling women they want? That’s it’s all fine and well to whore around until you’re in your late thirties, trying to look twenty. Then it’s high time you find a man and settle down, girly!


  2. By the way, of those 31 countries… was SA on your list? We have the highest crime rate in the world, you know.

    Kevin Mitnick (world famous hacker) wouldn’t bring his girlfriend to our barbaric shores.


  3. Not yet, but don’t think I haven’t been warned off it when I mentioned that I was considering it. There’s always some story someone heard from someone who read something in some newspaper somewhere about something bad happening to someone somewhere near the place I happen to be planning to visit. I find it odd that, despite crime rates, millions of people manage to live in places that, if I listened to the American media, you’d think would have been completely depopulated by murderers.


  4. Ha ha, pretty much. If you listen to the South African media, you’d think the same thing. People being killed and raped left, right and centre. It’s a wonder people even leave their houses.

    If you ever come to Johannesburg and need a tour guide or something… just remember you’ve got at least one fellow feminist in this godforsaken land.


  5. Damn it all. See, I already knew I was afraid to do much in my neighborhood. I’ll drive my bike to a different location just to ride it, which is a pain in the ass, and I live across the street from a park, but I never visit it. My brother an my mom have always had something to say about me wandering around by myself. (I’m 23 btw)
    I knew I’ve been uncomfortable and afraid in my own neighborhood. I knew I didn’t like it.
    You’ve just made me realize how much I’ve come to accept it and how asinine it all is.
    Thank you.


  6. Frankly, I’d prefer to take my life into my own hands. I mean, who could decide what better to do with the thing than me?


  7. When I lived in New York, I was totally comfortable because it was my home and I knew the place. Then I moved to Texas and all my New York friends were terrified for me.

    Our culture, I totally believe, is trying to frighten women back into the barefoot kitchen thing. “They” tried everything – and we’re still wanting to live full, rich lives full of travel and self-determination. So “they” keep trying. The American news media, the international movie industry, the magazines that Patricia mentioned, “friends” and relatives. It’s all about: Don’t venture out there!

    I wonder what “they”ll think of next after this (hopefully) doesn’t work.

    (“Brokedown Palace” scared the daylights out of me, until I realized that that was its purpose. You’re right, it was an awful movie.)


  8. The other crazy thing about The Fear that everyone tries so hard to inculcate in us, is that the crimes we’re supposed to fear are far more commonly committed by people we know, in places we know. Strangers account for only a tiny percentage of this mayhem. A huge majority of women who are raped, are raped by people they know. People the victims know are also the majority of murderers, with workplace violence taking the second largest chunk of that pie, and once again, only a tiny slice for strangers in strange lands.

    I figure any woman who isn’t afraid to go out, is far safer than the women who have been convinced that to leave home is to be instantly killed. Because if home turns bad, and you don’t know how to leave, you’re gonna be a victim. If you’re a parent who really cares about your daughter, you should *want* her to go out alone, if only so she’ll know how.


  9. I went to Scotland and Iceland by myself when I was 19. My mom said hell yes, go for it. I did and it was amazing.


  10. Did you go to meet family or anything? Or was it just a blind tour? Because that is really awesome, I envy your mom!


  11. you should visit zimbabwe, thats where im from (but i live in canada now). go see victoria falls, its amazing…. how do you find the money and time to do all that travelling?


  12. I totally agree with Elizilla. Stranger-on-stranger crime (for everyday folks) isn’t very common. Lots of crimes are committed by the criminal element against the criminal element. Then you have workplace violence and acquaintance rape, like Elizilla mentioned.

    Another thing I noticed is that if a woman actually had something happen to her, she will NOT be persuaded by statistics. It MUST be commonplace, b/c it happened to her. I understand being frightened, and I understand that your behavior may be forever changed, but for some reason, they refuse to believe it was a rare, freak occurrence. And they spend a lot of time convincing other women not to leave their houses unaccompanied by a man.

    What I always find surreal about that is…who are the men supposed to protect us from? Other men.

    I also think hollywood is to blame for some of our ideas. I have a coworker/friend who’s introducing me to the world of firearms (she’s 70, btw). I was telling another coworker that I was trying to decide between a revolver and a shotgun. I told her that I had read that a shotgun is better for home defense b/c you don’t have to be as accurate, and that oftentimes the racking of a pump shotgun will scare the person off your property. Then my coworker said, “Well, if they had a gun, and they heard your shotgun being racked, they might just start shooting.” I blame the media for that. They always show women trying to fight back and it ends up infuriating the guy and he gets more brutal. I think even if the person had a gun, if they heard my pump shotgun being racked, they’d hightail it out of there. They want ease of entry, and a quick grab of expensive stuff and then get the hell out of there. They don’t want as shoot-out.


  13. Bonobobabe – I’m with you 95%. I wish we didn’t need to worry about whether a shotgun being pumped would scare someone away or cause them to shoot. I’d prefer a situation in which neither party was armed.


  14. “I’d prefer a situation in which neither party was armed.”

    Me, too. I abhor violence. And I hate that we had automatic weapons in the 1800’s, but we didn’t get disposable pads until the 1900’s. That’s seriously fucked up. (Although now I use reusable/washable pads and a menstrual cup, so it’s come full circle).

    Anyway, if no one has a gun, then everyone is equal. If only some people have guns, then it’s unequal. It only becomes equal again when everyone has a gun. Since we aren’t going back to a pre-gun existence, I’m thinking about getting a weapon.

    I believe that most people’s risk of being victimized is small. So, I dislike the idea that women are being scared all the time. However, not only are we being told fear-inducing stories, we are also told to make ourselves easier targets/more willing victims. Women are told to NOT wear their purse across their body, b/c if someone tries to snatch it, they could pull you down to the ground. So, we’re supposed to sling our purses over our shoulders so that the thief can get it easier. We are told not to resist when we’re being raped…just lie there. Certainly, if he’s threatening you with a knife or gun, you should lie there, but it shouldn’t be blanket advice. Why aren’t we telling women to grab his balls and yank? That would certainly end the rape sooner rather than later, wouldn’t you think?

    When some radfems talk about revolution, there’s always some earth mother type feminist who says,”Violence is the man’s purview. Women give life, and men take life. You don’t want to sink to their level, do you?” It’s tempting to feel morally superior or to claim utter disdain for weaponry or whatever, but I have to ask who is benefitting from women not knowing about self-defense? It’s to the perpetrators benefit to have his victims unwilling to fight back for whatever reason…moral superiority, fear, whatever. If someone is afraid to even pick up a gun, let alone learn how to use it, she is at the mercy of someone who isn’t.

    Again, I do want to reiterate that my risk of being harmed is pretty small. I am not afraid. I even walk down to the convenience store late at night, and I’ve been told I live in a bad neighborhood.

    My desire to get to know about guns isn’t out of fear. It’s more out of a desire to know about the world and what’s in it. If something is off limits for whatever reason, that puts me in a vulnerable position. That 70 year old coworker I mentioned is also teaching me how to fish. I feel like I’m learning things that I probably would have learned as a child, had I been a boy (and had my dad been the fishing and hunting type, which he isn’t).


  15. Hah! Sometimes it seems like we women live in a live action or thriller movie… to think we get all those kicks for free, no wonder men need to throw themselves off buildings to feel alive…

    I am gleefully defiant in the face of the “dangers” of manoeuvering this world alone. I smiled and waved to them man trying to persuade me into his car at night in Cape Town. I converced calmly with the man emerging from the bushes in the park in Oslo and then proceded to take his picture when he didn’t respond.

    I’ve had enough of other women telling me how dangerous it is. I usually ask them, “If you one day are forced to walk trough a ‘dangerous’ area yourself, wouldn’t you rather that I was already walking there?”

    I say, the day young women are playing in the park at night is the night we’ll hear your screams and come to your aid, instead of sleeping uneasily in our beds glad that it didn’t happen to us…


  16. The irony of it all, of course, is that women are in the most danger while in their supposedly safe homes with their male protectors.
    Most violence done to women is done by a father, boyfriend, or husband.


  17. It all reminds me of what I tell my daughter: As a woman, you have to be aware of what you are doing, prepared for what could happen and then GO FOR IT!!!!


  18. Like I said, I know women are more likely to be victimized by men than vice versa, but isn’t part of the goal of rape and violence to push women into a corner and limit their freedom and movement? Aren’t the threats of rape and violence terrorist tactics?

    Um – yes!


  19. “…isn’t part of the goal of rape and violence to push women into a corner and limit their freedom and movement? Aren’t the threats of rape and violence terrorist tactics?”

    Well said


  20. Behind the times somewhat, but I just found your blog and have been having great fun reading old entries.

    Thanks for this post. I am right now in Europe for the first time (I’m American), working in Spain. My parents were pretty leery, as any place where you could not walk down the street stark naked at three AM without fear of harassment strikes them as far too dangerous.

    I did, in fact, get mugged two weeks ago — a guy came up from behind me and choked me, while another guy took my bag. I realized two things. One, letting the fact that stranger assault happens (even to me, super-privileged white girl) keep me from enjoying something I’d always wanted to do (traveling) is fucking stupid. Two, my family’s perceptions of risk has a powerful effect on me.

    I’m not sure well-meaning loved ones always understand the damage they do when they worry out loud about the risks you might be facing. Fear is really infectious. I was more afraid for myself when I knew others were afraid for me.

    I don’t have the luxury of traveling with other people, so I just hope that next time (if there is one), I can be alert enough to do some damage to an attacker instead of being caught by surprise.


  21. Another great read Nine! :) I live alone in NYC too and love it! My dad flipped out when he realized I was NYC – bound. So did many others. My Mum was very supportive and so were a few of my well traveled teachers. I have lived here for years now and I’m still alive right?! My dad said “I thought you were going to have your throat slit there.” Thanks dad-haha. Living well is the best revenge. Scaring us women into submission is something men love to try and do to us. I visited Berlin this year and had an amazing time with family & friends and also-gasp- by MYSELF! I’m still alive right? Fear is what holds many people back. Not me! Life’s too short to obey the patriarchy!!


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