On Women’s Safety

Today I’d like to address all the boys and men out there who have ever given a non man (a girl, a woman, or a non binary gender person) unsolicited safety advice. You come from every creed, country, and culture. You have existed since the dawn of man. I have to imagine the first words a caveman uttered to a cavewoman were something along the lines of, “Don’t do that, you’ll get yourself hurt!”

Because you have a lot of concerns about our behavior. You think it is not prudent, wise, safe. You do not like our late night runs, our apartments in the city, our university educations far from the family home. You are worried by our tendency to live freely and consternated by our refusal to live fearfully. Don’t we know that we are imprisoned? 

You do not think we should travel unchaperoned and do not understand why we resent your offers to protect us. You say we should not sleep under stars, as if that were not our birthright as much as yours. You do not understand that nothing we do is as dangerous as knowing and loving men. Not late night runs or prison pen pals, not living alone or working the closing shift, not going to concerts and getting in the pit or traveling by hitchhiking and sleeping in hostels. 

Knowing you, dating you, giving you a chance, loving you, moving in with you, having your baby, forgiving you, staying. These are the situations in which we die, and you seldom warn us away from these (being jealous another man got to damage us first doesn’t count as a noble act.) Giving men a chance doesn’t seem to be one of the behaviors you’re willing to warn women away from as a rule.

You’re awfully concerned with women’s behavior, but here’s a not so clandestine secret: it’s not our behavior getting us hurt. We’re not doing this to ourselves, and for the most part we’re not doing it to each other. The statistically rare stranger assaults and abductions that are committed against women running and traveling and writing to pen pals are perpetrated by men. Men are the ones attacking children, harassing people in the street, battering their families, and kidnapping strangers. 

If you want to make the world a safer place, that’s wonderful. Every time before your father goes out remind him, don’t whistle at younger women on the bus. Consider whether it’s safe to let your rakish brother travel alone or if he needs an older relative to chaperone. Don’t let your wolfish uncle out for night runs. Put him on a strict curfew if he can’t be trusted not to attack under cover of darkness. I have a feeling your bosyness could actually be constructive if appropriately aimed. 

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