I haven’t participated in the #MeToo movement but that doesn’t mean I’m not part of it. From “dick pics” to inappropriate workplace comments to being followed, I’ve been there. I’ve felt unsafe, unvalued, violated, and vulnerable.
I didn’t realize how much I’ve adjusted my life because of men until recently. A friend posted the below passage on Facebook from the Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz and I’ve thought about it quite a few times since.
“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other. Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? 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.’ Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine. Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don’t go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don’t put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man’s voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don’t use parking garages. Don’t get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don’t use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don’t wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don’t take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don’t make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”
I’ve done a lot of the things women mention in the quote, plus a million more. The other night I went to the mall and as I was leaving there was a man standing outside the entrance. It was dark and I was alone. I instinctively walked a few extra steps, around a large pillar, and down the middle of the parking lot where it was well lit, just because he was there.
Just because he was there.
I wasn’t afraid. I was aware and I adjusted my behavior. I do it all the time.
A number of years ago I had an apartment in a city neighborhood. It was in a nice area with a locked, well-lit lobby, and I loved it there. One night, I went to dinner with a girlfriend and as we walked back to the building there was a tall man standing in front of the door. I dreaded this scenario. It would be awkward and rude not to let him in but we had a buzzer system and a locked lobby for a reason.
Of course I made the situation more awkward by saying something to him like, “Ugh, are you going to make me let you in? Don’t murder anyone okay?” (You would have loved me at 23!) I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something unfortunate like that.
To which he replied with a clearly bothered expression on his face, “Gosh, don’t be so morbid, jeez.” Against my better judgment, I let him in.
The next morning there was a sign in the elevator from management that an attempted rape had happened in the lobby THAT NIGHT. I almost passed out until I read the description of the attempted rapist and it was the opposite of the man I had let in the building. A man had followed a woman down the street, grabbed the door from her as she opened it, and attacked her. I felt relieved that I wasn’t responsible, then terrified because a woman was almost raped in my lobby.
A woman was almost raped in my lobby.
Hey stranger standing in front of the door – women have to be morbid. We have to think like that because things happen to us. The hypothetical scenarios we play out and practice for in our heads ACTUALLY HAPPEN.
If I encountered this same situation today I would probably handle it a little differently. I like to think I would say something mature and polite like, “Hey, I’m sorry I can’t let you in. We have a strict policy to keep our residents safe. Please wait for your friend to buzz you in.” In reality I likely would have scrolled through Twitter on my phone for a few minutes to stall until he was gone.
I wouldn’t let him in though. Not again. Not today. We have a buzzer system and a locked lobby for a reason. To keep us safe.
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