Have you ever told someone, “let me know when you get home” or “remember to share your uber ride”? If you have, then you probably understand that we live in a world where safety is an issue many women deal with on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, men do not have to be overly cautious when leaving the house. To end 16 Days of Activism, I hope to bring more awareness on just how different our lives are.
You see, each time I step foot out of the house, I have to take precautions that inconvenience me because I am a woman. I always think about what I’m wearing. “What does my outfit say about me?”, “Does it make me noticeable; or like I have money on me; or does the fabric cling to any part of my body; If i put on another layer, could I withstand the heat?; “If there were another girl in the street, who would they target?” The fear of becoming a victim keeps me in a cycle of dread that makes going out less exciting.
To name a few inconvenient precautions. I can’t go for a jog alone, especially after sunset. I can’t wear headphones while walking in the street because I always need to keep an ear open for footsteps trailing mine. I have to send my family links that track my ride each time I take an uber. As a child, there is always an adult that takes you places and makes sure that you are safe. But when you grow up, you have to do these things on your own. And as a woman, every time I go out, I put my safety on the line.
In a recent experience with my brother, I realised that men don’t even consider these precautions. It was night time and my brother suggested that we go for a walk. I said that it was too dark and that we should go during the day. I thought he would agree. Instead, he said he would take a walk on his own. At this point, I was shocked. “Alone? At this time? What if something happens to you?”, and with a confused look on his face, he asked, “like what?”. It was in that moment that I understood the privileges he had simply by being assigned male at birth. I could not dream of leaving the house after dark, especially alone.
The next time he asked me for a walk, I decided to go with him. Each corner we turned seemed unfamiliar. Not the route, just the feeling. For some reason, I didn’t receive any weird stares; no one whistled or made inappropriate comments; no one followed us closely; no one walked up to me to ask my name, and no one bothered me. It felt good to stretch my legs and spend some time with my brother, but it was also an emotional experience.
When we got home, I started thinking about our walk. I have never felt less threatened outside. I pondered on this thought and realised how free my brother is. It was unfair. My tears began to dampen my cheeks. I felt trapped. I didn’t want to fear for my life every time I left the house. I wanted to be free too. I want to be able to take a walk without my brother, and without feeling threatened.
I have been avoiding taking a jog for weeks because I get home from work after sunset and I had no one to go with me. I always thought it shouldn’t be such an effort to take a walk. And it isn’t. At least if you’re a man.
Now I am not saying men should be ashamed of this privilege. They need to be more aware of it. Perhaps change small habits to make it easier for women. When you’re walking in the street and you see a woman, don’t approach her or speed up your footsteps. When one of your loved ones takes a jog or a walk, offer to go with her. When she takes an uber, track her ride. Make sure she gets to her destination safely. Try not to judge women for the clothes that they wear, it has nothing to do with you. And lastly, if you feel more educated on your privileges, make it your duty to share that knowledge with your friends , colleagues and family members.
by Amahn Heuvel