Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why can't I just go for a run by myself?

There has been a lot of talk in the media, on social networks, on trains and in knitting circles about women's rights/misogyny etc. lately - not least because I have brought them up.

Yesterday, when the Washington Post ran a headline telling women that if they just got married to their "baby daddy" they wouldn't experience violence against them, I shared a Jezebel and Politico links on Facebook discussing the WP article. A friend and I talked about it and she commented that she didn't find the original headline (One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married) that offensive, and questioned if that that made her a bad women. Of course not, she's totally entitled to her opinion and her reaction to such things. She did think the original subhead (The data shows that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies) was offensive.

In a perfect world, a one off stupid thing like that probably wouldn't be that big of a deal. In that world, people would laugh at the folly of some editors writing a sensational headline. Some people would gripe, the editors would change the headline and half-heartedly apologize (all of which actually happened) and life would go on (which it has). In that society, women wouldn't be solely responsible for whether or not they are raped. But of course that society doesn't exist. And, like so many other issues in our society, it's systemic. It's not a one off. It is yet another straw on a camel's back that frankly feels like it's pretty close to breaking.

Today I read an article about all the things women should do to prevent rape. There are several things on the list that I have done or thought of as reasonable. I have questioned how safe it is for me to run early in the morning or later at night by myself. I have bought mace from the local running store. I have also thought about downloading one of the GPS tracking devices so my husband knows where I am when I run or bike and if I don't come home by a certain time he can check on me. I have taken a self defense class. I have taken a cab instead of the train when I've had to work late. 

None of these things feels totally unreasonable (chastity underwear seems pretty unreasonable). Of course, I don't want to put myself in a situation where I could be harmed. But then again, what is that really saying? I can't go out by myself to run? I have to spend extra money to get home later at night? And if something were to happen to me, if I were raped, would it really be my fault for going for a run on a Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. by myself ?

Every day I read something about the rift that seems to be opening in this country between the people who are questioning the status quo and the people who are happy with the things the way they are (or better yet, want to return to things the way they were "back in the day"). Women are questioning what it means to be equal. Poor and working poor people are questioning where their piece of the pie is. Immigrants are wondering where their rights are. Citizens want to know why they are paying for the mistakes of others. Parents want to know why our children continue to kill and be killed in the classroom and on the streets. 

I have another friend (a Facebook acquaintance really) that is pretty radical - at least where posting stuff on social media is concerned. He rails against Obama, racism, the government, our wars, mainstream media, fake activism. He can be pretty challenging. He sometimes puts people off because even if they agree with him on most things, he'll push a little more. There are sometimes I which I could be that progressive; that radical. But it's hard to take a stand like that sometimes. It means possibly putting myself in harms way either literally (by running by myself with it's dark outside) or figuratively (by possibly alienating people I care about). 

I feel like I'm a pretty reasonable woman. I think I listen to others, try to understand, even if I don't really agree. But to what end? Am I being reasonable to people who don't even try to see my point of view? According to George Will, if I am raped, I'll belong to a privileged class. Does it come with the same rights and privileges of being a rich white male? I think not.

2 comments:

Sarah Palmer said...

The Think Progress left out my favorite tactic for avoiding rape/assault. BE RUDE. Don't worry about hurting someone's feelings - cross the street if someone is too close behind or coming toward you and it feels wrong, don't get on an elevator with a stranger, don't stop to answer someone's question on the street if you feel it's really to hassle you, get off the train car or bus if someone is bothering you/making you nervous. I often think women are taught to be polite and they worry what someone will think. I don't care - I worry about what I think and I don't want to ever be attacked.

Melanie Higgins said...

Sarah - too true. I am way too nice sometimes, give people (guys) the benefit of the doubt. And then when I do give the cold shoulder and it's an innocent "do you know where whatever street is" I feel so guilty instead of just knowing that this is the world we live in and my safety is more important than someone's feelings.

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