When Did You Learn the Danger of Being a Woman?
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The other night, around 10ish, I was coming from my parents house, going through the dark winding park and I saw this woman jogging. I wanted to roll down my window and shout the following:
“Why are you running on the road (with your back to the cars), instead of along the path, thus decreasing your chances of getting hit by a car!?!”
“Why don’t you have on brighter clothes so that cars can see your dumb butt running?!?!”
“Oh. And why the bleep are you running at 10 o’clock at night?!?! Are you trying to get raped or murdered out here?!!?”
But I didn’t say any of those things. I just shook my head and thought that this grown-a woman should know better. Because even though we would like to imagine or hope that this is a world where people respect each others bodies and property – the reality is that women have it hard. I recall Gavin de Becker’s comments on Oprah, “men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Shonuff.
As women we learn from a very young age that we have to stay on guard. Don’t let him know where you live. Watch our backs. Don’t invite him in to your house. Keep our wits about us at all times. Don’t drink too much. Don’t leave your drink alone. Don’t run alone at night. Don’t get into elevators with strange men. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It is the way of the world. Passed down from generation to generation, like an antique table or the story of how your great grandparents met.
I recall in high school my mother telling me, “don’t just be hanging out with boys alone because it is not safe.”
I did not understand my mother’s words at the time. These dudes were cool. They were decent. They weren’t crazy.
And then I had to learn the hard way through hands-on experience that my mom knew what she was talking about. And these boys were not even not strangers. So, imagine what a stranger could do to you?
And as I get older and observe the ways of young girls – for instance I saw a teen girl hanging with some seemingly older guys outside of the liquor store. Alcohol had been acquired. And I kept thinking to myself that it had the potential to end badly. And I remembered what my mom told me. Don’t do that. And I wanted to tell her that, tell other girls that.
But then I would have to share my story and what has happened to me, to make them understand that I’m not some crazy, “old lady” who wants to keep her from having fun. No, I know what I am talking about. But am I brave enough to share my story? That would mean admitting my failures and my mistakes. My foolishness. How I drank too much and trusted more than I should have. Can I do that? Am I ready to do that in order to spare someone else pain, heartache, tears, and possibly worse? I once heard a pastor say that, “usually it is the things or the moments that define or change a person the most, that people are too ashamed to talk about it.” Truth.
Mothers and elders will speak in vague terms of the things that go bump in the night. The monsters. And the boogey men. Very rarely do they get down to the nitty and the gritty of it all. They will place fear in the hearts of young girls, but don’t always give them the needed tools to protect themselves. They don’t specifically say that I have been in your shoes. Have walked (or been dragged) down that road before. They remove themselves from the equation and just tell young girls: Don’t. Without sharing their pain and their struggle. They give them half truths and tall tales. Make it seem like evil only lurks when you’re all alone at night, forgetting to mention that it is also present in the daytime on a crowded street.
A lot of women learn at a young age that they shouldn’t do this. Or don’t do that. And you can’t do that. Because those are the rules. That’s just how it is. But without knowing the why’s, like a child who has been told the oven is hot, young girls put their hand on it anyway just to make sure. But could some of the pain be alleviated if more women were honest and upfront about their experiences?
When did you learn the danger of being a woman? And do you tell your story to others?