Just as women can never truly know what it’s like to walk in the world as a man, it is also true that men can never truly know what it’s like to walk in the world as a woman. This post is a small glimpse into one aspect of the lives of women that we often keep to ourselves—our vigilance.
Living in the world as a woman means being relentlessly on guard. Most men are blessed to have the freedom to walk alone at night without fear of being sexually attacked in some way. Women are all too well aware that we do not have that advantage. We know it’s risky to walk, go for a jog or take a stroll at night by ourselves. What a great freedom to have: being able to walk alone and carefree under a moonlit sky, with absolutely zero fear of being sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or raped while on a stroll. What’s more, when we think it’s safe to go out by ourselves in the day and we hear about women being raped in broad daylight, we fight like hell to not let that news shut down our worlds even more. When we hear stories of gang rapes happening while “friends” watched, we do our best to not allow the rage in our souls pour out into our lives. When we read of beautiful young girls being raped by fathers, we try not to look at all fathers with mistrust—while being careful to not be blindly naïve.
Women know that one out of four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. We know that those numbers are much lower than what is actually happening because many women stay silent about rapes, sexual assault and sexual harassment, knowing they — not the male assailant — will essentially be the one on trial, Sadly, we also know that the world is regularly angrier at the women reporting the rapes than it is at the men who commit them. Regardless of whether we’re passing by a group of men, a single man or even a male friend, we know we have to be vigilant. We live with the knowledge that a majority of sexual abuse is committed by those closest to us—our fathers, brothers, “friends,” uncles, spouses and dates — and although we try our best to choose wisely, some women suffer terribly for their choices—as do their daughters.
We are acutely aware that our mothers, daughters, sisters, and ourselves have to be on guard when we go for a run, let the breeze in through screen doors, leave our doors unlocked, go on a date, go to have a drink with our friends, are home alone or even when we’re being pulled over by the police. Men have the luxury of locking their doors at night simply because they don’t want to be robbed. But robbery is a minor fear for women, who know being robbed is the least of their worries should someone break into their homes.
As mothers of daughters, we are extra vigilant. As our daughters go off to college, mothers and fathers alike are quick to arm these young women with the realities of being female. We educate our daughters to not go out alone, don’t drink to the point of losing control, watch their drinks at all times so no one drugs them for the sick purpose of raping them, and be sure they and their friends have each other’s backs. All parents of daughters are dreadfully aware that rape on college campuses is rampant. We know that if we don’t teach these girls to be vigilant, they are at risk—even from some of the guys they think they can trust.
The crazy part of this state of affairs is…we don’t want to mistrust all men. So we might let our guards down just a little – like when we think “he seems nice.” Next thing we know, we hear about Ted Bundy—a clean cut, well-educated serial killer who preyed on women’s sympathetic natures. So we go back to what we know—BE VIGILANT.
So to all the men out there—this is a glimpse into the unspoken vigilance of being female. And although I have no doubt you will find some women who disagree, I’m also sure you will find many more who know exactly what I’m speaking of. Know that one of the biggest fears of females is rape. We don’t care nearly as much about having a burglar break into our houses as we do a rapist entering our homes. So, when we ask you to please be sure to lock the door or don’t leave the windows open on the ground floor, please don’t roll your eyes and think we’re paranoid. Instead, allow yourself to feel a fraction of the rage and anguish we feel because we’ve been put into the position of fearing the male population due to the fraction of men who have wreaked havoc in the world of women.
And to all the men in our lives who have been nothing but kind, loving and great human beings—we thank you. You are an enormous gift to us, our daughters and our world. May you hold other men to this same level of conduct.
Challenge: Raise the bar on the treatment of women throughout our world. Stop seeing women as sexual objects. Don’t normalize male ogling, don’t robotically defend accused rapists and don’t attack the women accusing them. Take a step back and take in the story. Outrageously, it took over 30 women to finally get the world to believe that Bill Cosby was raping women. We can do better. We HAVE to do better. Change the tides.