I drove my nephew an hour and a half north to buy a car. I was only there to give him a ride. He didn’t need me for protection. However, if I was buying or selling anything that involved meeting someone I’d never met, I’d ask TJ to come along to make sure I was safe.
Women walk vulnerable in this world. Too many of us know this from walking into danger when we thought we were invincible, or at least tough. We knew our power. Until one day in some subtle, sexist, or violent way a man took it away. Too many of us were taught our vulnerability.
Even those of us who carry distaste for the word victim and wouldn’t associate it with ourselves. Still, we learn to walk in pairs and let people know when we make it home—so they can breathe easy.
I watch girls walk unaware and I pray I never forget. (Lock your doors. Look around. Pay attention. Keep alert. Walk confident. Don’t park near vans. Park near the light and by a door. Shit! How the hell am I walking alone again?) I pray for safety.
Mostly, I’m safe. I try to be smart, but sometimes that means feeling fearful. Occasionally, it means missing out.
The other day, a white panel van was parked where I typically walk in the woods. It was the kind of van they find dead girls’ bodies in on Law & Order.
It’s fine, I told myself. I walk in those woods almost daily. When I moved here three years ago, I’d be surprised to see anyone on the trails. Now, the trails have been cleared and publicized.
I usually go during the day during the week. Now, I tend to see a few men and their dogs doing just what I’m doing, enjoying the woods. But, do they get a twinge of fear each time they run into me? I like to imagine the handsome ones get the rush that comes from the sight of a pretty woman.
I’m friendly if he is, but not too friendly. My vulnerability dances like a word cloud above his head. Because I’m a woman alone. Sometimes, I feel this way even with my dog. Paranoid, eh? Maybe, but I don’t want to be the girl in the back of a panel van.
So, my dog and I stayed on the neighborhood sidewalk that day. It’s the sidewalk where I was walking last year when a neighbor I’d never met ran to me and told me her boyfriend was trying to kill her. Terror screamed from her eyes. I took her to the police. Later, my sister and I knocked on the woman’s door to check on her. Her boyfriend really was a 6’5 badass, scary dude. The police confirmed it when we asked them to check on her. Then, they laughed because Mr. Badass beats her up often and she calls the police, but she won’t get a restraining order. It wasn’t funny.
Violence against women, in speech and action, are too common. I met this gal the other night—mid-40s. She was at a concert with her mom. I was with my sis.
I showed the gal pictures of my now-deceased boyfriend. She showed me pictures of her face after she went on a date with a guy her brother hung out with in high school. She didn’t know until her first date that the guy is now a cage fighter. She didn’t know until something set him off and he used his fists on her face and his feet to kick her body.
I’m 5’4. This gal is shorter than me. The guy is a cage fighter. He may find himself in a new kind of cage soon, as her court date is coming. Now, unfortunately, now she knows her vulnerability through experience.
Isn’t a civilized society supposed to care for its vulnerable? Remember that whole women and children thing?
What kind of a man would do this?! Maybe a man who forms his character in an environment where cage fighting is a career choice and a Presidential nominee talks about grabbing pussy.
Can we, as a society, take some responsibility for the kind of men we’re applauding and the kind of character flaws we’re ignoring?
This attitude toward women that says, “Hey, let’s take advantage of their vulnerability because we can” is loud in our society. That saddens me.
Do you know some of Trumps’ followers are tweeting #RepealThe19th: women’s right to vote? This should be laughable by now, but it’s not.
I’d like to end this rant by saying thank you to all the men of class and character, men who stand up to shameful words and despicable acts, the men who walk us to our cars for safety AND honor our worth as women.
May this be the ideal that leads us forward as men and women. May we walk together.