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27 May 2014 @ 01:28 pm
When I bought my first laptop, it was far and away my most expensive single purchase in my life to date -- almost $2000!. And so small and easy to steal.

Soon after purchasing it, I was catching a very early morning flight for a trip on which I was bringing my laptop, so I found myself walking to the T around 5am, when almost no one was around, and some of the people I passed were clearly coming home from a rowdy night. It made me tense and anxious in a way that walking around my neighborhood never had before: I felt so strongly aware of how much money I was carrying in the form of an easily stolen laptop. I also felt super aware of the lack of witnesses or friendly eyes if anything were to happen to me. I'd never felt such high alert!

Nothing particular out of the ordinary happened. I made it to the airport just fine and without incident. I used that laptop into the ground, replacing it 6 years later, and I took it on many trips with me: some to the local coffee shop, some to friends' houses, some on longer travels. I never again felt as anxious and high-alert as I did that morning. At this point, I've been carrying a laptop frequently for about 15 years, and it's still the single most expensive easily stolen object I own. But I don't really feel different when I carry it, in part because I've gotten used to having it with me.

The danger, whatever level, of course, is the same regardless of how safe I feel. But if I always feel unsafe, my behavior will probably change. Maybe I'll curtail my movements and make different choices about how to move through the world. Maybe I'll be more tentative going out at night; I might only stick to neighborhoods I know.

This is another part of the equation of the experience of gender in the world. Society hammers home that women are always at risk, so women make different choices. Women get to live in a smaller world or with higher anxiety (or both!) because of the ongoing messaging that we get about how the world isn't safe for us AND that if we get hurt as a result of disregarding these warnings, we'll be blamed for being stupid or naive.

The world is actually pretty safe, and there are big consequences to instilling in any group the message that the world is not safe FOR THEM. I'd like that to be part of the #yesallwomen conversation.
funner'n a sack a weaselsmoominmolly on May 27th, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah. When ceelove and I took our crazy bike trip, I think the most common question we answered was "aren't you SCARED?!"

And: no, not really. We encountered a lot of direct personal wonderful things, and no violence or threats (aside from some crappy drivers in Ohio). This positively floored people. "You don't carry a gun? Or even a big knife?" A lot of people ultimately thought we were making a stupid choice (especially me, when I was biking alone).

So, nothing to add but 'yeah' - I definitely see the smaller world, higher anxiety, and the great social cost (blame) of taking risks, and it makes me sad.
porpurina: panda rarrbloodstones on May 27th, 2014 08:22 pm (UTC)
I've started mentally replacing the word 'safe' with 'acceptable level of risk' where appropriate. So someone says 'have a safe trip', I hear 'have an acceptable level of risk trip'. I want to start doing that out loud too if I can find a way to do it without being insufferable.
ruthless compassion: pouncearoraborealis on May 27th, 2014 08:24 pm (UTC)
I really like this, thanks.
Katefenicedautun on May 28th, 2014 01:29 pm (UTC)
Now I'm thinking about safer sex vs safe sex, but then have a safer trip sounds very patronizing. I will think on this...
m.entrope on May 27th, 2014 08:22 pm (UTC)
I had this conversation with Imre a few years ago, when he suggested Impact classes for Sabine. No, I said, I don't want to teach her that the world is a dangerous place and that violence lurks around every corner.

That line of thinking has been challenged somewhat in the last few months. Although it's true that violence does not lurk around every single corner, it's also true that the world is not a safe place. Pretending that it is - especially for me, as a parent - can bring a horrific consequence to bear that is at least as large as the constriction that would have come from trying to make it safe.

What's the answer? I don't know. If I did, I think I would be sleeping a lot better and spending a lot less on household mental health expenses.
ruthless compassion: raven's wingaroraborealis on May 27th, 2014 08:30 pm (UTC)
Right, so, it's complicated, of course. It's not that the world is safe, in any number of ways, but it's also not as unsafe as some people make it seem, and especially (as you well know) that the unsafe parts of it are often not where we would "expect". In particular, lack of safety is usually identified as resting with strangers, but as far as I know, despite the high profile instances like the misogynistic shooting spree of last week, the majority of harm comes from people known to the subject of most attacks. So, in part, the messaging ALSO stops us (systemically) from confronting the reality of how harm works.

As always, the only comfort I can find -- and sometimes it's very cold comfort -- is that there will always be value and progress in seeing things clearly and as they are.
Chance: difficult journeymiss_chance on May 28th, 2014 10:59 pm (UTC)
I feel fairly conflicted here. Because I agree that telling women it's not safe out there for you, as a woman does, indeed, have a chilling effect on women's behavior. On the other hand, I have been reading the tumblr "whenwomenrefuse" and while I understand this is obviously a self-selecting biased collection of anecdotes, it makes me wonder if the statistics about the majority of harm coming from known people even begin to touch on this kind of situation: stranger makes a pass at a woman, she says 'not interested,' he hits her in the face with a bowling ball. Man wolf-calls woman and lifts his shirt to show off his abs, she says 'not interested,' he follows her home, breaks in, tries to strangle her with a rope; police call it a standard house burglary.

In most cases on that (unscientifically sampled, not-independently substantiated) feed, the woman has tried to report the crime and the police have either refused to take a report, or have "under-reported" it.

And when men respond "but men and women both are at risk of being attacked," this doesn't feel like feminist empowering of women, it feels like pretending that there isn't a systematic, misogynistic acceptance of violence against women, and reminds me of people saying "but I get discriminated against as a white person, too."

So I'm really torn here. I do resent the statements that all women spend all their time worrying about being raped. I *hated* that article that claimed this, that was being passed around a year or two ago, because it really didn't speak at all to my experience, and it claimed explicitly to speak for all women.

And, yet, still, I think the difference between the dangers men face and those women face, especially young women, say to me that for many women there *is* a greater threat, including from strangers or very casual acquaintances, and that does have to be talked about. I'm very conflicted about all this.

Edited at 2014-05-29 01:02 am (UTC)
born from jets!!!catness on June 1st, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
#NotAllWomen then?

I agree about self-selecting biases, but I also have observed that different communities I've inhabited have different experiences with regard to personal safety.

And I've found that in most of my communities, telling women it's not safe FOR THEM isn't something that ever needs to be explicitly taught. They've figured it out by themselves, the first time they were out in the world unprotected.
(Deleted comment)
metaphortunate sonmetaphortunate on May 29th, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
I don't have the answer that is right for you, but I can tell you that for me, personally, picking something that I can *do* about a risk actually helps me worry about the risk less, possibly disproportionately to how much it actually prepares me to cope with the risk. But, of course, ideally it also prepares me to cope with the risk.

Which is to say, I'm glad I took my Impact class. I have felt more secure afterwards, though I had nightmares while I was taking it.
gothtique: Mia & Megothtique on May 28th, 2014 01:55 am (UTC)
The almost $2K I spent to have my newest laptop, is about the same amount I have spent on the previous ones.
After my last one died with my world on it, I bought a serious little remote back up drive.
It has saved me once already and I have become a zealot about using it regularly.
More important than the money I spent on the box are the hours I spent on the accounting, writing, etc!
David Policardpolicar on May 28th, 2014 09:08 pm (UTC)

I think we're in the habit of conflating fear with the awareness of risk, as though you can't have one without the other.

And I certainly don't claim that they're unrelated.

But yes, they're different things, and they aren't especially well-correlated, especially in areas where people try to create or to mitigate fear for reasons unrelated to risk, and in areas where people try to conceal risk.

All of that said, I think it's very easy for me to jump from that observation to an unhelpful lack of compassion for fear where it is disconnected from risk.

And well yes but also...


I seem to have a lot to say on this topic, and I don't seem to quite know what any of it is... the voles are just running around and disturbing the leaves. So I'll probably do best to not try and say it here, but rather try to work it out in my own space.