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27 May 2014 @ 01:28 pm
#yesallwomen  
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.
 
 
 
David Policardpolicar on May 28th, 2014 09:08 pm (UTC)
Yup.

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...

Hm.

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.