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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.
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.