Fear - Graffiti

Fear – Graffiti by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha, on Flickr

There’s a conversation going on on Twitter under the hashtag #yesallwomen. It consists mostly of women talking about the little precautions we take everyday, almost without thinking, to avoid male violence.

Crossing the street at the hint of a silhouette nearby. Not taking the nice isolated trail when running in the park. Holding our keys in our hands when we approach our door, or our vehicle.

I even mentioned this briefly on the CBC the other morning, even though we were really talking about kids and inactivity (my segment starts about 28 minutes in).

My boys have been allowed to go out to the park or on a transit bus by themselves since they were 12. My daughter will be turning 12 in a few months, and I am afraid to let her do the same. As I said on the show, with a tone of “that’s just how it is”, women are vulnerable. I will probably swallow my fear and let her do it when she feels ready, but it will be hard.

Not that boys are totally safe on a city bus – my oldest son was accosted on the street walking home. But the assailant was after his wallet and his phone, not his body orifices. It was a terrifying experience that I don’t wish on anyone, and I’m not discounting it. I’m very proud that he took the same bus the next week, and did not allow fear to circumscribe his life, in the same way that women’s lives are circumscribed, if we allow them to be.

No, not all men are rapists. But yes, all women are vulnerable.

In a sense, this is the same conversation Marcy and I were having, and that she blogged about. We were talking about children, but it’s the same fear. If we let our children go out by themselves, somebody (usually, although not always, a man) might do something bad to them. We take the responsibility upon ourselves for their safety. But because we can’t really guarantee their safety in an uncertain world, we keep them where we can see them. Ironically, this compromises their health. In other words, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

This is why some USAmericans barricade themselves in their houses with guns. In Canada, we don’t, as a rule, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the same fear. These things happen here, too.

Somebody commented on Twitter that when a black guy kills folks, he’s a thug, and when a brown guy kills folks, he’s a terrorist. But when a white guy kills folks, he’s mentally ill. So there’s that whole layer of structural racism, as well. Am I more afraid if the silhouette I’m avoiding is of a black or aboriginal man? I don’t know. Fear is fear.

One of the questions that was asked on Twitter last night was how much time we spend teaching our boys not to rape. I think we spend their entire lives teaching them this, just as we spend our daughters’ entire lives teaching them to be safe. My boys have reacted by becoming founding members of their schools’ Gay-Straight Alliance, to help make their school a safe place for everyone, gay or straight, boy or girl. I’m very proud of them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Join in the conversation!

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2 Responses to “#YesAllWomen”

  1. Peter Wright Says:

    As a male, I cannot know exactly how a woman feels when confronted with dangerous environments or potentially violent situations.

    But having lived in dangerous environments myself and been the victim of persecution, violence death threats and severe intimidation, I can imagine the level of anxiety.

    Are incidents of violence against women and children in North America more frequent now than say, 50 years ago?

    Or are they more publicised now that victims are encouraged to talk about them, sensation seeking media clamouring to report them and social media fuelling the frenzy.

    I am not condoning violence against women or children, one incident is one too many. However some studies show that in many US cities, there are fewer murders, rapes, child abductions or other violent, non-drug related, crimes than 50 years ago. Both in absolute and relative terms.

    Women have survived and still do survive, unmolested and unharmed in some highly dangerous environments because they take precautions use common sense and refuse to let fear dictate how they live there lives.

    I suspect that violence against women and children is a symptom of a greater societal problem, but that is a different debate.
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  2. Hadass Eviatar Says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Peter! I agree with you that crime, in general, is down. I don’t think the fear we are talking about has to do with crimes of need, if you will – purse snatchings suck, for example, but in that case it’s about the contents of the purse. It’s not an attack against the person carrying the purse.

    I think the reason North American women are so frightened is because there is a real sense of misogyny in some places. If you read the #YesAllWomen thread on Twitter you’ll see that many of the stories come from universities, where both young men and young women are molded in their perceptions of each other.

    I’ve read that there are similar outbursts of misogyny in Italy, for example, where young men are often “failing to launch”, living in their parents’ basements until an advanced age and nursing rage against women. Not to mention what is going on in Nigeria and other Muslim countries.

    I do have hope that a world that contains Malala and has stars at Cannes calling for the release of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls still can be redeemed.

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