A lot of things have left me pondering the feminine experience within the past few weeks. Of course, there were the horrible, perverted remarks from presidential candidate Donald Trump, but I also had the pleasure of watching Iliza Shlesinger's stand-up on Netflix. What do these things have in common? In her act, Iliza describes how is feels to be a minority as a woman, “...Women are at a disadvantage because we’re not as strong as men,” Shlesinger said. “That’s the root of the problem. If women were physically stronger than men, we wouldn’t have waited for the right to vote. It’s all these things. There’s that, and it just sort of goes into sexual harassment (and) why that’s so scary for girls. It has nothing to do with, ‘Oh, he said something gross.’ It’s that he could kill you if he wanted to." And how can we tell if or when it will escalate?
Then the headlines about Donald Trump came pouring in. It was an interesting reflection of how our society currently views women and their dignity. It left me to examine my own thoughts and experiences. I've been open on my blog about my struggles with anxiety, but it may come as a surprise to you that not only anxious women feel the way I do about this topic, but most women. Most of us are on guard when a man approaches us. No encounter is innocent. Is he trying to lure me away from public sight? Is he seeking personal information from me? Is he sexually attracted to me? Will this conversation become inappropriate? How will I react if it does? What is my escape plan if this gets out of hand? There is an entire stream of concerned consciousness reeling through our mind at every moment. Our brains analyze every word, looking for a threat in order to act quickly in case things do escalate, because we know we are at a physical disadvantage. It is always at the forefront of our minds when we are alone.
After a long day being coup'd up at home with the girls, I enjoy going to the grocery store or gym by myself. This sounds relaxing and stress free, and for the most part it is. The part where I have to walk across a dark parking lot though, is not. I calculate in my head whether it would be faster to run back to my car or into the store if I felt some one approaching me. I make sure my keys are accessible not only to unlock the car door quickly, but to have handy as a weapon as well. Are there security cameras? Other people around who could be witnesses? These are the thoughts I have as I walk 100 yards to the entrance of the grocery store.
So, how much more vulnerable do I feel with my baby girls? You can't imagine the stress. The fear that pulses through me every time I see a male solicitor at our front door. The muscle tension and other bodily senses on high alert when there is a repair man in the house. It is constant.
I recently watched a documentary entitled "Audrie and Daisy" about two girls who were brutally raped in high school. In this film, the perpetrators were interviewed to give their sides of the story. The documentary ended with them having to answer a question, "What have you learned about women from this experience?" One boy responded, "That girls are full of drama and care so much about stuff where guys are more laid back." Perhaps the reason men are so "laid back" are because they are the ones in control. They are not the ones fearing for their lives. They are not the ones who don't have the physical power to stop an assault. We are not being dramatic, we are not emotional, we are scared for our lives on a daily basis and apparently for good reason. The threats are real, women are abused daily. I wish I could say this was paranoia, I wish I could relax, but the reality is women are taken advantage every day for no other reason but that they are not as strong.
This scary reality has an unfortunate trickle-down affect. When we tell ourselves that the weaker person must bend to our will, it doesn't stop with the sexes. It effects how we treat people in different economical positions, and it effects they way people treat children.
As a mother I am trying to be very diligent not to punish or reprimand my children in a way that incites fear. They shouldn't listen to me because I am bigger and can overpower them. I want them to listen to me because they trust in my wisdom and desire to keep them safe. Playing on a person's fear or weakness is only a reflection cowardice and failure in that person.
The more we make excuses for this behavior, the more we victim blame, the more we dehumanize major populations of our own brothers and sisters. It must end. I pray that some day my daughters will live in a world where they don't have a perpetual, subconscious fear every time they leave the house. Until then, I'll keep fighting for it to happen.
Published by Samantha Motto