The things women are told to do to stay safe

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Recently, Buzzfeed published a piece headlined ‘29 Things Women Do Because We Fear For Our Safety’. I read it with interest but - perhaps somewhat surprisingly, for those who know me as a boner killing harpy - couldn’t relate to much of it. 

Like most women, I approach most situations in which my safety could be threatened with a healthy sense of caution. I know how to carry my keys so that they become a weapon. I’ve called friends while walking down dark streets to provide a thin veneer of protection between me and a potential ambush. And I’m careful not to leave my drink unattended at a bar (although sadly, this probably has less to do with concern that it may be drugged and more to do with the latent alcoholic’s fear that someone might steal it).

But a lot of the rest of it was foreign to me. I embrace solo travel rather than avoid it. I’ve roamed the streets of cities by myself at all hours, from Melbourne to Manhattan. And as anyone who’s seen me in a bathing suit can confirm, I certainly have no problem eating in public (or private, or in bed, or in this bath). If there’s so much rampant fear being stoked in women (and I believe there is, even though we might not all respond to it) where’s it coming from?

Society, maaaaaan.

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It’s true. Take even a cursory look at Society and you’ll see it. Women are constantly told how to behave in order to avoid danger, and then not so subtly blamed when it comes a-knocking on their doorstep. Cat del Bueno recently released a satirical video called ‘How Not To Get Raped’, inspired by advice currently posted on US college websites.

The result is a very funny, very familiar piece of satire which drives home just how ridiculous rape prevention rhetoric is. Unfortunately, if the women in Buzzfeed’s survey are a good indicator, some of this stuff is still working to place the onus on women to avoid violence or basic street harassment.

To put this issue to bed once and for all, I thought I’d take some of the things women already do and enhance them so that we can really throw ourselves into the whole ‘avoiding violence’ thing.

 

1. Stop eating….altogether

Women reported to Buzzfeed that they wouldn’t eat ice-cream in public because the provocative licky-lick results in men harassing them. It’s a good first step, but clearly women aren’t taking their protection seriously enough. To properly avoid the hungry eyes of men, we should just stop eating altogether until we become paper thin and can simply turn a full 45 degrees and disappear from their focal point completely.

 

2. Get comfortable in calico

Everyone knows that revealing clothing, thin fabric and skirts are all international symbols for ‘please disrespect and objectify me’. Women who dress in such wanton ways really only have themselves to blame for the proliferation of upskirt shots, catcalls and unwanted physical harassment. To solve the problem of women’s naive sartorial choices and the complicated-yet-understandable effect they have on man’s impulse control, we should only ever wear shapeless smocks sewn in the most beige tones of scratchy calico we can find. For extra protection, we can have our fathers order metal chastity belts to be fit into the crotch, perhaps with built-in mousetraps to ward off wayward suitors.

 

3. Get used to a curfew

The streets are dangerous for women, we already know that. But the streets at night are like Beirut in the late 70s. It’s a warzone out there, ladies. Would a smart person enter a warzone willingly? I put it to you that they would NOT and women, we all really need a bit more help making smart decisions. That’s why I propose a worldwide curfew that takes us off the mean streets and bundles us up in the protection of homes that are in no way supported as potentially unsafe by statistics, research or anecdotal evidence.

 

4. Never smile

Or talk or laugh or look men in the eye or communicate in any way, shape or form. It’s true that #notallmen are susceptible to the loss of control that results when a woman’s lips twitch in joy before them, but some of them are. And they can’t help that. It’s biology, or maybe even just something that looks a little bit like biology. But the other thing is, make sure you smile at guys. Because you want to be friendly, and it’s important that you don’t make men feel like the Bad Guy. But don’t smile at them.

 

5. Never, ever, ever, ever have sex 

Once you open the portal to the hellmouth, it can’t be closed again. Your nethers are literally going to suck everything within a 10km radius into them, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Well, there’s something you could have done to stop it, and that was try not to be such a salacious tart. But like Eve, who destroyed the world and all the goodness within it, you’ve made your bed now - can other men be blamed if they’re pulled into it by a force outside of their control? No, they cannot. Button it up ladies. Adam didn’t give up a rib to God so you could destroy his life because you forced his hand.

 

If women everywhere followed this guide to the letter, we’d easily be able to tell which of them were asking for it and which of them weren’t. That way, there’d be no need for disturbing, eye-opening lists indicating just how oppressively sexist public space can be and we could all get on with business as usual.

 

10 comments

  • Rape is a MEN'S ISSUE. Why are our brothers - why are WE collectively - doing this to women? Why is all the focus in public discourse always on the victim? Seems to me the only people that can really stop the violence are the perpetrators. These are ordinary men for the most part - a hell of a lot of "nice guys" among them. Men: talk to your friends and colleagues about sexual violence. Start dialogues, spread awareness. I honestly think many many assaults are not seen as rape by the rapist at all. It's up to men to promulgate the message that the sexiest thing about a woman is her consent.

    Commenter
    Michael
    Location
    MElbourne
    Date and time
    July 18, 2014, 9:10AM
    • Great work Clementine! I love it; you are right, once that hellmouth portal is opened there's just no shutting it

      Commenter
      AmyG
      Date and time
      July 18, 2014, 9:19AM
      • There was the potential for a serious article here outlining the different things that women do actually have to do compared to men, but nope, we've got another satirical piece mocking some of the more ridiculous suggestions from the buzzfeed article.

        In fact the buzzfeed article does have some suggestions that I would not worry about or worry about less as a man but are more relevant to a woman, like not travelling alone or staying at a party after our friends have gone for example. Others seem to be rather extreme like not having a ponytail so an attacker can't grab it, and there are also some that highlight the mixed messages that women get (and give) about smiling, making eye contact etc. I could easily find a dozen articles that tell a guy that if a woman smiles at you it means she is flirting which pretty obviously isn't always the case.

        It's also interesting that the buzzfeed article is just about what steps women take to be safe, a number of the suggestions there are ones that men follow as well. Risk management is a good idea, and it's not the same as victim blaming. I don't leave my drink unattended at the bar or get too drunk, I make sure that if it's late at night to the extent possible I walk around with a group, I carry my keys in my hand and don't have my headphones on late at night. I'm also a 6'2" 82 kg athletic guy. If I'm taking these steps to reduce my risk, it's probably a good idea for women to take them as well. It certainly doesn't guarantee my safety, but at least it makes it less likely for something bad to happen.

        Commenter
        Hurrow
        Date and time
        July 18, 2014, 9:45AM
        • First smile of the day, evoked from:

          "the provocative licky-lick results"

          Also especially in this group are calipo's, chorizo's, and any kind of smallgoods. Because well, smallgoods.

          Dallas

          Commenter
          Dallas
          Location
          South Brisbane
          Date and time
          July 18, 2014, 9:47AM
          • Yep, this is the exact process of risk management.

            I mean take the example of driving cars. We all know they are dangerous and many people die whilst travelling in them so the obvious solution is to ban driving and cars altogether.

            It's not like we're smart enough to enact things like speed limits and safety standards. Nope, the only option available is the extreme one.

            Commenter
            Freddie Frog
            Date and time
            July 18, 2014, 10:05AM
            • Oh Clementine, but you are our FAVOURITE boner killing harpy!

              Commenter
              Isabel
              Date and time
              July 18, 2014, 11:33AM
              • Ah, Clementine, boner killing harpy indeed. I am in the office and had to stifle my laughter while I read your column--lest, perhaps, I incite a man!
                Always enjoy reading you. And now, I suppose, you'll have to gird your loins (so to speak) for the onslaught sure to ensue.

                Commenter
                Reciprocity
                Date and time
                July 18, 2014, 11:33AM
                • Yet more uproariously funny satire from Clementine, full of valuable insights that make a worthwhile contribution to the discourse!!

                  Stop it Clem ... my sides are killing me!!!

                  Commenter
                  Farr
                  Location
                  Sydney
                  Date and time
                  July 18, 2014, 2:12PM
                  • 6. Always act completely useless and let a man help you if he wants to. To not do so emasculates him, and then it's your fault when he gets angry and rapes you.

                    7. Never, ever let a man help you. If you do, then you owe him sex as a reward, and it's your fault if he just takes it as his due and rapes you.

                    Love your work, Clementine.

                    Commenter
                    SonyaB
                    Location
                    Melbourne
                    Date and time
                    July 18, 2014, 2:12PM
                    • I am still at the stage that I cannot see the funny side of this discussion. Yeah I get all you cn do is laugh at it but in my mind it takes courage for women to go out at night

                      Commenter
                      cambear
                      Location
                      Brisbane
                      Date and time
                      July 18, 2014, 2:45PM
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