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?
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.