There's been a lot in the news about men harassing women. This video where a woman walks around NYC for 10 hours was eyeopening for some, a daily routine for others. Out in suburbia, there aren't a lot of cat calls when I walk around the neighborhood, other than barking dogs and swearing chipmunks (you know how chipmunks can be). But when I've ventured out of my safe haven and gone to the big city, inappropriate comments from strange men was just part of the experience. It happened in NYC, in Chicago, and in l'il ole Milwaukee. And it sucked.
It was uncomfortable.
I'm a Midwesterner. We like to be polite and acknowledge each other, so when a stranger says hi, my instinct is to respond. But I can't. There is no way of telling if it will be a friendly encounter or lead to something much scarier. So I assume the worst and put on my "Don't Fuck With Me" face.
Which leads me to what is prompting this post.
This morning I decided to walk to the grocery store -- about two miles away. I only needed some hamburger buns, and it was beautiful out. The kind of crisp, sunny fall day where a long hike seems the best way to celebrate it before the winds turn too cold and the snow begins to pile up.
I've lived in my current home about 4 years, and today I discovered some nearby trails I'd never walked before, so I took them to the store. Leaves crunched underfoot, fall colors flecked the sky above, and the surrounding trees kept the chill wind from growing to strong. I had good music playing through my headphones and I had a solid chunk of time all to myself to think about my WIP. It was almost perfect. Almost.
But I couldn't relax. I bet the women reading this already know why.
During the entire 45 minute walk there and back, half of my attention was on the look out for potential attack. I was alone in a secluded place. No one would see it if someone attacked. No one would hear me. My eyes scanned the underbrush watching for movement, I turned down my music to listen for additional footsteps in the rustling leaves, and I watched my shadow to make sure no one snuck up behind me.
This may sound paranoid to you, especially any men reading this, but this isn't an isolated concern. Anytime I walk anywhere by myself, be it to my car in a parking lot or down the block with my dog, I'm constantly on the look out for predators.
And I live in a very safe neighborhood. I bet most of my neighbors don't lock their houses at night.
When I returned from my walk, I told my hubby about the beautiful trail, then asked if he'd ever had a similar experience. He said he'd never once worried about that. Not once.
So dear reader, this wildly different experience of the world has me thinking. Even in my safe world, I can't let my guard down, and this pisses me off. Could we ever create a world where women don't need to be paranoid all the time? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.