How Frequently Do You Feel Unsafe?

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Over the weekend one of my close friends, Sarah, was visiting.  We had deep and fun conversations, many of them revolving around women’s issues—particularly the lack of feeling safe in certain circumstances, men feeling they can act familiarly with us even when they don’t know us, and the things we females do and think about because of the simple fact that we are women.

A few examples are:

  • Walking to the car with your keys or a sharp object in your hand;
  • Checking under and in the vehicle before getting in;
  • Being hyper-aware of who is behind you, especially when alone;
  • Feeling unable to adequately defend yourself if needed;
  • Etc., etc., etc.

The issue of unwanted attention from men dominates, by necessity, far too many conversations.  However, I think many of us fear the (almost) inevitable dismissal if we mention it to authority figures (leaders, etc.), because historically that is how society handles claims women make about men.

This leads to my own, recent, experience.  I was in a church service where I knew many of the attendees.  However, there was someone with whom I was unfamiliar sitting two rows ahead of me.  Towards the end, he turned around, made eye contact, smiled, and winked at me.  Instantly, anything amiable I felt (I rarely feel animosity towards strangers) evaporated and was replaced with a sense of invasion of privacy by a stranger.  When he got up a few minutes later and walked by me, I was on guard in case he tried to make physical contact.

I know it probably seems absurd to jump to feelings of fear of someone walking by you and touching you—but as a female, I know that it is not far-fetched.  I know we live in a society where familiar physical interaction (hugs, pats on the arm, shoulder rub, etc.) are “normal.”  But, none of the above give permission to invade a person’s bubble without their permission.

“Personal bubbles” can even expand beyond physical and into the non-physical.  In my experience, winks are fun when given and received by people with a mutual understanding of a relationship of some kind (friendship, family, partner/spouse, etc.), but when given by a stranger, it is a sign of flirtation.  People have the right to go about their business without fielding and/or ignoring unsolicited advances from strangers.  Females should be able to go to school, the store, the park, a place of worship, etc. without feeling unsafe or objectified.

What are some ways you handle unwanted attention from men?  Do you talk with people who could facilitate change about the situations that make you uncomfortable?  If so, what is their response?

P.S. I’m aware this is not solely a female problem, but the majority of the time it is.

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Feminist Isn’t A Bad Word

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Over the weekend A and I went to Winston-Salem, NC for a quick trip to meet with friends.  Winston-Salem is also where he went to high school and undergrad, so he takes me to his old haunts whenever we’re in the area.  This time, he introduced me to McKay’s used bookstore.

It has such a great selection of books, movies, CDs, and more.  But seriously, the books.  So good!  I had to practice self-control, because our home is turning into a library (not a bad thing—just a space issue).

However, I’ve really wanted to grow my knowledge of women studies, feminism, etc., and the best way to do that seems to be starting “at the very beginning” (to quote Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music—which I did sing while leaving the store).  So, when I found a great copy of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan with an intro by Anna Quindlen, I grabbed it!

One of my sources of extreme frustration is when I hear or read females (teenage, young woman, woman, older woman—doesn’t matter) say they don’t need feminism.  They typically add that equality isn’t an issue in our country, and that things are far worse in other parts of the world.

I agree…to an extent.  Women in the United States do have more equality than women in, say, Saudi Arabia.  However, as one who has experienced sexism in the work place, social life, etc., I have to advocate for the rights of women—even the ones who say they don’t need it.

Growing up, I thought “feminist” and “feminism” were bad words.  I equated feminists with man-haters.  I never imagined I would become a feminist.  However, in college I encountered three young women, peers of mine, who helped shift my perspective.  Thanks to them, and others, I look for ways to protect myself and other women from patriarchy—whether imposed by men or other women.

We all know the stereotype of females being called “catty.”  That needs to go away, along with the words “nag”, “whore”, “hoe”, “bossy”, and many other terms and phrases that, when used in association with women, are meant to “put her in her place.”  We need to start, from a young age, showing support, advocacy, love, and encouragement to our fellow ladies!  Women supporting women has the potential to create a huge cultural and social shift.  Let’s do this together!

What do you do to help influence the way the world interacts with and treats women?  How do you support the girls/women in your sphere of influence?  I believe it’s an ongoing, reconditioning of how we view the world around us and how we interact with it.

Eclipse Trip

Columbia, SC is a place I never wanted to live long-term, then I didn’t want to leave (but had to), and whenever I go back it is refreshing to my soul to visit friends and remember aspects of myself I’ve forgotten.

I left before 7AM Sunday morning to drive down to arrive in time for church (where I attended in college).  It’s the most special church I’ve ever encountered, with people who are loving, caring, intellectual, fun, deep, and from many walks of life.  The children have all grown up and my college acquaintances have children—life moves forward.

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I got to see two of my best friends from college…and we laughed so much.  Those friends are the best kind.  And we drank margaritas and had the best homemade, personal pizzas EVER.

On the day of the eclipse, I had tea, cheese, and strawberries with friends, chatted about trips to England, and had the best time getting to know my friend’s son—he’s darling.  Once the eclipse began, we’d pop outside every few minutes to check on its progress.  The first moment I put on those glasses and looked up—it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Perfection.  I started noticing the other ways nature was interacting with the phenomenon: shadows from the leaves, the crispness of my own shadow, and the increasing brightness and then darkness as it got closer to totality.  Also, a flying bird making a strange noise.  After totality, I stood and soaked in the beauty of what we’d experienced.  The lining up of two, huge orbs.  The impact it had on the earth.  The way it instilled a sense of awe in millions.  *goose bumps*

 

At the last minute, I learned a sweet friend was also in town with her roommate…and hedgehog.  Awesome conversations about feminism, social justice, racism, belief systems, and interacting with people you love but who just aren’t on the same page.  And, I got to hold her hedgehog!

Tuesday morning, I had breakfast with my brother at my alma mater.  The caf is still the same—even down to my half a grapefruit (yum!).  But, they’ve added a great little coffee shop downstairs (why couldn’t that have been there when I was a student?).

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Till the next solar eclipse!  2024!