Be careful, you’re a woman

By Cameron Bocanegra | Reporter

Being a woman is easy. All you have to do is follow a few simple rules that your mother teaches you, starting as early as you can walk. Every lesson plays out with ease.

If you suddenly have to make the infamous midnight drive to Walgreens for a box of tampons, make sure to park under a light, hold your keys out to defend rather than attack, just in case you need a weapon, and then check your backseat before you drive off. Text a friend that you got back to the car.

You are on your way home safely. While driving, keep an eye out for the same headlights trailing you for more than a few miles. Never take the same route home two days in a row. What if that man whose stare lingered too long in the parking lot has already decided you are the prize of a lifetime?

To calm that nagging thought, take four rights and then resume your route. There is a pink-handled pepper spray in the glove compartment and one in your purse. You have never used them. You pray you never will.

Finally you are home. You are safe, except you still have to make it to the front door. Slide out of the car and walk on the opposite side of the sidewalk to avoid the ominous figure ahead.

Pretend to take a call. Whatever you do, do not make eye contact, because that would of course, insinuate you want their attention, right? That would basically be asking for it.

Once inside, you triple lock the front door behind you and before you can go to bed, check every crevice large enough to fit a small child. Check every window. Lock every lock. Relax and try to feel safe, even though you can’t, because this is how you exist.

After all, you are so vulnerable, being a woman, that you are such a seemingly easy target under all circumstances. Because everyone has told us bad people exist and they are capable of terrible things. We have been told men are often our assailants. We have seen enough headlines to know someone will hurt, steal, rape or kill us if we are not careful enough. The burden of being a careful woman is about survival.

The conversation is always focused on warnings and advice about staying safe and being aware of your surroundings. In our current society, it is necessary. But what if we flirted with the incredible idea that our culture is validating our fears and anxiety? Violence against women is normalized. Women receive warning after warning, because we are raised to assume that down the line, someone will try to hurt you simply because you are a woman, although you will never deserve it.

Embedding this in our society tells the masses that we recognize women as targets. It tells people that assault is normal and that all we can do is wave our small fists, put up a fight and try to protect ourselves better the next time when we apparently put ourselves in a risky situation. We are telling people that it is almost expected to happen, and that all women can arm themselves with is behavioral modifications and the lonely, far-fetched idea of feeling safe.

We cannot fight this by saying our new-age feminism and bravery is bigger than a man lurking in the dark with a stern threat rehearsed to use. Change starts when we continuously remind everyone across the sexes that assault is the choice of the assailant and it cannot be normalized. It cannot be reasoned or justified by what a woman was wearing or what time of the night it was. It does not begin with the victims, but it ends with them.

With all of the glass ceilings and challenges women already face, our biggest is the fact that embedded sexism is not out of our control. We can tell the officer who gave us the suspicious bruises, testify against the assailant, report who followed us home or be the most radical feminist in Texas, but women have to be careful for a reason, and we need to re-think that mentality.