Sunday, October 9, 2016

Just Stop

As I was walking through a dark parking lot alone tonight I had a realization. I was scanning my environment. I was on high alert. I noticed every man, every empty car, every sound. As I sat with this awareness my heart grew sadder at the understanding that this hypervigilance wasn't innate in me but rather a learned behavior. For my safety. For my survival. And I wondered if the men looking at their cell phones or whistling while they walked had the same feelings. My immediate next consideration was as to whether or not my daughters would grow up to position their keys defensively when they walk alone at night. 

This reaction isn't due to lack of strength of mind or weakness or paranoia. 

My visceral fear response at being a woman alone at night is a product of decades of experiencing "locker room behavior" by men. It's a behavioral legacy that's been passed down from generation after generation of women who have been taught that they are less than so therefore they must respond as if they understand their weakness.

I am not weak. Yet I still instinctively fear.

This situation caused me to reflect on my life, on the ways in which I've been conditioned. The way in which society has taught me how to expect to be treated by men - to understand my place. 

Don't challenge a man in authority by looking him in the eyes.
I need to make my body smaller and to lower my head so a man doesn't think I'm too dominant.
If I laugh at your joke or make physical contact with you then I am a tease or a flirt.
You bought me dinner so I owe you.
Men are the final word on all things biblical, so you should hold your tongue.
Loud and opinionated women are a disruption and a problem that needs to be handled.
A man has facts, but women have opinions.
Don't ever question a man.
If I complain about anything, I'm a nag.
It's dangerous to get a flat tire at night.
I can't trust that the police car pulling me over is authentic, and if it is, is the officer a safe cop.
Women should know better than to be in subways or train stations alone.
I have to cover my body, otherwise I am asking for men to talk about me, or worse.
I will never earn enough to not need a man.
My worth and value is tied into having children and how well behaved and remarkable they are.
Catcalling is just what men do.
It's to be expected that men will walk a little too close on crowded streets.
Boys will be boys. Just ignore them.
My job is to cook and clean and take care of the kids.
Showing cleavage means I want men to look at my breasts.
My existence is a stumbling block.
It's acceptable if you call me derogatory names because that's just what guys do. 
It's ok for a man to comment on my weight, I should see it as a compliment.
It's ridiculous to get offended at what men say because they can't help it.
I'm too sensitive.

.... the list could go on and on and on and on.

And that makes me sad.

Sad for me that these thoughts have to constantly be counteracted in my head.

Sad for my girls that they too might already be conditioned to believe some of these things.

Sad for future generations that will likely still be fighting to be heard.

Men you need to understand that you can't keep excusing your behavior. We need you to stand up and demand better from your brothers- to be our allies.

Stop defending.
Stop blaming.
Stop justifying.
Stop objectifying.
Stop excusing.
Stop participating,

Just stop.

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