I am currently taking a women’s self-defense class with other members of FIA-STARSA. So far we’ve only had one lesson, and it was interesting. This one was focused on the mind, so we did less physical stuff and more mental. We made three lists, one of behaviors that are annoying, one of behaviors that are dangerous, and one of life-threatening. Included in the “annoying” category were whistles and catcalls, unwanted conversation, being called “baby” or “honey,” and stares. The “dangerous” list was comprised of things like being locked in a car, being alone with a strange man, being drunk and vulnerable, and unwanted physical contact. The “life-threatening” list includes violence, coercion via weapons or drugs, and being chased. We talked about how quickly something can go from annoying to dangerous or life-threatening, and how all of these actions are tied together. Some of the “annoying” behaviors are so embedded in our society that they would be difficult to challenge.
This made me think about something that I spend a lot of time thinking about: the line between careful and paranoid. People close to me have been raped, so I know the very real danger, which makes me more cautious. But, I also know that sometimes I can be more paranoid. It’s bullshit that women even have to be careful. I was talking to one of my male friends, and he said something to the effect of “sometimes I’m scared when I’m alone by myself at night, but then I realize I’m not a girl, and nothing will probably happen to me.” I might over-think certain situations, but whenever I am out in the world at all I am almost always aware of my surroundings and the people around me. I am wary of a parked car with its lights on, and get nervous if a guy is walking behind me. How can I, as a feminist, be strong and confident and independent when I prefer to walk with a guy at night? How can we change this societal norm that makes women the constant paranoid victim and men in control on busses and streets?