So, I was going to write about tips and tricks on transitioning to veganism, and I will, but I had to get something off my chest.
Fuck. The. Patriarchy.
Obviously these words shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that follows this blog, or follows me on Instagram or I’m friends with on Facebook but I felt I needed to state that just right off the bat, just in case anyone had any doubts.
I’m writing this because I had a clear reminder that as a womxn, particularly a womxn of color, I am not safe in this world. I’m not safe because of the color of my skin. And I’m not safe because of the gender that I present myself as and I identify with.
I am a runner. I love to run. I don’t always like it but I always love it. Right now I’m training to run my first full marathon; 26.2 miles of hard work and sweat. So to get to that amount of running at one time, I have to train a lot. And most of those training runs I do on my own in the morning before work.
On one of these runs earlier this week was when I had that moment of clarity; that fuck the patriarchy moment. I run up this big hill by my house to get in the practice of having to run up a hill. And on this run, I ran next to a car that had it’s door open. I ran a little away from the open door with caution and then went on my way. I then see the same car drive up the hill. I think nothing of it because it’s a pretty busy street as it leads to a freeway. But I then see that the car has pulled over and is idling. I freak out a bit and stop. I pretend that I’ve reached my goal and am just resting while I look at the car through my peripheral vision. But the car doesn’t leave. It’s just there idling on the side of the road. Finally, after about a minute or so, like the driver can tell that I’m not going any farther, it speeds off.
I start to run down the hill with tears streaming down my face. I’m frightened and I look over my shoulder every few seconds or so just to make sure that the car is not following. To some, this might feel like an overreaction. Like what if the guy was checking his phone? Or thought he forgot something and puled over? That could have been the case. But in my mind, this guy is following me. Plus, I’m not taking nay chances. I’d rather be wrong and offend this guy than be right and be in a bad, or even fatal, situation.
As I get down to about the middle of the hill, I start to get angry. I’m angry at the whole fucking situation. I’m angry that this fear even exists. I’m angry that I do so many things to keep myself safe and yet I’m never safe. I list out in my mind all the things that I do in my life every day to avoid dangerous situations:
I don’t run when its too dark so either too early in the morning or too late in the evening
I only run with one earbud in or my music extra low
I don’t walk or run on empty streets
I run against traffic so that a car can’t sneak up behind me
I don’t park next to vans or large trucks
I walk to my car with my keys in my hand
I walk alert and not on my phone
I know where all the exits are in a room
I make sure to look people in the eye and try to memorize something about them that is distinguishable
And then I start to think of all the things that I’ve heard other women do to keep themselves safe.
They take self-defense courses
They carry pepper spray
They carry tasers
They carry whistles
We know not to yell “help” but to yell “fire” to make sure that people will actually come help you.
We go out in groups and go to the bathroom in groups
And yet, we’re attacked, raped, hurt or killed. We try to avoid bad situations and yet we still hear attacks on womxn happening every day.
But the worse part of it all is when a womxn is attacked she is asked questions like:
what were you wearing?
how much did you drink? were you drunk?
well, were you by yourself? why didn’t you go with a friend?
were you alert?
why didn’t you get a taser? or learn self-defense? or learn to shoot a gun?
We are usually blamed for the attack. We didn’t take care of ourselves, is the thinking. We know what the world is like. Why didn’t we just take care of ourselves?
It’s like fuck! Let me just not step out of the fucking house ever. Oh wait! That won’t help either because a majority of attacks are done by people womxn know so even your house may not be safe because it could be someone you live with or your related to. Or someone could break into your house and attack you in your home. So shit, I guess no where is safe.
I thought about all of this as I continued to run home, tears streaming down my face. I felt so angry. So humiliated, at first. Like I had done something wrong. Like I should know better than to be by myself. And then, I got angry for blaming myself. Because it wasn’t my fault. I had done everything I could do to “keep myself safe” but there will always be people out there determined to hurt you. They will be bigger and stronger. They’ll have a gun or a knife or be trained in multiple types of martial arts. They will get you if they want you.
I don’t say this to scare womxn. I say this to make my first point. Fuck the patriarchy. Rape and sexual attacks are not the fault of the womxn attacked. It is society who is at fault. The attacks on womxn are a symptom of a much bigger issue that we have to deal with as a society: sexism. Womxn have been objectified and sexualized for who knows how long. We’ve been made into things, not people. This is the problem we need to fix. We don’t need to keep womxn wrapped up in bubble wrap, hidden away so that we are safe. We need to change the way that womxn are seen in society. We need to stop blaming womxn for being attacked and start blaming the attackers and society for attacking.
When I got home from my run, after feeling all sorts of emotions, The Boo asked me how my run was. For a split second I debated about whether or not I would tell him. For 2 reasons, one because I didn’t want him to have to worry about me and two, because I didn’t know what his reaction would be. But I decided to trust him and so I told him. He came over and said that he was sorry. He was sorry that the world was so unfair and that I couldn’t even go for a run without feeling fear. That we would make a plan about how to make me feel safer. But he said, for now he’d come on my runs until I told him I felt better. And that’s what we’ve done for the last week. And we’ll continue to do for a bit. At least when I run in my neighborhood.
What I got the most from was his reaction. It gave me a sense of safety but also hope. Hope in that if we as womxn continue to tell the men in our lives what we really endure every day for being womxn, then maybe we can start changing things because honestly, we can’t wait for men to get their shit together and change it. We need to do it, force the change, demand it. And not to feel shame for wanting a better, safer world for womxn. For me, it’s not about blaming men. It’s about dialogue around the real issues and working to change them. It’s about destroying the patriarchal society that we live in. That allows men to hurt womxn and have no consequences. It’s society that allows rape to endure, attacks on the right for womxn to choose. It about taking apart the society and building one that’s more inclusive. It’s not just about equal pay for equal work or breaking the glass ceiling. Its about changing or destroying the structures as we know it that hold womxn down or blame us for the violence that we endure.
it’s about smashing the patriarchy!
I’m sharing with all the men in my life about what it’s like to be me and a womxn in this country. Some may not want to hear it or deny that there’s a problem but that’s ok. Because it’s about transforming myself just as much as it is about destroying the system.
How will you work to smash the patriarchy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
p.s. I didn’t get into the intersection of being a womxn of color within this or gender identity which exacerbates the violence. This was just based on my own experience within this one incident. Maybe I’ll write something more “academic” or researched. 🙂