Us women have been socialized to adapt to your behavior towards us since the first time you honked and hung out of your window like a god forsaken hungry hippo. By the way, I was eleven in a matching pink sweat suit. You may be shocked by how young girls are becoming objectified, but to us it’s normal. Should it be? No. Should we continue to adapt to your behaviors? Or, are you ready to accommodate for us now?
There are endless ways men can contribute to women feeling safer in public places, but first and foremost I think it’s important to gain the perspective of what it’s like for women to have their guard up and to protect themselves.
Below I share how I meander three different public spaces to avoid any unwanted attention, and how men in that shared space can contribute to a safer space for women.
Walking on the sidewalk alone:
- Walk with intention. This means shoulders back, walk briskly, and act alert.
- Don’t stare at your phone the entire time. If you are a Pokémon Go addict like me, just put your settings on vibrate and your phone will tell you if a Pokémon pops up. This way you can keep your phone by your side or in your pocket.
- No headphones. You need to be able to hear every noise around you.
- Walk where there is light and other people are around. Never avoid busy streets because the people that are out and about can help you in a dangerous situation or, to be blunt, witnesses if anything were to go down.
- Have some sort of defense like pepper spray. Sometimes I like to hold my keys in between my fingers.
What can men do?
- Stay away. Just don’t come to our side of the sidewalk unless it’s necessary. We are always assuming the worst.
- If you are going on a run at night, NEVER run up behind a woman. That is literally the sounds we are so fearful of and why we don’t wear headphones. For the love of God, run in the street far away from us. You’d be surprised how much this happens.
- Do not walk directly behind. We need to see you.
- Do not honk or slow your car down to get a head to toe analysis of our bodies. Again, we can see you and it’s not a compliment.
On the bus:
- Be familiar and friendly with the bus driver. It’s always good to be allies with those in charge.
- Do not make eye contact with any man. Sadly, I do this to avoid the inevitable “Why aren’t you smiling” comment…I justify that if I wasn’t looking in the first place I can brush it off easier.
- Try to find a seat with an open seat next to it. If someone is already making you feel uncomfortable, put your backpack in the open seat so they cannot sit next to you.
What can men do?
- Pay attention to what is going on in. Speak up if you can when someone is harassing a woman on public transit.
- Don’t stare at our bodies when we walk on. We are not here on display. We are going to school, work, and the DMV, just like you. Please don’t make it harder on us than it needs to be. We see you looking- there’s no way to be slick about it.
When standing in line:
- Be aware of how close the person is standing from you. There are men who go out in public to get an “accidental rub”. Do not be afraid to ask for your space.
What can men do?
- Back the fuck off. You may not be intentionally standing close to the woman ahead of you, but after reading this, you should always pay attention.
- Be aware of your space and you can be there to protect hers. Speak up if you see something off.
It’s important to understand all of these messages because our fears have no prejudice to what “type” of man you are. If you have never intentionally done any of the above to make a woman feel uncomfortable, be aware of your behavior. Does intention make a difference if you unintentionally broke a person’s finger? Maybe, but the damage is still done.