The Fear of Being Female

My co-workers and I walked over to the dollar store around five this afternoon to get some things for an upcoming event. It was the end of the day and we were all in a good mood, talking and laughing. I am not sure when he started following us but I noticed him pretty quickly. He was leering. You know how creepy dudes leer at girls?

Oh you don’t? Well good for you sir!

Because anyone who reads this that happens to be female will understand exactly what I am talking about.

So he’s leering and I ignore him.

That’s the best thing to do, I’ve learned.

Just don’t give them any attention and whatever you do, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT.

We pay and exit the store, all three of us aware and watching and whispering.

Creepy dude is in his car now. We see his eyes on us as we cross the parking lot, I see his smile.

Back in the office, we discuss who can walk who to the car because creepy dude is still in the parking lot.

As I exit, one of my co-workers, who’s husband has arrived to drive her home, watches to be sure he doesn’t follow me out of the parking lot.

He doesn’t. I am safe.

Think I am being paranoid?

Well then you must have a penis because I can assure you this is what it’s like to be female.

This is what it’s like to be afraid of men.

I worked a phone bank on a local TV station not too long ago. We got a lot of great calls but we also got some weirdos. And then there was the guy who called over and over again, cause he wanted to talk to the blonde.

That’s me. I am the blonde.

When he finally got me on the phone, he asked me out.

I said no. He persisted. In a friendly voice I told him I was married but thank you for the nice compliment.

He pointed out that I wasn’t wearing a ring on camera.

In a sea of women working a phone bank, with me seated in the background, he managed to make out that I wasn’t wearing a ring.

He knows my name, he knows where I work, and he knows I am not wearing a ring.

Awesome.

This is it.

The fear of being female.

In 2012, 346,830 US women (and little girls) were raped.

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.

I work for an organization that takes care of children who have been abused by their own families. It is horrific, the stories.

It is so prevalent in our society, an aspect of our lives, our lives as women. I have to say I’m used to it.

I have been sexually harassed at work…classic sexual harassment, like you see in the movies. It was unbelievable while it was happening. I truly could not wrap my head around it it was so scary and unreal and awful. I blamed myself, I asked myself why was I so friendly when I started this job, what did I do wrong to make it seem as though I was interested in this sort of inappropriate behavior?  I looked for ways to fix it, I tried to laugh it off until I finally got serious, went to management and they asked the perpetrator to please not do that anymore. Eventually I went to work somewhere else. It wasn’t worth the battle to sue them or whatever. I just wanted away from it, I wanted to forget it ever happened.

We, as women, are so used to being treated like vessels for men’s enjoyment that we expect to be mistreated, we prepare for it. We are on guard all the time. We are afraid.

Many successful business women will tell you that they purposefully dress in pants, pull their hair back, wear glasses, avoid heavy make-up or perfume because they want the men in the room to see them and hear them, rather than be distracted by their femaleness.

It is ridiculous that we have to do this.

But we have to do it.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am not walking around with my tail between my legs shivering in fear that a man might hurt me.

I work out. I am strong because it makes me feel strong. I walk with confidence, because I don’t intend to be a victim. And I walk with confidence cause I am a badass woman. I will kick ass if I have to.

But I am hyper aware, Hyper vigilant.

I am still afraid of men. I am cautious because life has taught me to be that way.

I have had two experiences where a man approached me with his penis out, once in a car and once at a movie theatre.

I have experienced some things I would rather not write about.

I rarely walk down a busy street without being cat called. Not that I am some crazy hot chick. I am middle aged, a mother of three. It’s so common I barely react anymore. I am used it, I ignore it. As I get older, it happens less and that makes me happy.

About a year ago, this subject became popular on twitter with #YesAllWomen as a hashtag…women seeking a voice for their fear and why that fear is justified based on their own life experiences.

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It’s bad enough that we, as women, accept the fear as just a part of being female.

But what makes me crazy, what makes me want to scream from the rooftops, is that men truly do not get it.

Certainly some men do. Perhaps it’s changing, perhaps society is becoming more educated and less willing to accept such awful behavior. Perhaps men are beginning to recognize that women don’t know the difference between “harmless” cat calling or leering and the men who will follow you home and rape you or assault you or even kill you.

We don’t know the difference because to us, there is no difference.

This is one of those blog posts that has no place to go, no ending or resolution.

It’s just a rant.

I guess I can make myself feel better by sitting my sons down and telling them why it’s up to them to change it, to make it better by being better.

I can teach my daughter to be hyper vigilant, to walk with confidence, to stay fit and healthy so she can always fight back if she has to.

But I can’t take away the simple reality that fear of men is unfortunate and justifiable.

The fear is just a part of being female.

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