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.


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.


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.


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.

What kind of friend are you?

When I was in college I had a friend.

For protection of anononmity, we shall call her Jane.

Jane was a good girl. She didn’t drink much or smoke or do drugs. She could always be depended on to drive the rest of us drunk ass fools home…if she stayed long enough…which she often didn’t. Cause she was tired and needed her beauty sleep. She didn’t like to stay up late because she liked to get up early and have some quiet reflection time.

I am not making this shit up. Only the ridiculous name Jane.

(I am sorry if your name is Jane)

(I’m not, I am not sorry)

Then Jane met…um…fuck it, this guy was a total jerk so I am gonna name him. His name is Kevin.

Kevin, if you are out there, I still hate you. Stupid Jerk.

Kevin was full of himself. Ginormous ego. All the girls wanted him and it fed him, the wanting. He was a charmer. He could get women to do all sorts of bat shit crazy stuff for him. Not me, he made me throw up in my mouth a little when he poured the charm on me. But most women wanted this guy. It made no sense.

But given my recent relationship history, maybe it does. Anyway, I digress.

So Jane fell in love with Asshole Kevin. To save time, I am just gonna call Kevin asshole from here on out.

You know what happened. Asshole cheated, lied, stole, transmitted herpes…all the things an asshole does to the sweet Christian girl who liked to get up early for quiet reflection time.

Everyone sat back and watched it happen and braced themselves for the fall out. Maybe they mentioned a little concern here and there to Jane but mostly they all just sat back and let it happen. Let Asshole ruin Jane’s life and didn’t say a word.

Except for me. I spoke up. Cause I have a huge mouth and I gave a damn about Jane and didn’t want to see her get her heart broken or…I don’t know…get herpes or whatever.

And she hated me for it. She stopped being my friend.

That was that.

We stayed friendly, we still are…20 some odd years later. I am the only the one who questioned her judgement and told her not to do it, warned her that she was stepping onto a very dangerous path. I said the words, “that guy is an asshole, don’t do it.”

And she did it anyway and I lost out.

I wonder about it. If that’s what a true friend does…sits back and waits for the fallout? Do you speak up and say, “what the hell are you thinking, honey? Pause…take a deep breath, love is making you crazy…” or do you remain silent?

I am watching, as an outsider, another sequence of questionable events take place right now. I am not involved. It’s certainly not my place to say anything. But I wonder why someone closer to the two people (neither of which are assholes, as far as I can tell) dive too fast into a potential tragedy for one or both of them…why no one is saying a word to them.

What kind of friend doesn’t say something? Come on, now…you are all saying it to each other. Why not say it directly to them? Why?

I did some crazy love induced bad decision making about a year ago. I think back now and try to remember who told me to slow down. Yep, there were some warnings. They were gentle but they were there. Slow down. Take your time. No need to make any grand decisions right now.

My brother got aggressive about it. Told me I was ruining my life. But his advice was filled with anger and self interest. I didn’t hear him at all. in fact I hated him for it. I still hate him for it a little bit. No, a lot. But not for saying something…for how he said it. The way he said it. For calling me stupid. For doubting the purity of my heart.

So maybe that’s the key. Saying it carefully and filling your words with love and care. Not anger and judgement.

Because love makes you act crazy, make bad decisions. Love starts you on fire and the flames affect your thinking.

Stupid love.

So I think a true friend has to say something. They have to say it. And they should say it with love and expect it to fall on deaf ears. Ears filled with love crazy. And then they should wait around for the moment when they have to help pick up the shattered broken pieces of their dear friend up off the floor and help them through the heartbreak part.

And when that moment comes, and sometimes it doesn’t…like the one in five million times when people commit too fast without knowing each other well enough…they are not allowed to ever say the words…

I tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen.


A true friend never says that.

That much I know for sure.