So, I’m reading “Full Frontal Feminism” for the first time, suggested by a friend of mine. Now, as a 30 year old woman who’s identified as a feminist since my teenage years, a lot of what Valenti has to say isn’t new to me. I’m glad the book exists, don’t get me wrong… and I think it’s great! I’m glad I’m reading it… but yeah… it’s like when the same feminist friend saw “The Vagina Monologues” for the first time this April. It didn’t say anything new to her that she didn’t already know.
Anyway, I’m digressing. What’s getting me writing right now is Chapter 4, “The Blame (and Shame) Game”. Because this is something I’ve been fired up about for a long time in my life.
Valenti speaks of this thing women live by called a “rape schedule”. Basically, it’s the things women have to do ALL THE TIME, to try to attempt not being raped. The way we carry our keys in our hands when walking through a dark parking lot. The way we look over our shoulders when walking alone. The way we may take alternate routes home. It’s disgusting, that this is just the way we’ve become accustomed to living.
I’ve always said that men will NEVER be able to know the feeling of being vulnerable just because of your gender. Being a woman has us set up to expect that any sort of violence and aggression could come out around a corner at us at any time. My ex boyfriend would claim that there’s a chance of violence to occur to anyone. True, but what I’m talking about is the vulnerability of being female.
I lived in Boston for 4 years. For the most part, I’ve always seen it as a pretty safe city. But that doesn’t mean that I was any less “aware” if I was on an empty subway car, and a man walked on. Or if I was walking home from the T, or a bar, or work, after midnight, the fear that would pulse in my veins until I stood inside my front door. The fear of letting my drunk roommate leave the bar to catch a cab by herself. Or of her walking 30 minutes home from work at 11pm because there was no good bus schedule in East Cambridge at that time. Fear. That someone would hurt us. Purely based on the fact that we are women.
How absurd is it that we live in a society where, based on my vagina, I feel like the world is not a safe place for me to always exist in? It makes me angry. I’m angry that I can’t feel as free as a man can. That men are something that can fill me with fear. There have been times in my life when I’ve let that stop me from making certain choices. I’ve never driven cross-country for fear of doing it alone, of the things that could happen to me as a vulnerable woman, solo in strange places. I’m angry that I have to be so aware of myself and my surroundings. I’m angry that men will never, ever know what that experience is like. I’m angry that being male in this world is some sort of privilege, and we, as women, have to live under the thumb of their gender role.
So, Valenti… by Chapter 4, I haven’t learned much that’s new yet… but thanks for getting me fired up again.