Thursday, February 24, 2011

A difference...

One of the thing that constantly strikes me is the level of innate fear present in the majority of women that men never think twice about. (Stick with me I have a point). On Tuesday nights I have youth group with my middle school and high school students. We end officially at 8:30 but sometimes due to talking, cleaning up etc. We all leave closer to nine. Add to the equation that we are a downtown church in the middle of casinos, bars, homelessness etc. Being out at night can sometimes be unnerving.

As such I always inquire where my high schoolers parked and then if necessary accompany them to their vehicles. When I ask my male high school seniors, they roll their eyes and often respond with a sarcastic tone, "I'm fine I'm a big boy." Where as when I ask my girls they automatically understand and appreciate my concern and respond, "We parked right out front, we drove with each other so we've got each others back." They get it. As females their concern is different and it's heightened.

On Tuesday night as I accompanied two of my senior high girls to their car there was a homeless man standing right at the entrance of our church. He tried to approach the girls and started talking to them, but they both quickly kept walking and got into their car. I then headed back to the building (behind locked doors) and asked the man if he needed something. He claimed he didn't and I went back in to finish shutting of the lights and gathering my belongings.

Then I faced my own dilemma. How did I get to my car safely? I peaked through the window and saw that he was still standing there. So I waited several minutes hoping he would leave, and looked again. He was still there. At one point I stuck my head out the door and said, "hello" and then popped back inside. (I was hoping he was gone).

At this point I called Marcus and asked him if he thought I was being a baby because I was going to call the non-emergency police line and have them escort the man off the property/escort me to my car. Marcus told me to do what I needed to do so I punched the number in my cell phone and as I was headed out I ran into one of our custodians who lives upstairs in the church's apartment.

I was hugely relieved and asked if he would stand at the door as I walked to my car. He was throughly confused by my request not understanding what the issue was. It's not as though I expected him to do anything per say but often just the presence of another person will deter someone.

In the end all was well, but it got me thinking once again about a conversation I had with Marcus after I returned home from my summer studying in Spain.

I simply asked him, "When you walk down the street, or are in a parking lot by yourself to you feel afraid. Do you fear for your safety?" His response was a simple shrug and, "not really."

I then explained to him that I, and most of the women I have had this conversation with do. When I walk outside alone, mostly at night I have an overlying level of fear. In Spain this was one of the most challenging aspects. We were placed with host families in various neighborhoods in the city of Seville. Therefore, we were spread all over the city.

I lived in the same neighborhood as two of my closest friends in Spain and so we always walked each other home. The issue was that I lived the farthest away. The other two never arrived at their apartments alone, but as I dropped them off I was left to walk the remaining four blocks by myself and it was deeply unsettling, and my friends felt the same way. We always departed with the simple request, "Text me when you get home."

It was an unspoken understanding and we wanted confirmation about ones safety. It was late often past 10 (this is the nature of Spanish culture). I was alone and we were in residential neighborhoods far away from where any large groups of people would be. During these four blocks home I walked as swiftly as I could, I intentionally carried little with me, if I saw a couple or even better a family I awkwardly tagged along with them, and I often crossed back and forth across the street depending on who was on the other side. Often a single male walking alone triggered a need to cross the street (not always some were more menacing than others). Keep in mind this is also the same city where men frequently whistled, grabbed, made comments, and one guy even ran up and licked my face (although that was not the norm clearly) all in the daylight so at night I felt even more vulnerable.

On one of our last nights in Spain a group of us went to the Bull Fights which ended a little after midnight. We then all went our ways to our various neighborhoods. This evening there was a group of about 6 of us walking in the same direction and finally it was just me and one other guy from the program. He lived a couple blocks away from me.

I was grateful that for once I would have someone accompany me all the way home, especially since it was later than usual. Yet, we reached the road where he turned left and I turned right and he looked at me and said, "see you tomorrow" and walked away.

He obviously had none of the same concerns about walking home alone at night and he seemed oblivious to the fact that walking two extra blocks to get me home would have eased a great deal of tension.

As an adult male he simply wasn't concerned and it didn't occur to him that I might be. Much like Marcus had never really thought about it. After explaining all of this to Marcus I made him promise that should he ever be in a situation where he can walk someone a few extra blocks home (especially a female) just do it.

It sucks that so many women exist with an overarching sense of fear. A fear that my friends and I didn't even have to communicate with each other we simply felt it and knew.

There's a really incredible monologue that's part of Eve Ensler's collection A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer that so fully speaks to this fear. (I'll have to look it up when I get the chance).

I think I'll be having a larger discussion with the youth group about this very thing. Especially since so many of them are off to college next year. A talk about safety, a talk with the guys who roll their eyes at my concern, and a talk about why we feel this way and what we can do to combat it. Women should not have to exist with fear.

Long and random I know but it was on my mind.

2 comments:

Debbie said...

can you be a guest blogger on my blog? with this?

Julie said...

I totally agree. One of the things that I love about Luke was that he would never let me walk home after dark alone, even when I lived on campus. He would also sit in the driveway after dates until he saw my close and lock my door.

So many guys just don't think about it at all. I nag my little brother all the time about how he needs to remember that it's scary to be a girl, alone, after dark.