First published on Friday the 29th of June, 2018, this piece comes in at number 12 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2018.
In the wake of Eurydice Dixon’s tragic murder, there have been many things I’ve realised. One of them is that a lot of dudes have absolutely no idea how much fear women feel in public on a daily level.
Don’t get me wrong, I have some man-friends who are so fantastically woke that they check their male privilege like it’s their bank balance the week before payday. But I also have some mates who are nice, but really don’t understand the scale of the problem for women. They’re the ones who just say, “I just didn’t realise that women felt like that.” Which is frustrating, and yet understandable, as they’ve never had the same experiences first hand as us ovary owners.
And yet when they don’t know how scared women are, it means these dudes don’t do anything to help stop the problem. And let’s be honest, there is a lot more that dudes can do to help women to feel safe over and above not being rapists.
So if you’re a chick who has a man-friend who’s genuinely a bit clueless on what he could do to help – send them this.
The biggest thing men could do to help women when walking home at night is to be situationally aware. This means that when you’re walking at night, guys, be aware that the woman in front of you is afraid of you. And to realise that you can do something about this.
The first step is for dudes to accept that this is absolutely women’s reality. No more protests that you didn’t know or didn’t realise what it’s like to be a woman at night. This is us telling you that women are trained to be both highly aware that when we’re in public, we might be attacked, raped or killed. So as soon as we leave the house, especially at night, it’s like a radar switches on in our brain that evaluates all incoming objects/creatures/shadows as a threat or not. That means that if you’re a dude walking behind a woman at night, you will be a beeping red dot on her radar. And she will think you’re following her. Even if you just happened to be parked next to her. Even if you’re on your phone the whole time and don’t know she’s there. She will think you’re following her.
The second thing to do is to act with this knowledge in your mind. Let’s say you’re a man who wants to overtake a slow walking woman in front. Don’t start walking faster and rapidly close up on her from behind. The best thing to do is cross to the other side of the road, walk faster until you’re out well ahead of her, and then cross back over if you have to. Or let’s say you have to walk behind her. Pull out your phone and talk to someone to reassure her that you’re a normal person who has normal friends and normal loved ones. Or you could simply wait longer until she’s well ahead before you start walking so she feels at a safe distance. If you’re waiting alone with a woman to catch public transport then don’t stand near her. Make a deliberate effort to go to the other end of the platform to wait. Or if you catch her glancing nervously at you, pull out your phone and scroll through Instagram so it’s clear that she’s not your centre of attention.
The last thing is not to get offended by the need for you to do this. Please understand that women aren’t afraid of you because you specifically have done something wrong. But many men have done many, many horrific things to women over the centuries. And we’re afraid because we know this. We know men rape and kill women in public. When we’re in public, we have no idea where that threat is coming from. Anyone and everyone could be a threat.
So please don’t get grumpy that we’re asking you to make these moderations to your behaviour. To be honest they’re pretty minor, and are frankly only a fraction of what women have been doing since we are old enough to walk on our own. Please don’t get defensive, please don’t feel victimised, please don’t protest that #notallmen.
We know, we know. Not all men rape and kill women. But all men can make these painless changes, changes that go a long way towards making us feel safer at night.Support Villainesse