Eleven-year-old me helps my cousin buy groceries at night and as we put everything in the car she says “Hurry, so we can shut the doors. It’s dark, and I’m a woman with multiple young girls.” In that instant, eleven-year-old me struggles with the idea that the world is not only a place for women to live in fear but also a place where men are respected without even being present. I witness an adult woman living in fear and this normality strikes fear into me, an impressionable child. I have the right to buy groceries without having to check for predators.
Fast forward four years, not to some dark parking lot but school hallways, some boys holler at fifteen-year-old me repeatedly as a bathroom pass swings from my wrist. Should’ve known this would happen… “HEY GIRL”, whistling, and other catcalls follow me down the corridor. I return to class infuriated and don’t attempt to focus on trigonometry. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how old you are, who you’re with, or who you are. You are a woman, so any man can have his say. Blood boiling, I leave class with a guy friend and fill him in on the event. I consider him a decent, respectful guy and he doesn’t even realize how often the demeaning offense of catcalling is committed. “That actually happens?” How are guys ignorant to the world around them?! I have the right to walk about freely without being verbally harassed or feeling violated.
At home, I stumble across images that rocket me to my breaking point. I am one who is quick to anger and more easily convinced with visuals. I study the images of racially diverse women with Google searches reading “women cannot…” and “women should…” covering their mouths. The drop box of suggested searches include “women cannot… speak in church” and “women should… stay at home”. I google these two words for myself to see what pops up. My findings match a few of the searches in the images but an article catches my attention.
In a majoritally female environment tensions rise high as I read the article aloud. The article details a lawyer’s belief that a man who takes advantage of a woman should be acquitted, if a woman is under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Now, my mother chalks this statement up as “a defense lawyer saying anything to get his client off.” I understand, that’s his job. However, I don’t particularly care who you are or what you’re doing, justification of rape is not okay. I continue to read on incredulously to learn that women should just stay at home and if they go out, they shouldn’t get drunk. It’s bad for anyone, female or male, to stumble about wasted after a night out but fear of rape shouldn’t be the leading cause of wanting to drink responsibly. I have the right to go out with friends and not worry about becoming a victim of rape.
This world is made up of fighters, lovers, and angry pacifists. No matter who you are, strive to live happily. If my personal quest to happiness begins with a war on forging women’s safety, then so be it. I’m aware of my rights and I know it isn’t too much to ask for someone to start enforcing them.