I’m on the fence about this in some ways. I certainly don’t believe in victim-blaming, but there are some things on this list that aren’t JUST a part of the female experience – they are part of the human experience.
Both men and women have a responsibility to themselves to have a modicum of situational awareness. Simply defined, situational awareness is knowing what is going on around you.
Now, I will admit clearly, women tend to have a more developed sense of situational awareness than men do. It’s not just about bad things either. Simple issues like seeing garbage in the same place every day, and getting angry that the person who put it there doesn’t seem to feel any responsibility to put it where it’s supposed to be. Or hearing a child getting into trouble, when her partner hears little or nothing.
Some of that comes from society and how differently genders are raised. Girls are expected to do things with one ear aware of the world around her, because girls are expected to jump up and do things when they’re asked. Boys, on the other hand, can seemingly get away with totally tuning out the world around them, ignoring any requests for help. Now, on the individual level, this may not be true – but it is a greater percentage of the culture that is defined this way.
The problem is, when a woman is out in public, there is still some leftover from previous generations that assume if a woman is outside of her home, she should have a companion with her in order to be protected – whether that companion is a male or other females.
So, when she’s out, and does NOT have a companion, she’s often seen as a victim, unless she exhibits behavior that makes predators more wary of her. Sadly, most women don’t know how to show that behavior, or are very fragile-looking, so that any predator that views them ignores the wary-making behavior. And it doesn’t matter the size, height or shape of the woman that makes her seem fragile-looking, it’s far more of an overall assessment of the woman.
Is it exhausting to have to have that situational awareness on at all times? Yes, it is. So, sometimes, women – particularly when out in a group or with men – relax that situational awareness, trusting that her companion(s) will keep her safe. Which is were the victim-blaming usually starts popping up.
“If she wasn’t reading a book, she would have noticed him.” or “If she wasn’t listening to music, she wouldn’t have been a victim.” or “If she’d kept an eye on her drink, she would have noticed him slip a drug into it.”
Seriously? You would rather a woman live her life in a state of constant paranoia and distrust of other human beings? Take it from me, someone who HAS lived in that state of mind – it’s not a very healthy way to live your life.
I’m not saying that women shouldn’t learn to protect themselves, if they can. I’m saying we live in a sick culture when a woman is taught almost from birth to fear not only men, but fear ANYONE other than herself.
Let me give you another item to think about. Soldiers, returning from duty – particularly dangerous duty – tend to come back with some forms of PTSD (some lighter, some heavier). Much of that is due to the constant state of situational awareness that an active soldier must have to protect himself and his teammates. That soldier must learn to relax that state sometimes, or end up driving himself completely crazy.
That is what the average woman has to be like 24/7, whether she’s out in public or not. It doesn’t matter if she’s single or not, she’s expected to be aware of the situation around her constantly. In fact, sometimes it is even worse for a mother than for a single woman with no kids. And if, somehow, a woman fails in her duty to be situationally aware, especially if she’s a mother, she’s vilified and damned for her lack of it.
But it’s somehow OK for a man, particularly a man who is at home, to relax that situational awareness, and be able to focus his entire attention on something other than the world around him.
We aren’t Superwoman. We can’t live like that, not and be healthy. This MUST change.