Interesting couple of articles about the gendered abuse that female bloggers- particularly those concerned with politics and social justice- tend to endure on a regular basis:
Digby @ Hullabaloo, who makes a pretty strong case for the roots of this abuse being firmly entrenched in sexism, as evidenced by being told that "You wrote a lot better before you came out as a woman.”
A number of anecdotes in the New Statesman, including one where a trans woman was informed that she’d be much better off if she could just see things through a man’s eyes for once.
Sady @ Tiger Beatdown talks about feeling physically threatened and what a general pain in the ass it is to stay one step ahead of the people trying to keep her quiet.
I have thankfully not lost sleep over such comments, but I expect that’s less to do with the content I post than the fact that the only person who reads my blog is my mom, whose death threats I’ve found to be reliably empty.
Related: conversation this weekend about how differently men & women approach potentially dangerous situations. The context was that for the umpteenth time, the Mister didn’t come home the night before and, while I assumed he had opted to stay over at the friend’s house where he’d spent the afternoon, he never explicitly communicated this to me. I’ve all but entirely given up on trying to beat it into him that I’d really like to know if he’s planning to come home so that I know whether or not to be alarmed when he hasn’t shown up by the next morning. I think at this point I’m just resigned to finding out that he’s dead in a ditch later the following day when the cops show up at the house. My friend, on the other hand, is consistently incensed on my behalf every time this happens (perhaps my ability to remain calm is due to her taking on the anger for me) and says she’d freak out and start calling everyone who could possibly know where her husband was if he didn’t show up one night. Her mind immediately goes to DEAD IN A DITCH and the whereabouts of her husband have to be ascertained before she’s able to bed down for the night.
Admittedly, this particular instance is less a matter of personal safety than just courtesy. Even so, the women in attendance all agreed that they certainly worried about such things more than their men seemed to (further evidence: it was my mom and not my dad who had a minor conniption when I was snowed in alone last year and didn’t return a voice mail from her right away; she was convinced I’d gone out to the shed for firewood and slipped on the ice and hit my head), but when you start considering the differences in the way we approach our own personal safety, I have to wonder if some of the heightened awareness of our own vulnerability wrapped up in that is what informs women’s need to confirm that other people- men and women both- are not ditching it up dead-style.
Case in point- and this is my favorite one: my friend, in trying to explain to her husband why his daughter should be taught to be aware of her surroundings and avoid situations where she might find herself in danger, asked if he had any idea why women in a dark parking lot or garage get their keys out before getting to their car.
“Uh…to stab people?” he guessed.
(If you are a man reading this and haven’t caught on that stabbing people is not the right answer, I’ll clue you in: it’s because we’re the most vulnerable when we’re standing there distracted and fumbling around for keys. Having them out allows us to get into the car immediately and then lock the doors behind us.)
We all had similar stories: we’re sure to lock the doors of our houses both when coming and going, especially when we’re home alone, whereas our menfolk are consistently lax in ensuring doors are secured or, in some cases, even completely shut. We watch to make sure the garage door closes all the way. We pay attention to who else is in the parking garage, in the parking lot, behind us on the sidewalk. I try not to walk out to my car alone in the dark after class if I can avoid it.
When this mindset is communicated to men, though- who have often never given a second thought to who else is in the parking garage- they tend to interpret it as unhealthy fear or paranoia.
“Wow,” said my lone male classmate after a discussion of this sort last year, “Women apparently think all men are potential rapists.” Which is a bit of a stretch. We think they’re all muggers. Only a handful of them are rapists. Seriously, though, when you’re a woman and thus more likely to be the victim of sexual assault at the hands of a man, you tend to think about these things. Guys just don’t seem to have been imbued with the “healthy fear” that keeps women hyper-aware of their surroundings and perhaps, in turn, more prone to being worried about others.
Does it suck that this is even a necessary thought? Yessir. I’m sure guys have some sense of danger as well, but it seems to kick in only in more extreme situations that any normal person of either gender would be afraid of- thugs in a dark alleyway, for example, or people with ski masks running at you wielding machetes- whereas women seem to have an extra layer of learned apprehension on top of that. It’s a pain that this apprehension sometimes stops me from doing things or going places that I might not question if I was less of a statistical target. I totally get where Kim is coming from in the clip below- I’d like to know I can safely do my laundry at midnight too, but my fear of guns is even healthier than my fear of being accosted, so I go the route of avoiding the situation altogether. I’m certainly not going to squelch my self-preservation instinct to try to prove a point if the outcome of the point being disproven is, I dunno, death. Just not willing to take that chance. An ounce of prevention and all that, you know.