A year ago someone told me that I am a target for men because I am afraid.
Until that line, I haven’t noticed the monumental disconnection between the power discourse we constructed for the past century and the incapacity of people who need to listen to do it. When I said that walking on badly-lit streets with groups of men gathered around obscure shops is stressful, I exaggerated. When I told a doctor that I faint on my period and I can’t move because of the pain, I had low tolerance to pain. Our pain and anger is mirrored against us ever so often and proof stands no chance next to the validation of the fact by other men. We are all here screaming at the world to look at the facts and listen while the world screams back in defence. While accepting the fact that we have perpetuated aggression towards women during our whole lives may feel like an attack, it is not. You don’t need defence, wait your turn to talk.
I am not afraid.
However, I do keep track of everything around me. If the tube is filled with men, I pay attention. If a shadow approaches to mine, I pay attention. If I dance with a glass of something in a club, I pay attention. If my teachers listen to my male colleagues more attentively, I pay attention. If my best friend loses a job over a less qualified man, she pays attention. I cannot begin to describe the extent to which women are aware of their environment. The unwritten rules are so widespread they cross languages and cultures, yet they are not enough.
I am not afraid but if a woman tells you she’s afraid, you don’t blame her for it. You blame the world that made her live in fear.
I’d like to make a list, but I don’t know how. I’d like to tell you exactly where our society needs healing. Point it down and tell you what to put on it. Instead, I can only say it’s all over the place and messy: in the exclusion of women from clinical trials and crash tests, in the dismissal of symptoms by medical providers, in rape culture, in the double standards surrounding parenting, in gender biases in the workplace, in the systemic racism and discrimination black women face, in sexual assault, in the way my blonde hair means something more than a colour. It goes on and on. Some are graver than others but I can assure you someone talks about it. There’s no list but there is a community ready to explain and heal.
So sit down. Shut up. Call your sister, or your friend, or your mother. And listen.