On August 19, 1920, women gained the right to vote, thanks to the women's suffrage movement. The brave women who fought for their rights gave me, a girl almost 100 years later, the right to vote. They taught their daughters lessons about being strong, independent women in a society ruled by men. Our current society is more balanced, but there are still problems. Daily, you see articles about rapists and murderers. Fearful mothers now teach their daughters what they can in order to prevent their daughter from being the next trending news headline.
These are the lessons I had to learn that I really shouldn't have had to.
1. When you walk in a parking lot, carry your keys in between your knuckles like they're a weapon, and park as close as you can to the store. Check the back seat before you get in.
When I got my first set of keys, my mother taught me the value of them. I understood that they could be used to lock and unlock things and that was really important to stop people from stealing your car. What I didn't understand was what she taught me.
"You could be attacked on your way to the car. Always park as close as you can, there's cameras on the front of most stores and there's more lights. But always carry your keys in your fist, then you can use them as a weapon." I didn't understand the severity of this for a long time. There's a weapon that looks like an innocent key chain because women need things like this to feel safe. I don't remember when she told me to check the back seat. I didn't think it was possible but then I heard a news story about a woman bringing a thief all the way home with her because she hadn't checked her back seat. Now I'm almost scared to look.
2. Don't walk or sit anywhere with your headphones. Walk as far away from the alleyways as you can.
I remember, about a week ago I was sitting alone in my mother and I's car. She was at a doctor's appointment in a building that I didn't like going into. I sat in the driver's seat because it was in the shade, away from the scorching Summer sun. The windows were down and even though it made my temperature feel right, it made me nervous. I picked my phone up and put an earbud in, and then immediately took it out. I realized that it would be the same as walking with them in.
I could be seen as distracted, and since my music would be up, someone could blind side me- especially if I'm deep into my phone. A truck for the next door company backed up next to my car, full of men to move equipment. I stared at them intently, trying to decide if I was being paranoid or not. I can't tell anymore.
3. Always use the buddy system!
Guys often ask why girls go to the bathroom in droves. We're told to go together because a man could be waiting to grab us and take us far away. We need to watch out for each other. It's not social hour in the bathroom like most people think. In fact, I've learned from a few men than women's bathrooms are normally more stoic and quiet than a men's bathroom ever would be. Men think we're ridiculous when we tell them that we use the buddy system because it's safer. I didn't think it was that important.
Until my big sister was almost kidnapped by a man when she was going to the bathroom by herself.
He was never caught.
4. Keep your eyes on your drink at all times, even at your friends' parties. Watch when they pour it. If you leave it alone, dump it out,
Did you know that in 2010, 75 percent of the rapes committed were by people that the victim knew? This means that even at a friend's party or at a frat party with people you know and trust, you could be drugged and raped. Even knowing that I only drink soda and water, my mom had to tell me to be vigilant with my drinks. She tells people about my vigilance constantly. She's proud of me for being so careful. It's awful because she shouldn't have to teach me that. I should be able to trust that people will be good and they won't hurt me. But I can't.
She also taught me that if I can, always have a covered drink, or hold my drink in front of me. If I have to, cover my drink with my hand so nothing slips in. Women have witnessed other girls go to the bathroom, and their dates drug the drink while the girl is gone. There are cups and there is a nail polish in development to help people detect themselves from being drugged. Nobody, male or female, should feel the need to have to use these products -- but again, we do, because we live in a world that is very unsafe.
When everything else fails, all you can do is fight. Fight for your life, because the person attacking you wants to rape you, hurt you, kill you. They want to destroy everything that makes you who you are. Start making a commotion, but don't yell "help" or "rape" because people won't help you. They're scared of the confrontation. They might call the police, but by the time the police arrive, the damage will already be done. Yell "fire" because it draws a crowd, and once they see you, "they'll almost be forced to help you." Run in a zig zag line because it makes you harder to shoot, and it'll tire the assailant out. They might stop chasing you if you're "feisty" enough.
Oh, and if you can't do anything else, try to break their fingers or leave bruises. Then when you go to court and the positive rape kit comes in, you can tell them you didn't want it. You have to prove that you didn't want it or else you'll be shot down as another woman who "changed her mind afterwards" or was "looking for revenge." But be careful if you can't escape, because if you fight too much they might just kill you. Wear "modest" clothing because if you didn't, you were "asking for it."
Before I became old enough to have to know all of these things, life was simple. I didn't fear anything except for those scary spiders. It was easy being a kid. Now, it's easier to just stay inside and lock my door, for fear of someone hurting me. I can't do that, though, because there are double standards for a woman. Because I can't make anyone happy either way, I just have to hope that my mother taught me everything I need to know to survive in this world that will chew us up and spit us out. Maybe things will be better for my children, or their children.
You can only be so optimistic though.