As I hit the send button on the text to my mom and locked my door, I thought about why I sent the text in the first place. It's a simple enough text, "I'm going to for a run. I'll be back in 45 minutes." So why did I feel so uneasy? It's second-nature at this point, but why do I do it? I'm an adult. My whereabouts aren't accountable to anyone. So why do I always check-in when I run?
This question bothered me as I completed my run. Instead of monitoring my breath and focusing on my pace, I thought about why I felt the need to text my mom where I was. I finally came up with the answer: because I am a woman and I have to protect myself.
It made me think about what else I do because I am a woman and the world is unsafe.
As a woman, I can't go for a run by myself.
I find a distinct comfort in walking/running around the lake by my house. Usually I go with my mom or my aunt, but sometimes our schedules don't line up and I risk missing out, so I go by myself. When my mom found out, we had a long discussion about the type of precautions I need to take because "it's not safe for a girl to go running by herself."
1. Text me (or someone close) when you get there and let us know how long you expect to be gone. That way if we don't hear from you we can be aware and call for help.
2. Make sure the the GPS tracker on your Fitbit and iPhone are "ON" — that way there are two ways to track you if you go missing or get hurt.
3. Stay on the path and don't go exploring on your own.
4. Try to stay with a group and keep up with their pace.
5. Always be home 30 minutes before the sun starts to set. Always.
6. Don't have your music so loud you can't hear people around you, especially behind you.
Men can just get out of their cars and go for a run. No check-ins, no precautions. Why can't I just get out and run?
As a woman, my parking needs revolve around the time of day and whether or not it will "be safe" to walk to my car.
I have an off-campus parking pass that I use on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday because my classes get out early enough that I don't have to worry about it being dark or walking alone.
On Tuesday and Thursday I have a late classes and work, so by the time I get done with both it's "not safe" for me to take the city Link and walk by myself.
I tried it once, just to see if it was really as bad as everyone made it out to be. I was so paranoid about being followed, empty streets, and dark alleys that I didn't feel safe.
Now, I come to school earlier on those days so that I can get an all-day parking spot and not have to worry about the dark or being alone.
Do boys get afraid walking alone at night? Do they have to take precautions about where they park and how long they'll be gone so that they can get to their cars safely?
As a woman, I can't dress confidently without being told I'm "asking for it."
At the end of finals we planned a girls night to celebrate. I was dressed to the nine: full makeup, my favorite lipstick, falsies. My hair had actually cooperated and curled. I just wanted to go out with my friends, relax, and enjoy a night of freedom. I felt confident and sexy.
By the time the night ended, I felt cheap, dirty, and degraded. I spent the night getting groped and gestured at and cat-called. One guy even had the audacity to say "Well damn dressed like that I thought you were just looking for a good time."
Apparently I missed the memo that women aren't allowed to get dressed up and feel confident for themselves. I missed the notice that looking good makes you open game and some kind of piece of meat. Feeling good about yourself means you're asking for it - whatever "it" means.
Are men allowed to feel confident without the fear of women crawling all over them? Can men dress nicely without being called sluts and told they are "asking" for whatever they get?
Why am I forced to hide my confidence and not feel good about myself?
As a woman, I can't make eye contact with a man without fearing that it will be taken as consent.
When I'm walking alone, I make sure to keep my eyes down and avoid eye contact at all costs. It doesn't matter if I'm walking alone or with a group; if I'm in the nicest part of town or crappiest.
Making eye contact with someone gives them a special kind of permission — permission to approach you, to come into your space, to initiate conversation.
Apparently it also gives the expression of consent, that you want to be approached in a sexual way, that you want their "special male attention."
"Sorry I'm not interested. Thanks."
"What do you mean? You invited me over here, gave me that look with your eyes."
Apparently eyes are more than just the window to the soul - they can also speak.
Men are taught differently. To men, eye contact is a sign of authority and masculinity. As a man, if you don't make eye contact you are weak.
Why am I forced to be invisible and submissive?
As a woman, I can't be polite or flirty without being called a slut or a tease.
There is no denying that I am my mother's daughter, and she raised me with just enough Southern charm to always be polite and friendly.
The problem is that somewhere along the way, politeness and friendliness was construed into flirting.
I can no longer just be nice and strike up conversation with the people I meet. Making small-talk so that people don't get bored or uncomfortable is flirting. Striking up a conversation is the new way to flirt.
Men are allowed to get away with it. "I didn't mean to! I just have a friendly personality, I really didn't mean to lead you on." All is forgiven.
When I try to explain my friendly personality, I'm just lying to hide my true feelings. I'm playing "hard to get" and teasing.
Why am I forced to hide who I am and act according to the standards of everyone else?
As a woman, I have to watch my drink when I'm in public.
One of the first things my momma taught me in high school was to always watch my drink. Always.
"It doesn't matter who you're with, where you are, or what you're doing. You always have your hand over your drink. You never know who could slip what into it while your not paying attention."
It has become such a commonly accepted thing that it's this unspoken rule, this expectation.
Do men watch their drink? Do they worry about leaving it uncovered and out of sight? Do they worry about it being drugged and being asked to do things without their consent or knowledge?
Why am I forced to constantly be vigilant about the actions and intentions of other people?
As a woman, I have to use the buddy-system like a kindergartner going to the bathroom.
Being alone creates this image of vulnerability and weakness, so we take extra precautions to never be alone when we can help it.
We are taught this from such a young age that it becomes second-nature, part of who we are.
Boys certainly don't go in twos to the bathroom or to the bar. They have the freedom to come and go as they please.
Why am I forced to give up my freedom to be alone?
I honestly don't know if these are truly female experiences; I don't know if men feel this way too or if they have certain precautions that they take as well. I don't know if men and women share this mentality, or if It is just me. All options are possible. But these are my experiences as a woman.