I'm 20 years old, living independently for the first time, and of course, I want to go out and experience the world on my own terms. Every student -- every person -- deserves to be able to experience the world safely.
But we can't.
As we're ordering takeout and getting dressed for a night out, the length of our skirts is up for debate. If it's too short, we'll be portrayed as a slut. If it's too long, we're a prude. Either way, we're at risk. If we wear jeans and a t-shirt, we aren't trying hard enough. If we wear a short, slinky dress, we're trying too hard. Either way, we're at risk.
Once we finally make it out the door, there's the debate of how to get there. If we walk to the bar, we have to navigate dark sidewalks. If we uber, we have to wonder about the driver. When we arrive, we all know the rules.
1. Don't drink too much.
2. But drink enough to be "fun."
3. Don't dance too close.
4. But dance close enough to be "fun."
5. And of course, don't leave your drink unattended.
This is the life that students -- specifically women -- lead. Every evening out, and even many evenings in are a constant series of decisions, worries, and choices. If we ever let our guard down, we risk our own safety. Although it's not our fault, when something goes wrong we know that we will be analyzed and questioned and blamed.
Now let me tell you what our lives would be like if these fears weren't necessary.
We would order pizza as we got dressed, and not worry whether or not we'd fit into that tiny dress that always turns heads. Some of us would zip ourselves into short dresses and skirts, but without fear of coming off as a slut, or "trying too hard." And some of us would relax in our jeans and shirts, with no worries of being told we're lazy or not trying hard enough.
We would walk to the bar to save money so that we could spend it on nachos later, with no worries of what lurks in the corners. There would be no need for safety apps, those apps that automatically call your roommate if you don't check in every 30 minutes.
Once we're there, we could drink without being scared. We could leave our drink on the counter and go dance, then come back and it would be exactly as we left it. We could dance however we wanted, and not worry about the ways that someone might read into our hips, our smiles, our legs.
None of these choices are "asking for it". It doesn't matter if we wear a short skirt or baggy pants, if we drink or stay
Here is who to blame: the assaulter. The man who we will be told "just misread the signs," or "thought you wanted it." Most of all, blame the world that tells us that it's the victim's fault. That says we "sent the wrong message." We didn't.