(Content warning: sexual violence)
I want you to perform a thought experiment.
You are an ordinary human being. And every time you leave your house alone, for any reason at all, your first thought is how you’d defend yourself if someone tried to kill you. You run through the anatomy of the human body in your mind, reminding yourself of its weak spots. You mentally catalogue all the items currently in your possession, determining which ones would be useful for stabbing or maiming an assailant. You think about tactics you could use to trick your attacker, giving you a window of opportunity to escape. You strategically locate yourself on public transport, favoring standing near doors where you can make a quick escape. You always make note of the nearest exit, and where the lighting is in public spaces. You map out streets in the areas you frequent that you know could be used as escape routes, and you take note of potential hiding places. You practice stealth so that if you have to hide, the sound of your footsteps won’t give away your hiding place.
You are not a criminal. You are not a law enforcement official. You are just an ordinary human being, going about your day, trying to get to work or get home from work or buy groceries or meet some friends for a drink or go to the cinema. And behavior that would be perceived as paranoia in anyone else is considered “common sense” for you.
Because you are a woman.
You take extra time in the morning when you get dressed to make yourself look as unattractive as possible, so that men will be repelled by you and leave you alone. You wear men’s clothes in the hope that people will mistake you for a man and treat you with the respect they afford other men. You listen to your colleagues talk about women and realise their hatred of everything you are is so deeply ingrained that they aren’t even aware of it, and perhaps never will be. You love to work late, but have to get home before it gets dark. You text someone you trust every evening before you get on your commute home: just in case I don’t make it back. I want you to be the first to know. You cross to the other side of the road and take a detour when you realise a man is walking behind you. You hold your keys tightly in one hand, sharp points facing outwards, ready to stab; while in your other hand you grip your phone, ready to take photographs or record sound or make a phone call at a moments notice. Even if I die, I want them to know who he is.
You are a woman.
Men prioritise their perceived right to use you sexually over your own agency and right to exist. Because to them, you are not an autonomous human being. You exist for their gratification, and they don’t care whether you live or die, thrive or suffer, as long as they get some use out of you.
You are a woman.
Drunken revellers on the streets at night are more than a nuisance, they are a threat. Just like the men with big muscles and big dicks that are meant to turn you on. They don’t; the way their bodies take up space only signifies how much damage they could do to you, a symbol of the type of masculinity defined by violence.
You are a woman.
You cannot afford to trust anyone. A male friend encourages you to get an Uber, tries to quell your misgivings. “If they do something bad, you can just down-vote them.”
A down-vote does not an eradicated memory make. Violation is forever, not just until you can grab your phone to hit a thumbs-down button. Violation is forever, especially if you don’t make it out alive.
Violation is forever.
You are a young woman living in Australia in the 21st century and tomorrow, you might be dead.
In memory of Aiia Maasarwe, an Israeli exchange student raped and murdered near a tram stop in Melbourne, Australia on the 16th of January, 2019
Crisis hotlines in Australia: https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/find-help/domestic-violence-hotlines/
Read a Twitter thread about similar incidents of violence in Australia: https://twitter.com/karenlsweeney/status/1085852406074597376
Download a PDF about women’s safety in public places in Australia: https://www.plan.org.au/~/media/plan/documents/resources/a-right-to-the-night.pdf