Don't Tell Me What To Do

I'll be the first to admit I have a bit of a problem with taking orders from people but only when those orders don't make any sense to me. Which is why it bugs me more than a little when I see article after article telling me how I should adapt my behaviour/ lifestyle/ personality/ appearance in order to fit in/get thin/find a boyfriend or the current favourite, not get raped.

Maybe I like being different. Maybe I'm comfortable with my current body weight. Maybe I'm happier single. And maybe, just maybe, being subjected to a sexual assault (or any crime for that matter) has a lot less to do with the victim and a whole lot more to do with the person that chose to commit that crime in the first place.

So shouldn't all these warnings be aimed at them and not their potential victims? Why should I feel like it's my responsibility every time I walk out my front door to somehow make myself less desirable to a would-be attacker? How many of us have had well-meaning friends and family wag their fingers at us and say things like "I wouldn't wear that if I were you" or my personal favourite "Are you sure it's safe to *insert activity here* alone?"

No, sadly I can't guarantee that if I get a taxi alone, go on holiday alone or do pretty much anything outside of these four walls by myself, no harm will come to me, but am I supposed to let that stop me from doing all the things that I need/want to do? Am I meant to live the rest of my life in fear of what may or not happen?

Then there's the conflicting advice: Walk tall and confident to scare them off but not enough to attract any unwanted attention, and of course have your phone in your hand, ready to dial, although now come to think of it that might tempt muggers so maybe have it within easy reach but you know, not visible to the naked eye.

When it comes to clothing, who decides how short is too short? What is knee-length on a friend could be ass-grazing for me as I'm tall and kind of leggy. Should I carry a measuring tape with me at all times to ensure I don't go beyond someone else's perceived limits of decency? Exactly when is a skirt acceptable to wear? The whole thing is so ridiculous it makes my head hurt.

"Don't go anywhere alone at night", is drilled into our heads from an early age but I wonder if the same could be said for boys. And I wonder still if we replaced that message with something altogether more rational-sounding, such as "Always be aware of your surroundings", what effect would it have on our streets, workplaces, classrooms, and on society in general?

Earlier this year, comedian Sarah Silverman sparked controversy when she retweeted a list of tongue-in-cheek "Rape Prevention Tips", originally posted online by Leigh Hofheimer of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The list was clearly intended to highlight society's tendency to blame the victim in the case of sexual assault.

So tell me, are we teaching men to be fearless and women to be fearful and, if so, why? If I am ever lucky enough to have a daughter, I want to instil in her the belief that she can do anything and is in no way restricted by her lack of a Y chromosome nor in any way weakened by it. Being a woman is not a handicap, so why do some insist on acting like it is?

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