Women have an underlying anxiety about safety that most men will never realize or understand. If you're a woman of color, queer, or trans that underlying anxiety is doubled, tripled, or quadrupled.
The responsibility is on us not to slip up. We always have to be aware of our surroundings. We always have to be on guard.
For the last several months, I've been going for a walk early in the morning. Currently, there is a massive construction site across the street from my residence. That means I have to walk by a large group of construction workers every day. Some of them hang out in their cars in the morning and some congregate outside of them.
Luckily, this is Maui and not New York. These guys are locals. They are humble and pay no attention to me or any of the many other walkers and runners passing by. For the most part they just eat their breakfast and talk story until it's time to walk across the street and start their day.
Nevertheless, it's still nerve-wrecking walking past them...you never know. Maybe it's because I also have social anxiety but I don't like being around large groups of people. But maybe it's just because I'm a woman by myself crossing a huge group of men. A crowd can turn into a mob real quick. All it takes is one guy who's having a bad day. I'd be helpless.
Because of this feeling, I usually time my walks so that I don't come back home until I know they will all be gone. I walk down to the beach and do laps until my legs get tired then I sit on a tree branch and watch the waves until I finish listening to a podcast.
On this particular morning, my routine was thwarted. Someone had decimated the area around the tree branch I usually sit. It looked like there was a giant pile of shit on the ground underneath the branch as well as many shit covered wipes spread all around. God I hate humans. WTF happened here?!
I looked at the time and knew that it was too early to head back but I decided "fuck it," it's just one day, and started walking back. There is no sidewalk back to my building until you reach the edge of my property. So, I'm walking in the street passing all of these guys. I walk past the biggest group without incident.
At the point where the sidewalk starts, I usually get on. I don't this time because there is a guy sitting there on the curb looking at his phone. His truck is parked next to him on the curb. My "being female anxiety" kicks in and starts evaluating which way is the safest route.
I decide to stay in the street rather than get on the sidewalk and walk behind him. I don't want to be in his reaching distance - just in case, even though I can see that he is clearly sucked into his phone. My anxiety tells me, maybe he just wants me to think that he's not paying attention to me.
I'm still walking in the street, I have my ear phones in listening to Metallica, and I'm passing alongside this guy's truck when I hear the sound of screeching tires right behind me. I hear the guy sitting on the sidewalk let out a yelp. I whip my head around and see a construction worker in a vehicle laughing.
He had pulled up fast behind the parked truck and slammed on his brakes to make his tires screech to scare the guy sitting on the curb. He did. I was just collateral damage. He sacred the living shit out of me. That was bad enough. But to see that guy laughing about it added a level of cruelty to the incident and I started to cry and couldn't stop.
That grown ass man was just pulling an immature prank but it shook me.
It makes me think of Professor Christine Blasey Ford when she was recounting before Congress her story of nearly being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The thing she remembers the most is the laughter. Justice Kavanaugh and his friend, that was in the room just standing by while Brett was terrorizing her, were laughing.
Anyone that's ever been bullied knows that feeling of humiliation that comes with being laughed at. It compounds the trauma of the incident.
I'm not comparing our incidents. I'm comparing the cruelty. I'm highlighting our inherent fragility that results in us being treated as inferior. I'm calling out our society for valuing strength, power, and male dominance. The inherent power that men yield over women.
Women are already vulnerable. When men deliberately wield that strength or abuse that power over us, it breaks something in us. Our sense of safety. Our dignity. Our self-worth. Any sense of power disintegrates.
Within a split second of hearing the tires screeching, the automatic first thoughts I had were - Oh shit did I do this? Is it my fault? Should I have walked on the sidewalk? This is female social conditioning. Only after those socially conditioned thoughts did I wonder - Am I about to die? Am I going to get hit by a car?
This ads to my feelings of being upset. Fuck this. This needs to change. We need a new foundation.
The day before this incident, I was listening to Episode 4 of Glennon Doyle's new podcast We Can Do Hard Things, it was about having fun. Glennon is an author who struggles with anxiety and depression.
Over the recent holiday weekend, Glennon posted a video of her dancing and having fun on a boat. She was happy in that moment. She loved that version of herself and wanted to remember it.
Glennon's sister and business manager told her that after she posted that video to social media, it triggered the largest unfollowing of fans in a single day.
In Glennon's book Untamed, she says that it's easier for the world to love a suffering woman than for the world to love a joyful confident woman.
Yeah. Just look at your social media feed. Which posts get more attention?
During the podcast Glennon said, "The truth is that the happier, the more joyful, the more successful, and bold a man is - the more the world likes and trusts him. And when it's a woman, the less the world likes or trusts her. When we see that it irks us. So many people say, 'it's just something about her I can't put my finger on it.' I can put my finger on it. It's internalized misogyny."
Yeah. Name any woman.
Women downplay doing well. They justify it or find an excuse for it. They overcompensate in the world to make up for doing well. Yes, I'm successful but I give all my money away to charity. What man has ever done this? He's expected to do well. It's normal and ok. He should keep all his money for himself. He deserves it.
Glennon says women need to start a movement where we start showing ourselves more in those strong, successful, and joyful moments. Make the world stop requiring our suffering, sadness, and meekness.
Then her sister blurted out, "Yes! Normalize joy!"
I wrote that down. Yes. Normalize joy. That's important. That was my plan as I headed out that morning.
Teal Swan is an artist that paints frequencies. Every emotion emits a frequency. I have a t-shirt with the frequency of joy. I put it on that morning intending to blast everyone I encountered on my walk with joy...and see what happened - I came home in tears. The universe was reminding me to stay in my lane.
To add insult to injury, later I was driving and my check gauges light bonged. I had only driven maybe a mile and a half but my temperature gauge was all the way in the red. My car was overheating. I started to panic. I shut off my A/C.
Rather than pull over on the side of the road, I chose to drive another mile and a half to a public place. I wanted shade, access to water, and a bathroom. Safety.
By the time I got there, my car was billowing smoke out of the front end. I thought it was going to catch on fire. I called a tow truck. It took two hours to arrive. So it was a good thing that I sought shelter, water, and a bathroom. Safety. I needed all three.
After telling the mechanic what happened, he scolded me like a child for not having pulled over immediately. He ranted about all the things that could have happened to my car. So the fuck what?! It's a car! A 21 year old car at that. It's not worth compromising my health and safety over. Something that he would probably never have to take into consideration himself.
Men, for once, take into consideration that our life experience is very different than yours. Don't yell at us because we have to constantly protect ourselves from your male brethren.
Let women be great. Let women be safe. Let women be women.
Women conform to the way men operate in the world, and in the workplace, just to get a fraction of the success a man gets and then the world hates her for it.
We don't even want to be like you. Let us be us. Help us.