We have all heard countless quotes of feminist girl power, but it is hard to feel powerful when patriarchy reigns over the government, our healthcare, and sometimes even the sidewalk. When we think of patriarchy we often think of big business male stereotypes and certain government officials… cough cough Donald Trump. Though we often forget about the many ways in which patriarchy touches our everyday lives. It can be as small as an insensitive comment or as irritating as that guy speaking over you in class (yeah you know the one). Men are taught by society to feel entitled to success, opportunity, and even women. They never have to wonder if their gender was the reason they did not get that job promotion or were the last one picked for the dodgeball team. These are inquiries that women ponder constantly, in every facet of their life. Including their walks down the street for an evening snack.
Patriarchy rears its ugly head when you least expect it. Mine have been following me on excursions down the street for dinner… literally. I am constantly being followed by predatorial men that eye me up like a lion on a savanna, and hunt till I am able to retreat to safety, within the safe confines of shelter. It is one thing to be catcalled, stillan unpleasant experience, but the majority of the time ends in nothing. However, to be actively seen and sought out is terrifying. In one week, I was followed by three different men on totally different occasions. Shockingly one instance occurred during broad daylight. Going out alone late at night is never a good idea, but when does that cut off begin and end? I find it ceases to even exist anymore.
A few months ago I decided to take a walk to the park one morning while having a phone conversation with my Mom. It was the peak of morning foot traffic. I’m just across the street from the park when a man starts yelling at me asking me where my parents are. Of course, I ignored him and tried to cross the street, but he stood in my way. Frightened, I walk-ran back to my dorm building as quickly as possible. All the while this full grown man is trailing close behind, continuing to yell in my direction. He followed me all the way back to my dorm building and waited outside for a half-hour, before eventually moving on. In broad daylight, not one person thought to intervene or even ask if I needed help. Not one woman or even one man cared to get involved. Given that I am a woman I know that the likelihood of another woman getting involved is slim because that would mean putting themselves in danger as well. But what about the men I passed? I ask you do most men even live up to the criteria of the award that they have bestowed upon themselves for centuries? By “their definition” aren’t men supposed to be protective heroic, strong, and providing? The men I looked to for help, on the street that day, in a time of need proved none of those qualities.
Now I’m not demonizing all men. It would be ludicrous to blame an entire demographic for the misgivings of a few. That goes along with the type of men that seem to follow women. Often they look out of place and disheveled. One might even say homeless, but the majority of homeless people are harmless. It would be unfair to slap a warning label across the face of every homeless person in New York City.
Wealthy, white men are the forefront of patriarchy, but it is the men that prowl that round it out. Prowlers as I like to call them come in all builds and races. Intersectionality gives each one their own look, stories, and motivations. Regardless of their reasoning, their behavior is threatening, belligerent, and uncalled for. Whether they are following women due to mental illness, begging for sympathy, or harboring worse intentions they feel they have the right to seek something from women. Their actions are a form of microaggression that flies below the radar of what people consider to be such. But in reality, any form statement, action, or incident committed against a marginalized group during everyday life can be considered a microaggression.
Women’s safety is more important now than ever. We are a sisterhood, on the rise. Many uneducated men want to blame women for the problems they face like rejections or lack of job prospects when really this has more to do with themselves than their female counterparts. These men feel threatened, and seek vengeance for the role they believe women played in their undoing. Women must come together to protect one another. Be it walking in groups, giving out rape whistles, or intervening even when it seems scary. The HUMUTU Safesound Personal Alarm and pepper spray are useful tools to carry with you. In case you were wondering, yes pepper spray is legal in New York. While we are looking out for ourselves, we should keep an eye out for our male friends that need saving too. Gender inequality’s wounds will only heal with love.
So I ask you, as a member of the society in which we reside, assuming that we share the same society. Likely, given the fact that like you I am looking at these words on an electronic screen that 56% of the world population could not afford. What can we do better as women and men? How can we help each other as sisters and brothers of the world to teach others that women are not prey, they are people. And they deserve to take a late-night Ramen run without running home.