In Dua Lipa’s hit single “Boys Will Be Boys,” she highlights the prevalent gender-based issue in our society—the normalization of women to be constantly in fear of a male’s harassment and assault forces them to mature and learn how to protect themselves at a young age—with the lyrics: “It’s second nature to walk home before the sun goes down/And put your keys between your knuckles when there’s boys around/Isn’t it funny how we laugh it off to hide our fear/When there’s nothing funny here? (Ah).” We teach our young girls how to prevent themselves from sexual harassment as early as elementary school through dress codes or not allowing them to wear nail polish and makeup out of the house. As these girls get older, we teach them to carry pepper spray, call a friend while walking at night and hold their keys as a weapon to avoid any confrontation from men, physical harassment or endure catcalling. Women feeling unsafe by simply walking alone at night emphasizes the need for change and the magnitude of gender-based violence.
In order to combat this issue, rather than teaching our daughters how to protect themselves in these dangerous situations, we need to educate our sons how to treat women with respect, ask for consent, listen to sexual violence survivors, and ways to speak up against the challenges that women face everyday. Thus, the slogan “Protect your Daughter Educate your son” was created.
“Protect your Daughter Educate your son” reframes the responsibility for violence and sexual aggression where it rightfully belongs: on the perpetrator rather than the victim. It calls for action to resolving sexual violence by focusing on the root of sexual harassment, instead of a temporary fix to a multi-faceted issue. Forcing girls and women to hide and prohibit them to be their most authentic selves not only does nothing to resolve the issue, but this type of advice also makes the stigma of female sexuality and autonomy even more entrenched in society. We need to refocus our attention on educating boys and holding them accountable for their dangerous actions.
While the conversation transitions from prevention to education, there are safety measures that women may participate in to alleviate their fear and discomfort as some men continue not to be held accountable for their violent actions. Women can download safety apps such as Life 360, Circle of 6, and bSafe with safety features like GPS monitoring and sending present messages to chosen contacts. Women may also take Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Krav Maga classes to learn how to defend themselves. Some important self-defense tactics include focusing on the attacker’s vulnerable areas—using force and aggression to aim for the eyes, groin, throat, and nose—in addition to using their voice to intimidate the attacker and create attention for anyone nearby to help. Lastly, self-defense tools like pepper spray or safety alarm keychains are great ways to end an attack without the use of physical force or violent action.
Hopefully, as the focus shifts to target the root cause of sexual violence—educating the predators—women will no longer need to rely on these precautionary safety measures to feel safe for simply existing. Until then, women must, unfortunately, continue to take these extra efforts to protect themselves from potential dangers.