Women, part 4
*This is part 4 in the series about women. This part is to let the reader know about a recent post I saw on the internet and how it made me feel. Also, I would like men to know how not to limit the lives of women, but instead how to improve them. Hopefully this piece can help with that.
A few days ago I saw a post asking women what they would do if there were no men on earth for 24 hours. I’ll tell you, I know I am an emotional being, but the responses made me very sad. Why? Because I have lived a big part of my life very naively. Still do sometimes. So at certain moments it is a shock for me that the lives of many people are less perfect than they seem. Or especially than I wished them to be. In this case, the lives of women. Living lifes in which they are still often limited by men or in which men create problems or build obstacles.
There were also men responding to this post. Men who tried to back-up what the women said and supported them. But also men that got offensive. Saying that they weren’t the problem, or stating the good things men brought to life. But to be frank, I think this last group of men is missing the point. Of course men do great things and not every individual man creates problems for women. Very often the opposite. But what should be noticed in this post is not which men aren’t the problem, but that many women encounter problems in life because they are women. And because men create them. As someone living in this world, of which half the world’s population is female, you should try to improve the situation for women as long as it isn’t perfect. And this also means as a man. Especially when some problems can be greatly reduced if men just behaved properly. And for this, often little change is already enough. By not perfect, which is always, I mean for women by the way. So if you think the situation is already pretty good, or you think you aren’t the problem as a man, still, don’t leave it with that. At least inform yourself on the problems women encounter on the basis of sex. Everyday I am getting more interested in resolving the problems that women have to endure. Even if it is only in my own environment. Wherever I can, I’ll do my part and try to improve myself. Hopefully this part helps a little bit to improve the situation for women. In this case letting them feel the support from a man.
I want to focus on some of the responses that were given to the question What would you do if there were no men on earth for 24 hours? And say how it makes me feel.
1. “Go on night walks.”
This was by far the most mentioned response. This comment was also the one that made me sad right away, because it is such a normal and simple activity. But the problem can be seen in that phrasing. It is such a normal and simple activity for men. Every reason why it shouldn’t be for women is wrong and has to be challenged. It was also the one that made me message many of my female friends with the question if they feel comfortable and safe when walking alone over the street at night. Sadly, many of them don’t. And these are ladies from different cities/villages in the world. So it isn’t decided purely on where you live. But one of my Brazilian friends doesn’t even feel comfortable to walk outside during the day. “Women [here] are constantly judged by what they wear and their bodies are used as public property. Which leads to a lot of harrassments and rapes.”
The few times I am lost and I find myself wandering the streets at night (read: The few times I go out) I notice what I do when a girl/woman and I approach each other in an alley. I smile at her when we are still 10 meters away from each other. I step aside and hold my walk (even though there is more than enough room to pass each other walking). Then I say ‘good night’ and when she has passed me, I continue my walk. All with the idea to make her feel comfortable. But at the same time realizing that someone who wants to attack or abuse her probably does the same actions first.
An American friend of mine carries a stabbing weapon with her to feel safer in the subway of New York if she goes home late at night. She also has taken self defence classes. She also says when she walks with a man on her side, nothing happens. But I think we can agree that this all is the wrong kind of safety. A few years ago, after a wave of rapes in the Netherlands, there was a discussion in Dutch politics if women should be able to carry pepper spray with them, to defend them selves against these rapes happening or other attacks or abuses against women. I was against this. Why? Not because I want women to be raped or attacked or abused, but because I want to live in a world where you feel safe not because you can fight, carry a weapon or carry pepper spray. Or because you walk with a man on your side. But because you know that nobody is going to harm you! A feeling of safety, not because you can protect yourself or someone else can, but because the outside world is just not dangerous. Of course, that feels like a Utopia, but in my view we can achieve or at least come closer to this Utopia with education and teaching men how to behave, than with weapons and fighting.
So what can men do to comfort the women walking alone on the street? And of course, then I’m talking about the guys that don’t do anyting wrong. The ones who don’t bother the lady in any way whatsoever. The guys that do, should now know what they shouldn’t do.
Well, taking specific actions to comfort a woman in the moments that you see one walking on the street (alone at night) are difficult. Why? Because the fear with most women comes from the realization what men can do in general to women. The fear just emerges at that specific moment, because most men are physically stronger than women, and the woman is alone. So they are (even) more vulnerable at that moment. But a suggestion from one of my Brazilian friends is to cross the street when you see a woman on the same sidewalk coming towards you. As someone that (in your opinion) doesn’t do anything wrong (read: you), it seems onlogical that you should be the one who needs to do something more to comfort women. But again, it isn’t about the men who aren’t the problem. It is about comforting women in any way we can.
2. “Wear whatever I want and feel safe while doing so.”
This one always comes back (to hunt women). The sexualisation of women is a problem. I don’t think we have to make that clear. We look at women (parts) for too long of a time (called staring). This is often intensified by what a woman wears. But it’s also unrespectful. Teach your environment that they shouldn’t be doing this. I often see many beautiful women in a day, but I don’t look at them longer than necessary. I let my eyes fall upon them for a second of 2/3 when I pass them on the street and then walk on. But even more important. I don’t sexualise these women. I don’t care about the sexual part of their beauty. What I care about is that I saw a beautiful woman for 3 seconds and I enjoyed these seconds as seeing a beautiful painting or listening to nice music. And maybe I am lucky and I see another beautiful lady one minute later, maybe two ladies! But that’s it. I go back to the order of the day quickly.
Sexualise… I try to not do it, but I probably not always succeed in that. And the system also not. Because it also has to do with biology. I am a teacher at high school. Although girls can wear to a great extent whatever they want, some schools for instance prohibit wearing belly shirts. This because it would distract the boys (or girls) of the age when hormones are pumping through the body. And I can’t say I am against this, also because behaviour resulting from hormones is something biological and is difficult to change. And you want kids to concentrate and be with their mind at the class. Not at the belly of their peers or even further… Still, I think that, as with all world problems, education plays a big role in resolving them. In this class for instance, the wearing of belly shirts can be discussed and why certain clothing worn by women isn’t a reason for any man to behave improperly. Not in class, not in the society, not anywhere.
3. “A massive picnic with my girls at night and sleep under the stars.”
The first thing I think of when I read this is: who needs a man to be romantic? Right?! Apparently not the lady that responded with this. Also, I would be slightly jaelous. I have to say that I’m often a bit jealous of the friendship girls can have with each other. But I would love to be present at this picnic! Even stronger, I could say this! I personally believe it should be possible to do this without men having to leave the earth in a spaceship or another way for 24 hours though. But I guess we (as men) could invite some female friends to act on this idea. Have a picnic with the girls and sleep under the stars! And feel comfortable while doing so! You can also organise the picnic and put up some tents and leave the girls be! But I guess if you do that, leaving the earth for 24 hours is not even necessary anymore for them.
4. “Live how I want to live”
Ouchh… Back to my naive world view, this hurts. Girls/women can’t live how they want to live? I mean, we all have to live together, so yes, sometimes you can’t do things you would like to do in order for everyone to live a reasonable life. But in general?! An American friend of mine responded to my question that being a woman in a men’s world does suck. I have the feeling I can live how I want to live. And if not I am limited by myself, not by someone else. Not by the other gender. Live how I want to live can have a very broad meaning. It can be very specific, or not specific at all. I don’t blame you if you don’t know how girls/women are limited in the way they want to live. I don’t blame you if you cannot personally create the life for them they want to have. But what you can always do is try to be a positive influence in someone’s life. So let’s start with that. Let’s make a deal: message/ask one or some of your female contacts and/or friends and ask them how they want to live their life. Listen to them. Let them feel you’re open for trying to improve their life. They are maybe surprised by your message/question, but I think we are one step closer for women to say that men leaving the earth for 24 hours is maybe more negative than positive.
So in conclusion: get to know how different women want to live their life. Organise a picnic and describe why you think stars are beautiful before falling asleep under them! Don’t sexualise women by what they wear and don’t stare. Teach your environment how they should behave around women if they don’t seem to get it.
Of course the question can be asked to men as well: What would you do if there were no women on earth for 24 hours? Well, women are also not perfect and some can improve the lives of men as well more than they do. But what would I do if there were no women on earth for 24 hours? Probably wonder how we are going to get through the day…
*It could be that this article is updated from time to time.
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