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25 'Hidden' Things Women Do to Feel Safer Around Men

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

As I’m getting older, I am making an effort to be more mindful of my actions and words. One of the most glaring things I noticed is my subconscious, yet very intentional effort, to avoid unwanted male attention or ensure safety around men in general.

• What is PTSD?

Personally, getting cat-called… why is it called that? Let me rephrase: getting unsolicited attention, verbally or otherwise, from straight men is not a compliment; my brain is wired to receive this as a threat or danger. I stiffen up, I forget to take a breath, and sometimes, I’m flat-out afraid. I’ve been this cautious as early as 7 years old, but why? What am I afraid of?

It occurred to me…

I am living in a world where women are prey.

I am living in a world that praises men with two faces.

I am living in a world with men who take away my choices.

I am living in a world where violence against women is a living, and accountabilities are easily forgiven.

So, it’s up to me. It’s all up to me. These are some of the things I do, and maybe you do, to feel safer around men.

At a Party or Club

1. Venture through a crowd with your friends, literally holding hands.

2. Locating a bathroom accompanied by at least one friend in an unfamiliar place.

3. “OK so, what’s our signal for when we don’t want to dance with or talk to a guy?”

4. Changing into your outfit closer to the venue if possible.

5. Watching a friend’s drink for her like a hawk.

6. Throwing out a drink because you set it down unattended for more than five seconds.

At Work 

1. Wearing clothes that are a size too big.

2. In a meeting, sitting on the same side of the table as a male colleague to limit their view of you.

3. Thinking of ways to build in the “My partner and I…” line into conversation.

4. Pretending like you didn’t pick up on an innuendo.

5. Avoiding a certain floor or area at all costs.

6. Nervous laughter.

Going out in Public for Any Reason at All

1. Wearing an adequately lined sports bra to the gym.

2. Slowing down your stride on the street or on the stairs to minimize boobs bouncing, or placing your hand over your chest if you’re really running late.

3. Avoiding all eye contact by wearing the darkest shades possible.

4. Lowering your line of sight when passing by a group of men working on a construction site, sitting on the stoop, having beers on a patio, etc.

5. Swinging your bag over your butt when you’re walking in front of a man or men.

6. Making a trip to the bathroom mid-date to call your friend (who is on standby) and let her know you’re OK.

7. Wearing no makeup.

8. Changing the topic of conversation.

9. Carrying a concealable weapon (mace, small knife, scissors, etc.)

10. Wearing hoodies or headscarves.

11. “I am just calling because I have to walk home alone and need someone with me.”

12. Lowering the volume of your headphones when you’re out late at night or taking them off altogether.

13. “Text me as soon as you get home.” “You too.”

Isn’t it ridiculous that a list like this exists? We’ve screamed, we’ve marched and we’ve died a thousand times. And what’s more unfair: this is just the tip of the iceberg. Women have been creating these tools for survival long before our generation and they will continue when we’re gone.

Until brothers, fathers, husbands and boyfriends acknowledge and change ingrained behaviors, we are forced to continue to find new ways of quietly surviving.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Originally published: September 17, 2019
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