Find me a grown woman–hell, find me a freaking sixteen-year-old girl–who doesn’t have phrases like “Watch your drink!” and “Don’t go out alone!” and “Be careful driving at night!” etched into a permanent corner of her brain. Go ahead. Find her. I’ll wait.
Fact is, self-preservation tactics (alternate translation: things women can do that limit their full participation in the public sphere in the name of “safety”) are drilled into women practically from the time they’re toddlers. Which is why I take exception to events like this one: Fort Worth and Arlington police chiefs are going to give a special lecture to women this morning in anticipation of the Super Bowl.
The two law enforcement officials are teaming up with Safe City Commission to warn women to be careful about going off with strangers. With Super Bowl XLV coming to North Texas next weekend, plenty of visitors are expected to descend on the area for various parties and other functions and officials want women to take extra precautions.
I guess the upcoming speaker series will also cover holding hands while crossing the street and just saying no to drugs. Here’s the thing: this shit is not nearly good enough for me any more.
I am not satisfied with law enforcement telling me to be careful. I know to be careful. Every woman in the world knows to be careful. WE ARE BEING CAREFUL EVERY TIME WE LEAVE OUR HOMES BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE DONE EVER SINCE CHILDHOOD. And you know what? We are still being raped and killed.
I do think things like “watch your drink” and “safety in numbers” are important pieces of advice. I do not think they should be the only pieces of advice given out only to women when it comes to public safety. Putting the onus on women to protect themselves does not get at the source of the violent acts committed against them, and while I don’t think this “Safe City” thing is victim-blaming, I think the attitude it takes leads people who are inclined to do so right down that path, by the hand.
Here is my challenge to law enforcement: what are you doing while we are being careful? Are you giving press conferences detailing the many and various ways the cops are determined to prosecute rapists and abusers to the fullest extent of the law? Are you educating officers on taking rape charges–every rape charge, every time, no matter who makes it–seriously? Are you out there in schools telling students about consent and “Yes Means Yes!”? Where are the meetings for men asking them to hold their friends accountable for their actions? How about a “Safe City Commission” meeting targeted at guys, so that they can recognize warning signs in their own friends’ behavior?
We’re being careful. But what’s everyone else doing?