I recently started working for an environmental non-profit as a canvasser. This means we go around to different residential neighborhoods and knock on tons of doors each night to raise money and get petition signatures.
And for all the people who are incredibly enthused to help out our cause, there are just as many people who instead of telling me “No” or “I would love to, but“, they instead offer me advice. The first house I went to last to last night I was asked by two older women if I was alone. I told them that there were other canvassers in the surrounding blocks. They proceeded to tell me to be careful, and the underlying whispers of you might be raped hung heavy in the subtext of their words. Just as I was turning to leave to the women called me back and asked me, “If you had seen two men sitting in this house and they invited you in, would you still have come inside?”
I told them that I would use my best judgment based on my own comfort level of the situation. They told me again to be careful. These weren’t the only comments I received on my safety that evening.
While I understand that these individuals were thinking of my safety, it was all women who lectured me about caution. This is the product or rape culture: women telling other women not to get raped. By this logic it’s all the victim’s fault for walking alone and having the audacity to have a job that requires walking alone. Women are constantly told to be dependent. When we’re not dependent on men to protect us from other men, we’re dependent on female friends to walk in a group and uphold safety in numbers. Or we’re dependent on relatives to keep us sheltered from the harsh reality of the world where women walking alone risk sexual violence.
I once had a conversation with a close friend of mine where she too was concerned about me walking alone, especially after it gets dark. I told her that I don’t want rape culture to run my life. I’m not going to quit my job or limit my activities because I fear being attacked. And if I walk alone because I need to, hopefully I can show other women that it’s okay to be independent. If there’s one more woman walking alone and challenging the authority of rape culture then we’re one woman closer to a country where it’s the norm for both sexes to walk freely and not fear violence.
I understand that this is dependent on the neighborhood and that there are extenuating circumstances, but a fear or being raped should not keep either sex dependent. Men get raped as well and I do not mean to discount their experiences. Rape culture effects everyone: the victim and the attacker. Everyone should be free to come and go as he or she pleases without fearing sexual violence. Freedom of movement should be a natural right.