I know we all hate the word ‘weak,’ feminists maybe most of all, but the truth of the matter is this: I am 5’2″ and 110 lbs. I am physically vulnerable. Because of that I am someone who is at greater risk of abuse, I can be physically taken advantage of at any time, any place, by pretty much any person.
You may think that that is just paranoia but do you realize that 1 out of every 6 women in the United State has been a victim of attempted or completed rape?
That is not just a statistic to me.
In high school one of my friends was sexually abused by her half-brother.
In college I met a young woman who was raped and impregnated by her father at the age of 15.
After college one of my best friends was raped in the parking lot of a bar by two men she had just been introduced to by a friend.
Others of my friends have not been raped but have been sexually assaulted at work, at school, in public. My female friends and I live with the reality of rape and sexual assault every day of our lives. Often it doesn’t feel like an if but a when. When will it be my turn to suffer this injustice? It can feel inevitable.
I feel the reality of rape when I am alone in my apartment and a maintenance worker comes in to fix something.
I feel the reality of rape when I walk to my car while shopping and I hear, “Hey pretty lady” or some other less-classy cat call.
I feel the reality of rape when my girlfriend went to get another drink at the bar and a man I have never seen before or spoken to starts to grind up on me.
I have even felt the reality of rape on a date with someone I know. Even if I trust them, maybe even love them, the reality is that if for some reason they got the wrong idea and tried to overpower me, they could.
I took self-defense. I tell myself I would try to fight. But every rape scenario I have ever played out in my head has always ended with me getting raped.
I wish men understood that this is my reality. I wish they knew the thoughts that go through my head when I am approached by a man I don’t know.
“Smile, be polite but try not to sound flirty. Be firm but not threatening. Do nothing to harm their ego but don’t flatter them. Make sure they like you but don’t let them get the wrong idea. And if he won’t take no for an answer tell him I have a boyfriend. If he won’t respect me maybe he will respect ‘the other man’ ”
All this just to feel safe. To try and earn myself respect and fair treatment.
This is the reality of so many women. I know it’s hard to understand when it has not been your experience. I know that not all men are bad or dangerous. But I am simply too vulnerable not to take precautions.
My safety means more to me than someone else’s pride. And so I wish men wouldn’t be hurt by the fear they see in my eyes. That they wouldn’t take it personally when I walk by them on the street without making eye contact.
I wish they would respect my space and give me time to know them and trust them. I wish they would respond to direct answers (like no) and direct requests (like please leave me alone) without taking offense.
I wish they would be verbally clear about their intentions physically and ask me if I want the same things before proceeding. I wish they would do everything in their power to protect me from the reality of rape that I face every day.
Women are not valuable because they are beautiful or sexually appealing. But they are beautiful and we are all (both men and women) created to appreciate that beauty. The beauty and the desire we feel when looking at a beautiful woman points to a bigger picture of the beauty and intimacy we seek in the world and ultimately the Creator of it. When we make the outward appearance ultimate, we destroy ourselves. Women starve themselves to maintain the allure they once had or that they long to have. Men move from woman to woman searching for the allusive Aphrodite never finding true intimacy, satisfaction or joy.
Women are not valuable because they are kind or good. We are not more kind or good than men. We tend to have a different hierarchy of values We need a balance of compassion and honor, mercy and courage, unity and strength in order for our society to thrive. When women are valued because they are “good,” men are undervalued, demonized, or belittled, as are masculine traits. Feminine traits are not morally superior, and masculine traits should not be demoralized.
Women are not valuable because they are intelligent. Women are not more intelligent than men. Men are not more intelligent than women. This has not always been recognized. So I apologize to any men who have been offended or put off by me or other women as we try to boldly and loudly prove our worth through intelligence. I realize now that the “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude is not the kind of empowering I need. We need to stop one word short of that and just acknowledge that all of us have untapped potential and we need to work together to draw it out.
She is beautiful, she is good, she is smart. But a woman’s value lies in none of these, or in anything else but this: She is human. Flesh and blood. Seed of a man, born of a women, made in the image of God.
She is deserving of dignity, freedom, life and life to the full. Not because she’s earned it, but because that is what she was made to be.