Traveling as a Woman: Safety, Freedom, and Normalized Sexism (MEN: THIS IS IMPORTANT!)

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Traveling should be a way to feel free in the world, but women often have to go out of their way to stay safe, which impedes the freedom all people deserve. We have a lot of issues, as laid out by our circus of an election in the US, but the thing that raises my ire more than anything is the bigotry and inequality based on nothing but gender, race, or orientation. Yesterday a good friend of mine posted a blog that totally wrecked me and got me thinking about mens’ role in the current state of women’s safety and equal rights. She described several instances where she was traveling (or even in her own city) and was harassed by men who felt entitled to make sexual advances toward her. I’ll let her do the talking.

Below is an excerpt from the blog of Mary Scholz, a great friend and one of the most kind and generous people I have ever met. (She’s also an incredible singer and musician. Definitely check out her work!) I am linking the entire post because you should read the whole thing. She lays out the mindset of traveling women in a way that struck me like nothing has before.

From the blog:

“I tell him he’s being inappropriate and to leave me alone.

He demands my phone number. He’s furious that I refuse to give it to him. He wants to buy me a drink, why won’t I let him buy me a drink?

People continue to bustle on by. I can’t feel the sunshine anymore.

What I do feel is small and trapped; and stupid, because I’m still sitting there. But I don’t really know what this person will do if I move. Or what the role of the second, silent kid will be. And I don’t know this town.”

Please go here and read the entire post.

It saddens me beyond words that someone I know to have a warm, open, and happy disposition could be so quickly transformed to someone frightened and withdrawn simply because of the entitled whims of terrible men. I have the desire to apologize for those men, but they aren’t worthy of being apologized for. They need to be chastised, humiliated, and/or arrested for their blatant abuse of women. They also need to be taught what they are doing is wrong and unacceptable. With the recent election and Donald Trump endorsing and normalizing sexual abuse, blatant sexism and bigotry, and general hatred, it seems like we are taking steps backward at times.The silver lining in my eyes is that people like Mary are compelled to share their experiences with men who lord their assumed superiority over them. If everyone’s mothers, sisters, wives, friends, and loved ones shared their terrible interactions with these loathsome men I feel like it would re-contextualize the whole thing for people who don’t believe it really happens. But it’s not simply women’s responsibility!

The villain in Mary’s story that struck me was the man in Ireland who sat idly by while his friend harangued and verbally assaulted her, a stranger on the street. This Everyman bystander is as bad, if not worse than the attacker himself. Those who sit by while these things happen give silent permission for the casual sexist/attacker to act out his assault without consequence. The silent Everyman is the one who needs to stand up, speak up against their friends, acquaintances, and strangers in the street who feel it is their right to push their sexual desires on unsuspecting women. Forget assault; try simple respect. The respect you would and should give any stranger. If you see this happening, raise your voice! Make it heard, and make it loud. Be sure that people on the street hear you and draw attention to it. People are unwilling to make the first move for anything, but this is important! Raise your ire and be sure that man will think twice before he gets the idea that it’s cool, okay, or even welcomed for him to launch into his repressed tirade on women on the street. If enough of us men follow this example, we can make it the norm, and we can make it better. Be better.

This is by no means a comprehensive solution to this problem. We have a lot of work to do and it goes well beyond these men in the street. It goes to the overall mindset of the country and the way children are raised to believe their gender or race gives them some kind of power over others. This institutional bigotry needs to be reset from the ground up and from the top down. We have to lead by example.

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I have some pretty photos and time lapses in my video for today from South Vineland Park. I end it with basically the same information I expounded on above. See it below.

Here’s where to find South Vineland Park:

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