The following essay which touches on issues of inter-personal violence and its roots in sexism and racism was wrote by one of our long time volunteers. We thought it would be a great introduction to October as domestic violence awareness month.
I want to bring your attention to a particular point of contention:
Why can’t I ride my bike alone?
Am I of sound mind?
Am I of reasonable judgment?
Am I old enough?
Am I female?
I guess that last part negates the rest.
Because I can’t have a sound mind, decent judgment, be old enough, make the choice to ride alone, AND be a woman. To embody all those things means “I should know better…”
The lessons that teach us that to live is to be safe, to be cautious; that we require protection— “Funny, every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from.”
(Could it be from themselves, Mae West?)
Why do boys learn that women should be protected if later we’re going to provide them with a culture that alternately informs them women are worth inherently less than they are? As Andrea Dworkin says, “You don’t have to search for issues. The issues are part of the fabric of your everyday lives.”
Because when I envision a world where I can ride my bike alone, in which I don’t have to be afraid of violence and malevolence from faceless, nameless men, it isn’t one in which feminism is achieved by our sheer force of will, our frustration with the seemingly endless little slights that chip away at us over a lifetime. It isn’t one that can be achieved alone.
It’s one that’s built from the ground up. From addressing those slights and frustrations with humor and patience. From teaching, and listening. But not with our silence.
Because our silence doesn’t keep us safe. And maybe if I ride my bike with other people instead of by myself, I’ll be safe. But maybe not. Because there are a thousand other little things to fear. And I get so tired of always having to be afraid.
I’d love to live in a world where my son approaches me and asks “What is it like to live in this world as a woman?” But I’m cynical enough to believe he won’t ask without help. His power gives him the ability to never have to know. But our power lies in transformation, in creating spaces where we can demand change by creating it ourselves.
(NOW, not later.)
We have voices that NEED to be heard. We have experiences that legitimize that need. And still we lack the essential experiences—we still don’t know what it’s like to be free from the fear.
We need to recognize that we all have differences of opinion and experience, but that everyone has a basic right to equality, or perhaps more importantly, that everyone is worthy of equality.
So let’s engage in some civil disobedience. Let’s protect ourselves, but let’s teach our daughters that protection isn’t enough—that we have to pass along our worth to boys too. Because someday, I want to be able to tell my daughter, “Go, ride alone. Have fun.”
(and sooner rather than later.)
Author Sam Edwards has been a hotline advocate volunteer with FVPC for 2.5 years. She is a senior with a double major in Sociology/Communication Studies. She hopes to pursue a degree in counseling after graduation.