Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Different Worlds

Men and women live in different worlds.  I'm not referring to that Mars/Venus thing, that's bullshit.  We are all on the same planet, we're just not entirely in the same world.  I'll let Louis CK explain.

See that was funny but also sad, because it's true.  I'm sorry to say it took me way longer to catch on to that than it should have.  I remember what finally opened my eyes.  I forget who said it but I read that what men fear most from the opposite sex is getting laughed at, while what women fear from the opposite sex is getting raped or killed.  I read that and it hit me like a lightning bolt.  I don't live in the same world women live in.  I can walk down the same street as a woman but our experience of it can be so different we may as well be in two different places.  I'm a big, scary looking guy so when I walk down the street people leave me alone.  No matter where I go or what time I go there, at most I might worry about getting my wallet stolen.  I never have to worry about getting raped* or cornered by someone who won't stop hassling me and I most certainly never have to worry about total strangers throwing lewd comments my way.  No woman has that luxury.  We can share the same space and time but we do not share the same experience.

I'm a guy, so I live a privileged life.  I'm privileged because I never even have to think about any of that stuff.  My life is just easier than hers by default when it comes to this.  To me, a guy hitting on me on the bus is a funny story I can blog about.  For a woman, being stuck in a crowded metal tube with a guy that won't take a hint can be anything but funny.

So now what?  What do I do after coming to this realization?  Well, truth be told I don't have it all figured out just yet.  I do think reminding myself of this reality is necessary so I don't unthinkingly belittle those who experience this world differently from me.  I try to be more considerate of their experience.  I try to just be more considerate in general.

For instance, this week I was walking to the store as I usually do.  My route takes me along this big vacant lot.  It's a quiet little side street bordered by this overgrown field with nothing in it but long grass and two horses and it stretches for almost an entire block.  Anyway on this occasion I noticed there was a teenage girl a couple of meters ahead of me.  Didn't pay her any mind, I was listening to my iPod and planning my purchases for dinner, but I did realize after a few minutes that she kept glancing over her shoulder and walking as fast as she possibly could.  Now I could have just rolled my eyes and called her silly for acting that way because I'm a nice guy and I wasn't going to do anything to her and how dare she treat me like a potential rapist?  But I didn't do any of that.  This is South Africa, really terrible things happen to young girls in vacant lots all the time.  She had every right to be wary of me.  So I slowed my pace, crossed the street and hoped that would make her feel a little bit safer.  I don't know if it did.  I don't know if it was the best course of action.  All I know is that it was certainly better than doing nothing and it really cost me nothing at all.

I know I can't change the world.  I know I can't undo an epidemic of violence against women as old as our species.  But I have to do something.  I have to try.  Even if I don't know exactly what to do yet, at least I can try to be more accommodating and compassionate.  Anything, no matter how small must be better than living blinded by privilege and doing nothing at all.


*Yes, I know men get raped too.  Not denying that.  I'm just saying that getting raped is quite literally the furthest thing from my mind if I walk into a dark parking structure.

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