There’s a state inhabited by all women and not a few men. It’s called the State of Fear.
Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will, said that rape is “nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”
Women have internalized the state of fear to the point that most of us don’t even consciously realize we live there. Occasionally, when we travel, we do realize it: Gloria Steinem reported that when she visited Japan she couldn’t understand why she felt so safe there. Then it hit her: she was taller than almost all the men.
In my own case I realized it when discussing with a male friend how much I enjoyed visiting England in the summer because of the long daylight. “What long daylight?” he asked, frowning.
“It’s light until 11 o’clock on summer nights, and even later than that in Scotland,” I told him. “As soon as I realized that, I was never in my hotel room. Every night I went out, either to the theatre or somewhere else. Because of the long daylight I felt safe enough to wander around the West End by myself. At home I would never dream of going out alone after dark, especially on foot.”
My colleague hadn’t noticed the long daylight because at six feet-two, weighing 250 pounds, he didn’t need to. He always felt safe.
Despite the fact that women work the same hours that men do, despite the fact that women pay taxes at the same rate men do, despite the fact some women even serve in the military or volunteer their time at hospitals, Girl Scout troops, or other organizations, women do not have full citizenship. Women don’t have the same right to be in public spaces. If women somehow momentarily overlook this fact, they are often forcibly reminded of it.
Years ago in New York there was the tragic case of the Central Park jogger. Trisha Meili, an investment banker, had worked a long day but still wanted to get her exercise in. Think about this: to get ahead in her career, she and all the other investment bankers were expected to put in 14-hour days. However, because all women are expected to be attractive to all men at all times, she couldn’t afford to put on weight from long hours of sitting in her office chair, so she had to exercise. So she went jogging at the only time of day left to her to do so, the couple of hours she had free before bedtime.
We all remember what happened after that. She was raped and beaten so badly she almost died. She did lose an eye; she is partly paralyzed on one side of her body.
Twenty-year-old Mollie Tibbetts of Iowa went missing for a month before her murdered body was found in a cornfield. Two months later 22-year-old Celia Barquin Arozamena, a champion golfer from Iowa State University was discovered assaulted and murdered on a golf course.
On September 18, 2018, a 35-year-old woman named Wendy Martinez, who had just become engaged to be married, was stabbed to death while she was out jogging in Washington, DC, after work.
The systems of government, education, business, and society are set up on the premise that women are lesser beings, beings so inferior that they must be controlled by fear. Women are not viewed as human beings with full dignity and rights. Women already have lost the right to move about freely in parks, streets, and other public spaces; soon we will lose the right to control our own bodies. Blogger wordsinthewind said:
My generation of women was the first to live lives not dictated by fertility. I believe the increase of violence against women can be attributed to some men’s realization that the world has changed and they will never have this control over women again. Why else would Republicans fantasize publicly about rape without birth control so often?
But there is a solution: women are 50.8 percent of the U.S. population. Although women are vastly underrepresented in government and law, that is changing. More women are running for election than ever before and winning public office: this situation will continue.
One day women’s representation in government, law, and other spheres of influence will equal the percentage of women in the population. And on that day, women will finally begin to achieve justice, equality, and opportunity.