I’m an anthropologist by training and by nature. What I do on an academic level is go and take a walk in someone else’s world as best I can, and then come back and try to communicate what that world is like, or help the people from that world communicate to my world what theirs is like. But, what I don’t know how to do is invite you, the other, readers of these words, to come take a walk in my world. I wrote this thinking about cis-man friends of mine, thinking about those people who have the ability to not have to see, and how often they simply aren’t there to see. After all, if a woman is with a man, she’s clearly not public property, so some of the crap just doesn’t happen with other men around.
So, how do I invite you to understand what it is to walk through a different world than the one you see? How do I explain when I’ve heard the same damn comment about the unusual size of my chest for the fifteenth time that I’m sick of it, and not only that I’m sick of hearing it, I’m sick of people, even people I care about feeling that they have a right to talk about it.
How do I make you understand that the joke about giving myself a black eye, or smuggling melons, is insulting, that’s it’s old, yet I still have to either grin and take it or risk insulting you by being sick of it? How has me wanting you to not talk about my body somehow become me apologizing to you? How do I explain how the feeling of people only seeing my breasts helped to lead me to have surgery to have them reduced?
I walk in a world where somehow it’s my job to explain to you why it’s not okay, and if I don’t do it in a way that seems nice to everyone around – it’s my fault because my tone was wrong or too harsh. I walk in a world where, even though I’m tired of explaining, and have been for years, I still feel obligated to educate. I walk in a world where I have to.
How do I explain to you that although I am strong for a woman, I am better trained than many and I’m fairly confident, that I still know that many men could probably take me? And how do I explain to you the effect that has to have on my behavior? How do I tell you the number of people who look at me oddly for talking night walks, or who wonder if it’s really safe for a nice girl to be out by myself.
How do I tell you that even though I don’t want that conditioning to affect my life, if I don’t let it, and something happens then it’s my fault. I didn’t follow the (totally contradictory) rules. How do I explain to you that I can’t just trust that someone is a “nice guy”.
I walk through a world where I’m supposed to take “nice ass” from a stranger as a compliment, where I have to dodge a couple of teenagers trying to cop a feel getting off metro. I walk in a world where virtually every woman I know, myself included, just brushes that stuff off as part of walking through life as a woman. I walk in a world where it’s been hard to figure out this list, because constant awareness, brushing off the comments and knowing where I am is so ingrained.
I walk in a world where people I know say “I don’t know anyone who was raped.” when I know it’s not true. She just didn’t want to tell you because the questions you might ask, all well-meaning, start to be about how she could have avoided it. I walk in a world where I’ve been trained how to avoid rape, date rape, stranger rape, and I know that if I don’t follow that advice – if something happens someone will ask me why I didn’t follow the advice. I walk in a world where I’m the one expected to stop rape.
How do I explain that you’ve got privilege – you don’t have to walk in my world – moreover you don’t even have to see it? How do I show you that in my world there isn’t, there can’t, be a neutral space on this? How do I take that knowledge and still ask you to come with me for a walk in my world?
Muse dislikes talking about herself.