If we continue with the logic Jenkins followed that I began to detail in this post, it must follow that, since women have no Common Sense, and cannot discern danger, then it is our obligation to avoid anything that might harm us. This too, is supposed to be news to women. Jenkins believes not only have we never been taught Common Sense, we have also never been told to Avoid Danger. This is the second of those nasty assumptions Jenkins has made in the process of writing his “Beware” column.
It is also the second of his assumptions that have been wrong. Avoiding Danger is a large part of the gender policing that women specifically face. Parents teach their little girls from the time that they are able to walk that they not to take risks. Conversely, taking risks is an integral part of boyhood. It is encouraged—adventure, risks, even injury—this is the way parents teach their boys. Little girls are put in dresses, not only to teach them that they are to look pretty, but because it is harder to play, be adventurous, and take risks in a dress. Do we encourage little girls to climb trees? No, we chastise them. Little boys are encouraged to explore the world, and are given the freedom to do so. Bands of little boys on bikes are given free reign over the entire neighborhood. Little girls are not afforded the same freedom. They might get kidnapped! So little girls are kept under close supervision—parents take the responsibility of Avoiding Danger for their little girls until they are taught just how dangerous the world is.
First little girls are taught of Stranger Danger. Kidnapping. Strange men with candy, trying to lure the white, curly-haired, dressed girls into those Scary White Vans. Those Scary White Vans are everywhere—in movies, commercials, stranger danger literature. You can’t kidnap a little girl without a white van.
Next, little girls are taught to fear adults that are close to them. Not related? Then no adult male is to be close to a girl child. Little girls watch their parents, and see the suspicious looks their teachers, bible school teachers, and family friends get when little girls offer a hug. Parents awkwardly give “the talk.” No, not the sex talk. The child molester talk. Don’t let anyone touch your pee-pee place! Appropriate anatomical terminology allowed. And never, EVER, tell the girl child why. Only that she must Avoid Danger.
As she reaches adolescence, she is finally taught to fear her peers. Boys only want one thing. Avoid danger, avoid being alone with a boy. Don’t let a boy touch you. Don’t believe a boy when he says he likes you. Boys are predators, only out to put you into Danger, and make you do things you don’t want to do. The why, again, is never explained. Additionally, beware of females. They’ll try to get you to do Dangerous Things, and no one wants to do Dangerous Things, right? Something Bad might happen.
Women aren’t only taught to Avoid Dangerous People, (which is nigh everyone by this point, isn’t it?) we’re also taught to Avoid Dangerous Places. And things. Women are taught to avoid being anywhere alone. In a parking lot, a street, we’re even told to avoid living alone. Don’t forget about those scary alleys! An alley, especially after dark, is so Bad and Scary that if we don’t avoid them at all times, then we’re asking to be robbed, raped, beaten, killed, cut up, and eaten.
Women are taught to avoid social gatherings. Parties are to be avoided. There are three levels of avoidance of parties. The number one, hence the most dangerous, is a gathering hosted by someone the woman does not know. The second is gatherings where the woman does not intimately know every attendee. The third, and least dangerous, though still worthy of Avoidance at all costs, is one where men are present. Beverages, and even food, are to be avoided in public. Someone Scary might spike it, and then something Really Bad Will Happen. Bars are also to be avoided. Men gather in bars specifically to prey on women, all having drugs to slip in the drink of an unsuspecting, no Common Sense-holding women.
So far we have all the people and places that women are taught to avoid. We’re not yet done. Women’s schooling in this area isn’t complete without learning to avoid the Dark. That especially scary time of day when nothing good happens, every woman is taught to avoid being out after dark. After dark, a woman should be in a safe place. A woman is safest at home, but not alone, and never without all the doors and windows locked, with a home security system (or a buzz-in system and a security guard, if a woman dares to live in an apartment with those Scary Stairwells and Elevators) , and a Benevolent Man close nearby.
As you can easily see, if a woman avoided everywhere that was deemed dangerous, she would literally be unable to exist. There is, evidently, no safe place for women to exist without danger. Yet this is what every woman is taught—by her parents, by police, teachers, and the numerous classes, seminars, and videos that claim to teach women how to be safe. These expectations quite literally set women up to fail at being safe. These expectations also set women up to be blamed for anything that might be done to us. Seeing these lessons that are taught throughout a woman’s life, all in one place, shows the absurdity of it all. And yet, this continues.
In his column, Jenkins’ assumptions are numerous and contradictory. Women supposedly have no Common Sense, yet are supposed to know every person and place that might be dangerous. If we’re so lacking, Jenkins, how are we to know? Yet, we do. Women know well that the world is dangerous, and we know that these expectations are absurd. Women know that living a full, rich life is impossible if life itself is avoided. Women do not “take risks” by living. Women are not “reckless” and “irresponsible” for living our lives.
Every woman has been forced to fear people, places, and times of day because of people and attitudes such as Jenkins. Living in constant fear is not healthy, by any means. I challenge Jenkins, indeed, every man, to live a day or two constantly looking over your shoulder. Brace yourself every time a stranger comes within twenty feet of you, or makes eye contact. Reach for your keys or your pocket knives every time you find yourself in a secluded area with one other person. Spend every day constantly alert, never daydreaming, never talking on the phone or listening to music. It is an exhausting, stressful, and unfulfilling life to lead. Live it, then ask yourself if you would ask another to do the same, every day.
I can guarantee Jenkins has never lived such a life. I can guarantee that he has never lived a life as a woman. His column is, again, condescending. He presumes to know better than women, how we should live our lives, and believes that by writing that single column, that he would open the eyes of women everywhere, and singlehandedly prevent Bad Things From Happening.
Again, Jenkins: stick to writing what you know.
Note: Part three of this series is available here.