“Beware” of Assumptions, Not Monsters.
March 6, 2010 4 Comments
Logan Jenkins wrote this column, in an attempt to advise women on how to avoid being attacked while running. Jenkins’ first assumption paves the way for his other erroneous assumptions: the idea that women have no idea that men prey on them.
Women are indoctrinated from birth of two things relevant to his erroneous assumption: that we are the weaker, submissive, preyed-upon sex, and that we must have Common Sense in order to protect ourselves.
As children, women are told that we’re not strong as men. Little girls are chastised for wrestling with their brothers, kept from playing little league baseball, basketball, or football. Parents put their little girls in dresses, and then keep the dressed-up girls from playing outside in the dirt and mud with the boys. They don’t want to get their pretty dresses dirty, do they? Boys get to play; girls get to look pretty. Toys that imitate strength and physical prowess are color-coded blue, and advertized solely with little boys: tool sets, guns and swords. Sure, children are children, and they play with the toys they want to play with, and participate in the games they want to participate in, but the message is sent, and received. Gender policing begins. Little boys tell the indignant little girl that girls aren’t supposed to play cowboy and Indian or football.
Pinkified packages of dolls and kitchen sets are gifted to girls in droves. Trunks full of tiaras and mommy’s old dresses are supposed to amuse the girls while the boys get to rough-and-tumble it outside. Indignant little girls are only indignant for so long—eventually they begin to believe what everyone is telling them—that girls can only do certain things, and that everything else is left to the boys.
As adolescents, girls are kept on a shorter leash than their male peers—the ten year old boy can walk to the next block alone to play with his friend, but his ten year old sister must have someone watching her, or must walk with her brother. All children are taught basic safety precautions: look both ways before crossing a street, don’t talk to strangers, and come home before dark. Girls are given a much longer list, with the same short leash not clipped to her brother, but aren’t told why. Because I say so. Because something Bad Might Happen (but not to your brother). Here begins the serious schooling of girls that the world is out to get you, so Never Exist Alone, especially With Strange Males.
For every milestone in a girl’s life, there is another list of safety precautions to consider. There is also another list of bad things that might happen to you. Kidnapping is a constant threat used to frighten girls into compliance with the ever growing List of Safety. From the first day of school, to the first time a girl walks to a nearby friend’s house alone, to her first time home alone, to the first overnight school trip, the first car, etc. etc. a girl is lectured on what bad things might happen, how to avoid them, and what to do, Just in Case.
I remember my parents making me watch a special program on what to do if you were to get kidnapped. My brother didn’t have to watch it. The show detailed how to break someone’s grip on your arm (twist toward the thumb), how to catch attention if you’re locked into a trunk (peel back the carpeting, knock out the taillight, and wave your arm frantically), and how to escape being shot while running away (run in a zig-zag pattern).
To the world-at-large, this List of Safety is known as Common Sense. While humans of the male or male perceived variety get a crash course, and updates as needed, girls and women have their PhD’s in Common Sense, cultivated over a lifetime—seven days a week, from parents, peers, news media, women’s magazines, movies, and books. Everyone feels obligated to School the Girl. However, if there were to be standardized testing of Common Sense, girls would be excelling, and being titled Winners of Life.
But here comes the interesting part: if our vast knowledge were to be tapped in a casual setting, Others (also known as men, parents, peers, and online commenters) would gape and gawk. It would first be whispered, then openly stated, that you, Woman, Are Paranoid. On the other hand, were a woman to have been caught in a situation where Common Sense coulda, woulda, shoulda, maybe, but maybe not implemented, we would be schooled, again, on Common Sense and the List of Safety.
I can only speculate as to whether Jenkins’ has thought, assumed, or called a woman paranoid for taking precautions, for Using Common Sense. Having lived life as a man, and certainly not without women in his life, I would say the odds are quite favorable that he has. But here, with this condescending column of his, he has publicly attempted to school women on Common Sense. Considering the schooling we undergo from childhood, the world we live in, and the multitude of other presumptive men who have undertaken to publish their advice on Common Sense to women, I would say that Jenkins comes off rather clueless. For the guru of Common Sense that he styles himself to be, I would say that his Situational Awareness is sorely lacking.
I would like to give Jenkins some advice, as a writer, rather than a woman: Jenkins, the first and most important thing to keep in mind as a writer: write what you know. You, as a man, cannot have any idea what it means to live as a woman. As for your attempt as being an advice columnist, two things: be sure you know about the topic you’re attempting to advise upon, and don’t attempt to advise someone who is better educated than you on the subject. Remember, a PhD beats a crash course every time.