“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue.
“I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.”
“They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.”
Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?”
“They’re afraid of being killed,” they said. Atwood, Margaret, Writing the Male Character (1982)
As of late I’ve been pursuing more feminist blogs than MGTOW/MRA ones, attempting to learn more about the nuances of this ideology. Most of them I already knew from the 2 Women’s Studies and 1 Women’s Health courses I took in college (was trying to be well-rounded and got A’s in both, but didn’t agree with/experience most of the subject matter). However, there is a steady undercurrent of androphobia that I never encountered before, and this is what I want to talk about today.
Apparently, women are afraid of men. I’m sure not all women, just as I am equally sure there are men who are afraid of women…but on many feminist blogs and websites there inevitably is a discussion about the fear of male strangers, typically in public places. There are comments from women stating that;
-they’ll wait for the next elevator if a man or group of men are in it.
-they will allow a door to close rather than holding it for a man behind them.
-they do not take walks through their neighborhoods after dark.
-they will not stop to aid men or older boys who require assistance.
-they will cross the street to avoid men who are approaching from the opposite direction.
-they will not walk across a seemingly empty parking lot, even if their car has no other vehicles around it.
-they will walk faster or go into a building they weren’t planning on entering if there happens to be a man walking behind them on the sidewalk.
Now, if you are in an unfamiliar city for a meeting/vacation, or live in a bad area, I can understand feeling a need for higher than average awareness. When I go to Indianapolis for Gencon every year, I pay more attention to my surroundings than I do back in my hometown. But this doesn’t mean I am consciously afraid of anything happening…I know the chances are incredibly slim. It’s more the fact I’m walking to my hotel room at 2am and am tired, so I try to make up for it by being overly aware of what’s going on around me. And yes, I pass by other people, usually men, at this time of “night”…but hey, I’m out walking so what’s the problem with them doing the exact same thing?
But not getting in an elevator just because there is a male-bodied person in it already? Crossing the street to avoid walking next to a teenage boy? Letting the door close in someone’s face or being scared of walking through an empty parking lot? To my way of thinking, this is not only very rude in some cases, but shows a distinct sense of hyperawareness that borders on true paranoia. It’s one thing to take stock of a situation and keep oneself safe…if something feels “off” to any of my readers, I hope they heed that little voice of survival. Being macho or proving your independence is not a good excuse for entering into a potentially dangerous situation. But neither do I recommend purposefully looking for monsters around every corner, because odds are usually that there are none. Be conscious of your surroundings, but don’t turn garbage pails into gunmen or street signs into stalkers.
The other thing I noticed about these discussions is that when non-feminist men asked questions about this pervasive feeling of fear, they were shut down…hard. These commenters didn’t use victim-blaming, didn’t attempt to shame women for feeling this way, and didn’t use foul or sexist language…but each and every time they were informed that “all women are taught to fear men”, “this is what reality is like for girls and women”, and “check your privilege, because you can’t experience fear the way we do”. It was frustrating to read, because there were so many instances of potentially excellent conversation that just did not happen. And for what?
First of all, I would never tell someone that they are physically incapable of experiencing the same emotion as myself. I apologize in advance if this offends someone, but to deny that another human being can feel something like overwhelming fear of strangers/harm is very arrogant in my mind. How is a feminist telling a man “you cannot feel fear the way I do because you have a penis” any different than a MRA telling a woman “you cannot feel compassion the way I do because you have a vagina”? I have seen both arguments, and to my egalitarian way of thinking, they both stink to the heavens.
Secondly, this is not what reality is like for all girls and women. I do not see bogeymen in every shadow I pass by. I have never felt afraid of taking nightly walks around my neighborhood, whether I lived in a gated community, a typical suburb, or now that I’m in a more urban area. The idea of not getting in an elevator just because a man is occupying it is a thought that has honestly never crossed my mind before…and is rather dumb considering that I have been in hotels where there’s a Button Pushing male employee. I do not cross the street to avoid boys or men, nor do I cringe away from them if I’m on a public bus and they sit next to me. I think it is highly disingenuous to claim, in no uncertain terms, that all women have a constant fear as part of their reality. Am I saying I’ve never been in a situation where a man made me afraid/uncomfortable? Nope. I can think of about 4 examples without even trying…but these are not indicators of something being wrong with men as a whole. These were simply circumstances where an individual man was a sexist jerk who tried to act entitled to my body. Needless to say, they were told how incorrect they were as I removed myself from the immediate area and inserted myself into the nearest crowd of people.
Lastly, I’d like to point out that not every girl child is taught to fear men. I was certainly not, and after having a quick discussion with my mother about the idea of such a lesson, I can say my sisters were not either. Of course, after 2 divorces my mother would have probably taught them that “men are jerks” as that’s her mindset right now, but luckily my sisters are grown up enough to (hopefully) realize that’s not true in all cases. I do not know if the majority of girls are taught to fear men like feminists say…I pray that they are not, because this is an incredibly sexist attitude to instill in a young mind. It sounds similar to telling white children that black people are out to mug them, or telling Pagan kids to be hypervigilant around Christians.
I am reminded of an example from a few years ago at my job, where we had an afterschool D&D Juniors game run by a coworker of mine. Now, G was a man in his late 30’s. He dressed in our uniform which is a crisp button down shirt with our logo, was clean shaven, no tattoos or piercings, very open/jovial demeanor, a father of 4, and a Scoutmaster to boot. In other words, an employee who is good with kids and has the patience required to deal with younglings.
One day, a new mother came in with her son and daughter, both of whom looked to be between 10-12. When she saw G sitting at the table, she held her kids close and asked me (cashiering at the time) if there would be any chance of getting a woman to run the game instead. I explained to her that I was the only female on staff at the time and didn’t know the adventure enough to run it, but assured her that G’s qualities above made him an excellent teacher for younger kids. She was having none of it, and informed me (using rather rude language) that our store was ridiculously stupid for having men run events for children before storming out.
This left me with many things to think about. Namely, that she was so afraid of men being around kids that she was angered at the idea of leaving them to sit at a table in a brightly lit store with 5 other children…and that she was willing to speak in front of her offspring in such a way as to make being an adult male seem “bad” to her son, and “dangerous” to her daughter. I now wonder if this was truly the strange occurrence I had previously filed it away as, or if this is what the new generation of mothers are teaching their children. Is this what the feminist bloggers and commenters mean when they say that “girls are taught to fear men”? If so, I pray to the Gods that this doesn’t continue!
Oh, and just to smooth any ruffled feathers: I know that women are raped, mugged, kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered everyday (as are men). Most of these haven’t happened to me, and the ones that have were either easy to get away from or were done by relatives. I am not trying to blame any victims/survivors, nor am I saying one shouldn’t be aware of their surroundings or protect themselves. I am only pointing out that there’s a big difference between being safe…and being paranoid. One leads to a better chance for a longer, happier life. The other may lead to a longer life, but one filled with fear, sexism, and lack of mobility in public spaces.
Thoughts? Comments? Just remember to keep it civil and don’t make remarks against either sex/gender. Thanks!