Obviously, we like to keep it light here at Hashtag Jetlag. I promise to never go political on your asses, because that frankly belongs in another blog. But those of you who know me know that I am a vocal and often angry feminist, so maybe I should rename this post "Staci's Soapbox," because yes, a #YesAllWomen discussion has a place on a travel blog, even if it's a little heavier than the norm.
In fact, the discussion has a place on THIS blog, and here's why. You, our readers, are fucking awesome. No really, you share our links with your friends, you interact with us on Facebook and Twitter, and you tell us about your own travel stories. We love it. Further, Google Analytics tells us we have readers all over the States, and all over the world -- Australia, France, Japan, Great Britain, Montenegro, Ecuador, Germany, you name it! You're mostly in our age demographic (thank god, maybe one or two of you will get my silly references), and surprisingly, the majority of you are men (I bet you really enjoy the Packing List posts).
Lest you think a #YesAllWomen conversation is geared toward women, I'm telling you now, it's not. Yes, all women already know the things recounted on Twitter when #YesAllWomen was trending following an entitled misogynist's shooting spree in California. Which is why I am here to educate the men of the world.
JK, I'm not that smart. Educate yo'selves here; this short article WRITTEN BY A MAN does a stellar job of explaining what #YesAllWomen is about and why #NotAllMen is bullshit. And if you don't feel like reading, this quickie bit from Louis C.K. is pretty on point. (If you want to learn even more, I also highly recommend reading the #YesAllWomen tweets, reading more about Elliot Rodger, and educating yourself on what exactly is this species/hate group who call themselves "men's rights activists." Fair warning though -- if you are like me, you will literally lose sleep because you will be up all night boiling over the fact that this shit actually happens.)
The gist of all of it is this: Women deal with sexism and misogyny EVERY DAY (not just sometimes, EVERY DAY), and we know that there are good guys out there, but you can't tell just by looking at a stranger which category he falls into.
And that's why this relates to travel.
The world is your oyster, right? I really love this cliche. I try to live by it, traveling to new places, having new experiences, eating new foods, listening to new music, etc., as much as possible. But the world is only truly your oyster if you're not a woman. Because when it comes to travel, it's your oyster on one condition -- that you're not traveling alone because traveling alone can be dangerous; just ask travel guru Rick Steves. And at the risk of sounding like a petulant child, it's just not fair.
When the #YesAllWomen hashtag exploded, one of the ones that I read was a Margaret Atwood quote:
"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."
A bit extreme? That's what I thought at first too. And then when I thought about it for 10 more seconds, I realized it was completely true. No, I don't live my life every day constantly thinking "A man is going to kill me, a man is going to kill me." But every day I:
- Avoid walking alone outside at night, even if the weather is gorgeous.
- Walk to my car with my keys through my fingers if it's dark or if I'm in a sketchy unfamiliar place like a parking garage so I can stab an attacker in the neck if need be.
- Avidly avoid eye contact with men I don't know in order to reduce (unfortunately not completely eradicate) the chance of any unwanted interactions.
- Avoid responding to cat calls with the "FUCK OFF" that I am dying to say but can't in case said cat caller has a knife or something. (Although, one day I am totally busting this one out.)
- Don't get too drunk unless I am surrounded by friends I can count on to get me home safely.
- Never EVER leave my drink unattended at a bar or at a party because I'm not trying to get roofied.
And the list goes on, including the fact that I will never travel alone. Of course, lots of women do, and I admire them. But I am straight up too scared to do it.
Of course, harassment is not a phenomenon women only experience when traveling. That's not what I'm saying. In fact, last time I was in New York, a stranger on a bench asked my friends and I for a lap dance, and when we ignored him, he called us fat. On top of the countless cat calls I've experienced in both Baltimore and New York, a man once whacked off in front of me in the subway, and another time one came up to me and started stroking my hair. Sure, they were crazies, but the fact remains that the pervasive culture surrounding us tacitly (and sometimes not so tacitly, but like I said, I won't get into politics) says that women don't have the right to expect boundaries when it comes to their bodies. (And just in case you've been conditioned to think that I somehow "elicited" these behaviors by being pretty or dressing scantily, let it be known I am just an average looking girl who mostly dresses like your grandfather. But even if I was motherfucking Kate Upton and I was running around in pasties and a thong, THAT DOES NOT GIVE ANYONE THE RIGHT TO SAY OR DO ANYTHING TO ME. Further, ask any girl you know -- go ahead, ANY GIRL -- and she will have had similar experiences too, no exceptions.)
But it happens around the world too. Before I studied abroad in Italy, school told us that international sentiment regarding Americans wasn't particularly favorable. They told us to avoid wearing college sweatshirts or anything with like an American flag on it or something, you know, try to blend in. And we were reminded that the stereotype foreigners have of American college girls is basically...well..."Girls Gone Wild."
Still, I figured I'd be fine. Dark hair, dark eyes, no problem. I'd blend in. Except for the fact that I'm a whole head taller than all of Italy. Before I could even open my mouth to say, "BONE JORNO, CO-MAY STA?" they knew I was American. More times than I can count, random men on the street grabbed my wrist as I was walking by or leaned out of cars yelling who knows what. One time, a man even followed me to my apartment as I walked home from class.
It's everywhere. We hear about gang rapes in India and rapes during the riots in Egypt and talk about how barbarous those people are. But here at home, rape is rampant on high school and college campuses and we turn a blind eye if the perpetrators are good at lacrosse or football. Shit, even in Tokyo, there are women-only cars on the metro because groping became such a problem during rush hour. This objectifying, misogynistic culture is EVERYWHERE, AND IT IS INSANITY.
One reason Jen and I weren't crazy about Barcelona is because we were viscerally uncomfortable the whole time we were there, dodging strangers' leers and comments. We spent extra money taking cabs at night because we were too nervous to walk back to our hotel and downright scared to take the metro after dark. After coming home, we realized the only friends we knew who loved Barcelona were either male or had visited Barcelona with a male companion.
And it's not like we're country bumpkins afraid of the big city. I used to live in NYC, and Jen lives there now. But traveling is disorienting. This is one of the great things about traveling, of course. But it's not delightful when you're standing in what may or may not be a bad neighborhood, trying to interpret a map or look up your next move in your guidebook. This just screams "TOURIST, RIGHT HERE!" And if you're a guy, that sucks because you know, you want to look cool and all, like a well-traveled explorer or maybe a local. At best, you'll look like a loser, at worst, you might be a target for pickpocketing. But if you're a girl on your own it sucks because it straight up makes you a target for a possible attack. Forget about trying to not look uncool; you're opening yourself up to a potentially dangerous situation.
This legit blows my mind because it is 20-fucking-14, and the bottom line is this: We spend infinitely more time teaching women how to not get attacked, raped, and/or killed than we do teaching men that they are not entitled to a woman's body, a woman's attention, or for shit's sake, a woman's smile, no matter what he does or says. Oh, you bought a girl dinner? Great. You are right to expect a "thank you," but don't you dare think you're entitled to sex.
Look, I'm really not adding anything new to the dialogue, just hoping that given our surprisingly widespread reach that this worthy topic is reaching readers it wouldn't otherwise reach. Maybe some of you are hearing this perspective for the first time. Men of the world, just stop with the cat calls, the lascivious up-down glances, the groping. Just stop. And teach each other that misogyny is poison, and it hurts everyone. Not just women.
All I'm saying is maybe one day when I'm married to the potentially nonexistent man of my dreams, and they've invented a third option for getting babies out of pregnant women, and we have a daughter, my husband will go all Feminist Ryan Gosling on me and say,
"Hey girl. I'm so glad we don't have to teach our daughter how not to get raped when she studies abroad because the world has taught their sons what it means to truly respect women."