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Asking for it, by Kate Harding:

One summer night, while I was working on my book, my friend Molly walked her greyhound over to my house for a writing date. Earlier that day, my husband had driven to Indianapolis on business, so Molly and I sat in my living room with our dogs and our laptops, drinking tea and clacking away for hours. It was lovely.Around 11pm, Molly asked me for a lift home, per our usual routine when she visits my apartment, about a mile away from hers. But when I went to grab the car keys, they were missing. I checked all of my pockets and a couple of purses, to no avail.Let’s cut straight to the Encyclopedia Brown reveal: Did you remember that my husband drove out of town? Because I sure hadn’t! And we only have one car.So there Molly was, late at night, a 15-minute walk from home and saddled with a gangly, 65-pound dog who isn’t allowed to ride city buses (and who, it should be noted, would be utterly useless in the event of an attack). The mood in the room suddenly shifted from pleasant and companionable to “Oh, shit.”I mean, we weren’t going to panic. Panicking would be stupid. Weak. An overreaction. You can’t live in fear! You must refuse to be a victim!Molly was new to the neighborhood, but I’d lived there for eight years without incident. It was home, and I almost always felt comfortable walking around there. Still, during the month that this happened, 26 violent crimes were reported to police in the two-square mile area where she and I and about 55,000 other people lived. Two of those were criminal sexual assaults; one, a bona fide stranger-drags-a-woman-into-an-alley scenario. So if either one of us had remembered that my car was in another state before it got dark, there’s no question she would have left earlier. Who would plan to walk a mile through our neighborhood at11pm.?I mean, besides men.[…] This is why I have no patience for anyone who insists that women must learn self-defense moves and memorize lists of specious advice to prevent our own victimization. We’re already calculating risks and taking reasonable precautions every day. We don’t often talk about that in public, though, lest we be accused of letting fear control our lives, of being completely irrational about the relatively minor statistical risk of being attacked by a stranger.

It’s a maddening catch-22. If we get assaulted while walking alone in the dark, we’re told we should have used our heads and anticipated the danger. But if we’re honest about the amount of mental real estate we devote to anticipating danger, then we’re told we’re acting like crazy man-haters, jumping at shadows and tarring an entire gender with the brush that rightly belongs to a relatively small number of criminals.No one will ever specify exactly how much worry is the right amount, the amount that will allow women to enjoy all of the freedoms typically afforded to North American adults in the 21st century, while reassuring judgmental strangers that we aren’t stupid and weren’t asking to be raped.

And when you ask someone who’s passed along some specious “don’t get raped” tips or suggested a self-defense class to a woman concerned about rapes in her neighborhood what they were thinking, they’re likely to respond with something like “Better safe than sorry!” Translation: Even if what I’m telling you to remember is a pile of stinking horseshit, you should still engage in this ritualized expression of anxiety with me, because it makes me feel slightly better about things I can’t control. What’s so wrong with that?

Source and rest: We demand that women live in fear and behave impeccably to avoid ‘asking for it’ (theguardian)