Sometimes It’s Hard to Be a Woman

So, last night, I was at home alone and I had all the windows and doors open because, with this weather, if you can get the house down to about 65 at night, it never gets above 75 during the day. Lovely!

Anyway, I went into the kitchen and I heard a noise in the front room and I came back to find a scrawny kid at the front door. Not a kid, kid, but a man, but young.

He wanted to know where he was, exactly, because he had run out of gas and his friend was coming from Ashland City to pick him up. I gave him directions to the nearest gas station.

He seemed flustered and scattered in that way you are when you’re having a bad day and you’re finding yourself having to knock on the only open door in a neighborhood. So, I think he was probably telling the truth.

But after we were done talking, I shut the door and locked it. And then, after he’d been gone a sufficient amount of time, I made sure the motion lights out back were for sure working. And I checked the perimeter of the house. And I slept with my hand on my phone.

And I also thought, as the dog barked and growled like a motherfucker, that I will never not own a scary dog. I want a dog that seems like too big a hassle to deal with. Always.

It’s weird and probably unfair to assume that the Butcher would be able to kick the ass of most random trouble causers, but I do think that. And it’s a kind of security I take for granted when he’s around.

It’s just weird to be sitting in your own house and to feel like a random encounter with a strange man has a 30/70 chance of going very wrong for you. I mean, I wonder if guys feel that way or, if when an obviously distressed kid shows up at their door, they feel assured that things are going to end find for them.

And then I wonder if I worry too much about stupid shit like that.

I don’t know how you balance caution and not being stupidly afraid. Or if that’s a balancing act intentionally designed for you to lose?

20 thoughts on “Sometimes It’s Hard to Be a Woman

  1. I do the same thing. We had two guys over working on the cable last weekend, and Joel said he was going to run to the store for some non-urgent thing, to which I replied, “No, you’re not.” He asked why, and I told him, “Look, I know you’re a guy and not used to thinking this way, but you are staying here until these men leave.”

    There was nothing particularly scary about these guys, but they were in my house, and there were two of them, and I just felt better with another person there. So, I don’t know the answer either.

  2. It’s this quandary I always have…that has gotten worse now that I can’t always pull a trigger.

    I know as a feminist I should be confident in my ability to protect myself, and I generally am. If there isn’t a gun nearby I know of about 20 random items that I could weaponise.

    But I still keep going back to discretion being the better part of valour and the best defence being a good offence and all those other bromides.

    I never open the door to any man, whether I know him or not, unless my husband is there. I always lock the doors. Etc. It seems like good business.

    But what gets me even more is when people act offended that you are taking precautions.

    Forgive me if I’ve relayed this before–I don’t think I have but I can’t remember for sure. I was in the hospital several months ago and had to have a transvaginal ultrasound. The ultrasound tech was a man, and not to be too awful, he was the kind of man I could more easily picture driving a truck or farming or something. He was a big, rugged dude. Not the sort who usually go in for hospital work. I was very uncomfortable having him perform the test. So I asked if there would be a woman present. And the dude got REALLY offended and started talking about how dare I question his professionalism. He went on and on about “professionalism”. And made me feel like I was six inches tall. All because I wanted to feel more at ease with a stranger sticking eleven inches of plastic up my vagina.

    That bothers me. But I don’t know if it should.

  3. I had an elderly widowed neighbor when I was growing up who would simply not answer her door after dark. If one of us needed to see her after dark for some reason we’d have to call first so she’d know to be expecting us.

    I think everyone should feel safe in their own home, but it’s smart to be cautious, especially when you’re by yourself (male or female). I can tell you our security systems only gets armed about half the time when we’re both home at night, but if it’s just me, you’d better believe that it’s armed when I go to bed (and often before). Take the precautions you need to feel safe because you shouldn’t have to live in fear in your own home.

  4. I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, American suburbs are literally the safest place in the history of the world and yet we (as population) don’t even want our kids riding bikes unwatched in front of our homes. We have created a serious culture of fear for ourselves that has gone so far that we can no longer be polite to strangers or feel safe in our own (relatively) safe homes.

    On the other hand, I have been known to call male friends in the middle of the night and have them come over and inspect the perimeter of my house because I live in a really old house in E.Nash and often can’t distinguish if a sound is a wild dog, an intruder on the porch or a possum in the attic. I hate, HATE, feeling scared in my own space, but after having been robbed at gun point 18 mos, ago only 3 blocks from home, in place I should have been safe, I definitely tend on the side of secure if I can.

  5. If you must err, do so on the side of caution, and feel no shame over that. Generally speaking, that’s a gender-neutral position. More specifically, it’s my intuition that potential male predators are more likely to attempt to victimize (what they perceive to be) lone females than lone males. So there’s even more reason to err on the side of caution, if you’re a woman.

    Katherine, that tech was being a total asshole. It isn’t about his feelings, it’s about your well-being and comfort during a very invasive and sensitive procedure. If it were a life-or-death emergency medical situation, I can see a medical professional possibly being less flexible about a patient’s immediate psychological comfort. In your situation, though, the jerk-off should have just smiled and done what you asked without hesitation. That would be professionalism.

  6. I work in a large office building with a 7-story garage that’s underground, and I am generally the last person to leave our fairly large office every night. It’s not so bad being alone in the office, but every night I scurry from the elevators down in the “dungeon” (as the bottom floors of the garage are called) to get to my car as fast as I can and lock the doors.

    Now, I work in a nice part of town, and it’s very hard to get into the building if you don’t have a keycard, but anyone can walk past the guard into the garage. And it bothers me that I have to worry about what could happen to me down there, where there are no video cameras and no one could hear me scream unless they were near the floor I was on.

    It also makes me mad that women have to worry about shit like that.

  7. I’ve had to explain this whole dilemma to my male friends in the last few years. It pisses me off that I have to be on guard all the time. Seriously pisses me off.

    Which reminds me, my wood door was wide open and the screen door doesn’t lock.

  8. Bets, I empathize with your feeling that you were being silly because there was no overt sign of danger. I (and I suspect most men) often exhibit the opposite tendency, which is no less silly: I don’t ever recall feeling that I was in immediate danger, even when the red lights should have been flashing and the alarm bells should have been ringing.

    Regardless of the progress in sex roles over the past 45 years, everything in our culture heterodynes to reinforce two false stereotypes: that women are helpless and always in danger, and that any man can handle anything. As I said, both stereotypes are entirely false to fact, but that doesn’t make them any less pervasive.

    If I was able to pick which silly feeling I was subject to, I’d pick yours. I’d rather be slightly overcautious when it is unwarranted, than stupidly overconfident when it is equally unwarranted.

  9. Katherine C: Your ultrasound story reminded me of a weird experience before the birth of my last child. I accompanied my wife for her last exam by the male OB/GYN before the due date, at which I witnessed my first pelvic exam. With my wife’s enthusiastic assent, I stayed in the exam room during the exam.

    Like a lot of men, I had always had tiny (and totally unvoiced) misgivings about my wife being examined by a male gynecologist. Without being graphic, let me say that what I witnessed in that exam room was the least romantic procedure I have ever beheld.

    The conclusion – gynecological health is so important that the overriding factor should be whether the female patient is comfortable with the person doing the procedure. My wife had explicitly complete faith in her doctor, so my stupid misgivings should never have mattered. In your case, only YOUR opinion should count.

  10. What was the most idiotic was that the LAW requires there be a woman present anyway. As dude admitted toward the end of his harangue. So he could have just shut up and brought her in when I asked.

    And yes, gyno exams have more in common with changing your spark plugs than with sex. As a veteran on hundreds of the darned things I promise you that.

    But still…should women have to be uneasy about feeling uneasy???

  11. Fuck, so get this. I just go home and the shed door was wide open. It latches and had a gas can in front of it. I thought, well, maybe it could have blown open but I looked inside and the back door was shut, so I’m not sure how it could have blown open.

    I mean, it would have to be a hell of a wind that could move a door and a gas can.

    But I looked inside and it didn’t seem like anyone had been in there.

    Still, I am a little wigged out.

    Also, Coble, the more you go on about that guy, the more I’m getting a weird vibe off him. And I wasn’t even there!

  12. You “looked inside?” Have you never seen a John Carpenter movie. You NEVER look inside a structure where the door has “blown open.”

    The only thing worse than looking inside is looking inside right after you have sex. Then you’re seriously doomed.

  13. I know! But I had to check it out and make sure nothing was missing. Damn dog wouldn’t even go first.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been that scared.

  14. Please tell me you didn’t ask, in a quiet, shaky voice, “Hello? Is anybody there?”

    See, e.g.: Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Psycho, Wait Until Dark, and Alien.

  15. Okay, I have talked to the Butcher and to my neighbor and the Butcher says he sent his buddy over to get a screwdriver, so the door might not have been shut tight when his buddy left.

    And my awesome neighbor saw the same weird guy and he came outside armed to watch and make sure our interaction went down okay and that dude really left.

  16. I had an ex who would get upset and angry when he came home and I had to unlock the screen door (he had to wait, max 2 minutes) because he said the neighborhood was perfectly safe. One day when I came to unlock the door and get the mail in the middle of the day there were hand prints and a face print on the door from where someone had pressed their face to the window to look inside. He said he understood after that although he still grumbled. Guys have the luxury of not usually worrying about those things…

  17. When I was in college a guy friend told me a story about how his car broke down when he was on a long-distance trip. He grabbed his bags and hitchhiked the rest of the way without a second thought. The tone of the story was Oh-what-a-lark!

    I told him that when my car has broken down on the side of the road my first thought had always been oh no, I hope nobody stops to pick me up and kill me. It would never even occur to me to hitchhike and just continue the trip.

    Men and women can live in very different worlds.

  18. I feel like society is constantly babbling at feminists, accusing us for creating a culture of fear with all of our sexual violence and domestic violence demonstrations and lobbying. But the truth is: women have always existed in a hegemonic masculine society. Because of the first and second waves of feminism, we have been allowed a degree of autonomy and the ability to participate more fully in society. However, we still feel the pressures of hegemonic masculinity (and men do, too!), and this post is a great example of how it still affects us. I don’t know too many women who would feel completely safe walking down the street at night alone, especially in an urban area, regardless of what outfit she’s wearing. Yes, suburbia is safe(r), but in our heads and in the collective mind, femininity is vulnerability.

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