The statistics are staggering. Around the world there are millions of victims of sexual assaults, honour killings, gender-selective abortions, date rapes, female infanticide, and misogyny* in all its manifestations.
I am one of the more fortunate of my gender. I live in a safe place, with a loving partner and male friends who are gentle souls.
But vulnerability is a woman’s inheritance. My Kelowna, BC, neighbourhood is safe, but friends still occasionally question my walking alone at night. The distance is never far—the few blocks from a friend’s home or a nearby theatre. I feel completely at ease, but I know if I were assaulted many would say I was at fault for being on my own after dark.
The message that women are always at risk has followed me from my early years. A pedophile turned up in my hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho. Until he was caught in the act, he would hang out at the movie theatre on Saturday mornings and try to persuade young girls to come with him.
Later I was a dorm monitor at the University of Idaho, kind of an untrained counselor and rule enforcer. One night a resident knocked on my door. She’d been raped by a fellow student. He’d offered her a ride home after a friendly conversation at the student union. She begged me not to call the police. We both knew she’d be blamed.
Another student confided her rape-caused pregnancy. Her cerebral palsy made her attractive to a particularly perverse kind of male, one who didn’t give a fig about her as a human being. He just wanted the bragging rights that came with assaulting a woman whose constant motion made her different.
I’ve experienced my own string of minor assaults. None approached the horrors friends have confided over the years, but they’ve all temporarily derailed my sense of safety.
This has been on my mind today because of an article I read about women in Delhi planning a “SlutWalk” to draw attention to the increase in attacks on women. They got the idea from Canadians. In January 2011 a Toronto police officer suggested to students and staff at Osgoode Hall Law School they could avoid being attacked if they didn’t dress like sluts, as if rapists only prey on women whose sexy dress drives them wild. The students staged a SlutWalk because, as they say on their Web site, “No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.”
The world is desperately in need of connection and compassion, of tenderness and love. What we don’t need is hatred of women just because we are women. Misogyny must end and with it the kind of mentality that accepts other kinds of hatred such as poverty for the many and wealth for the few, the destruction of the environment, stereotyping and prejudice, and horrors perpetrated on animals.
We live on an extraordinarily beautiful and generous planet. It’s time we showed our gratitude.
*misogyny – hatred of women
Photo credit: Woman sitting on beach at sunset by Sam Mugraby, Photos8.com