We recently moved to a new city, new neighbourhood. We’ve been there about a month now, and while it may not be perfect, I have so far enjoyed living here. Recently, however, what used to be peaceful walks by the lake have turned into unwanted and uncomfortable social situations.
For the most part, these situations involve a stranger (read: white male) who assumes that I would like to spend half an hour to an hour being lectured on a range of topics. This week, the topics have been on how to properly control and train my dog, to today’s lovely lecture on the evils of society, how we are all brainwashed, and how, my chosen field (rhetoric) is the root of that evil.
You’re probably wondering how today’s stranger knew my field of study, or why I told him. Why didn’t she just walk away? Because every time I am confronted on a walk, I feel that I have to be nice, I have to be polite. If I am not, what will the consequences be? Could I be making things worse for myself? Should I actually be afraid of every man who tries to speak to me on the street?
Well, I am. I am nervous, and sometimes afraid. I don’t know how to extract myself from those situations for fear that I will make the already uncomfortable situation worse for myself.
So today, for over an hour, I listened to Marco tell me how my field was evil. That, in teaching, working, even having studied rhetoric, I was worsening society. Obviously this is to be taken with a grain of salt – Marco appeared to be in his late 60s to early 70s. I didn’t try to correct him. Because even though he is older than I am, and very misguided on the subject of rhetoric, no matter how angry I felt that this man was not only telling me how awful my field is and I am for choosing it, I was angry that I felt powerless to leave, powerless to tell him that he was wrong.
I read so many posts that circulate on tumblr (and online in general) explaining how women can get out of uncomfortable or dangerous social situations. And Marco was, most likely, harmless. But being a woman should not be an open invitation to being lectured. I should be able to enjoy my walk with a passing “Good morning,” or a “Have a nice day.” These posts on tumblr do not actually make me feel as though I have the confidence or ability to walk away from these situations. Perhaps this is my problem.
On the other hand, the feminist in me rages at that suggestion. You? How could it be you? And I remember that I shouldn’t have to be nervous or scared while walking my dog. That I shouldn’t have to be wary of every man who speaks to me, but that I also should not have to endure lectures from men because I am a woman walking down the street.
But the question still remains: Why me? Why you?