Feeling fear, daily

To those (mostly men, and I’ve heard this opinion many times from partners, friends and others) who think we have equality here in Canada and that feminists should just stop whining, think again. A woman was assaulted in Burnaby, in broad daylight (at noon), and is now in hospital. I hear about this type of news all the time. Which, in itself is horrific, knowing that we are lulled into a callous, emotionless state by the barrage of news about rape, assault, domestic violence. Once in a while though, I stop and think about the individual story. This woman was probably out jogging or hiking, on a break from work or university (this is a well used urban trail close to Simon Fraser University). And now she is hospitalized, traumatized.

Women, even in lovely, developed and relatively equal Canada, are constantly looking over their shoulder when walking alone. Wondering if that man behind them is a threat, not taking the elevator sometimes just to be extra careful. We often have to rely on our instincts and survival mechanisms, rushes of adrenaline coursing through our bodies as we decide what path to take, what space could be safer. Phones open, 911 or a (hopefully awake) friend on speed dial. Keys pushed between our fingers. Futile weapons.

Comparatively, we live more equal lives than most. But we feel fear often, we don’t own the physical space we live in, and that isn’t equality. Not to mention wage discrimination. Workplace rules or lack thereof that prevent women (and their partners-men or other) from being parents AND having a career. Domestic violence. Poverty. Etcetera. And all of this discrimination is felt doubly by women of color and First Nations women. But what gets me more than anything else is the fear, the feeling that women always need to be on their guard in any public place, and (apparently) any time of day.

And Im not saying men are not victimized, men do not feel fear, etcetera. One does not negate the other. But women feel it, live it, often. I would venture that we are in a state of fear far more often than men.

And women are not victims, that is not what this is about. Women are strong, independent actors in our society. Women demand respect, and often command it. But regardless of how much strength we have, the gains we’ve made, the jobs we rock and the swag we walk with, we still feel fear and we still fear for our safety. Even in our lovely, somewhat equal Canada.

Shadow art photo used is by Kumi Yamashita.

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