Then this morning a brave twitter friend, wrote a few tweets that made me think. REALLY think.
Here's my story:
When I was in Uni, I was stalked. By two Nigerian/Cameroonian homeless men. I was a curvy girl and white - and they wanted me to be their African Queen. It was scary, it was not complimentary, it was terrifying. But I was told it was because I smile at people. Because I greet people if they greet me. Because I am polite.
It ended when my two very large male friends told them to fuck off or else... I actually have no idea what they said but I was ok for a while.
I'd been raised to never walk anywhere alone, to always carry keys between my fingers, to drive with the car window cracked (makes it harder to smash it in), to avoid eye contact and to always cover up. If I flirted, I asked for it. If I spoke to men at bars, I was a slut. If I kissed a guy, I was a whore. But in reality I was a teenager in South Africa in the late nineties.
I found a solution - I hung out with 3
When I moved to England - I was married, and went everywhere with my husband and/or brothers-in-law. So again I was safe...
Now I'm here in NZ and up until my separation - I was safe in the confines of having a man with me most of the time. But when the relationship broke down and I found myself single, I found it too frightening to go to any social event on my own. I was too afraid to go play a game of pick up pool at a bar, or go to a club or go to any place that would put me out at night. That would put me in a vulnerable position. In the place that so many women of all ages find themselves due to a minority of men.
So I played it safe - asked male friends to go out to places with me, choosing the ones I felt would not view it as a come-on or nor expect more. And even though I knew our friendship was platonic, it still felt like it would be my fault if something went wrong. That it would be my fault for being female. Regardless of knowing - really knowing - that it's entirely platonic on both sides, it would be my fault. Because I'm a woman.
I'm lucky. I chose to be friends with the right guys who respect women and take on protective roles only when asked. Who are mature and have the view that "yes means yes and no means no."
And now I'm in a relationship again and still don't go out on my own. Because I've learnt that the only way to stay safe is not to put myself out there. Which is a shitty lesson to have had to learn.
I still greet people, I still smile because it's not all men. It's not all people. It's just some who ruin it for others.