The Right Amount of Panic: How Women Trade Freedom for Safety – F. Vera-Gray

Small interruptions, ordinary intrusions. Shocking only because they happened too early, or because we see the consequence; the way they change our behaviour. At the time these play out as so trivial, so common, we learn to forget them. Nothing really happened. Like Claire, like Delilah, we make change ourselves, to what we wear, to where we go. Learn to keep an eye on the possible. Hope it won’t happen again.

We don’t talk about the habitual, sometimes unconscious, choices and changes we make daily to maintain a sense of safety in public space.

I suppose it’s conflicting messages, isn’t it? It’s take care of yourself but then if you imagine that someone is maybe a danger you’re being a silly woman. You have to do just the right amount of panicking, don’t you?

For almost all the women who used the notebook, they found significantly less happening than they initially thought, and yet they were doing substantially more.

In short, a lot of women are significantly restricting their activities limiting their freedom, in order to feel safe enough to be in public without being interrupted. It’s there that we start feeling the consequences of those apparently trivial or minor annoyances.

[…]fear of crime paradox. Put simply, the paradox is that relatively consistently, across studies, across decades, and across contexts, women report significantly higher levels of fear of crime than men – often two or three times more – yet routinely crime statistics show that women actually have a lower rate of victimization than men do.

If all of these women and so many more have their awareness focused externally, identifying the points of safety at the same time as limiting their movements in spaces they identify as unsafe, then it may not be that men are more targeted to be victims of crime in public space at all. It may be that women are skillfully navigating public spaces, disrupting opportunities for victimization by assessing the environment and individual men while attempting to predict their intentions and practices. This is what I mean by the right amount of panic.

It encourages us to feel responsible for when something happens; after all, if this is a compliment and about us then we must be responsible for getting it. These two messages – women’s inability to judge a situation correctly and our responsibility for what happens to us – are exactly those that are reproduced in so many campaigns apparently designed for our safety. The responsibility message in particular is further embedded through the pernicious myth of the world as just and fair place, where as long as you are well-behaved nothing bad will happen.

Either we got it wrong and nothing happened or we got it wrong and it’s our fault.

The gendered expectation of women’s safety work means that we learn that keeping ourselves safe from violence is more important than feeling safe to express and expand ourselves freely in the world.

The fact that the accessories and attributes that are understood as causing harassment, from long hair to jewellery, red dresses and lipstick, are those that we mostly associate with only women – that in essence what we are saying is that womanhood is unsafe – is left wholly unexamined.

I feel like we had the period talk far too late and we had the contraception talk far too late and it was just like for God’s sake use a condom, this is really awkward for everybody in the room. But we never really had something teaching us to be assertive or thinking of us as young women, and that would have been so much more beneficial for us.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

3 thoughts on “The Right Amount of Panic: How Women Trade Freedom for Safety – F. Vera-Gray

  1. Pingback: Best books of 2018 and plans for 2019 –

  2. Pingback: Housmans – 12 bookshops for 12 months – October –

  3. Pingback: October round-up –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s