When I see any women walking down the street, avoiding all eye contact, I feel a deep sense of empathy. Accordingly, I don’t look for more than a second and I don’t let my gaze linger. I do all these things out of respect for a simple fact—women don’t feel safe. No matter how “civilized” we insist western society has become, there is still a high degree of real and present danger for women from aggressive male strangers. And if a woman is from another part of the world, the likelihood that she has faced violent and aggressive male strangers is dramatically higher.
Whats more, many males understand how this fear of aggressive men feels.
As a child, I feared and avoided eye contact with bullying teenage boys. Junior high school was an exercise in avoiding being assaulted. My issue has never been with women. My issue is with men, who, to this day, are far more likely to be aggressive with me. I track men much more carefully than I do women. And for exactly the same set of reasons that women do. Because men like to project power. And some men, a very few, but enough, like to project power by verbally or physically abusing strangers.
Afghan Air Force 2nd Lt. Niloofar Rhmani walks the flightline at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan prior to her graduation from undergraduate pilot training May 13, 2013.
Rhmani made history May 14, 2013 when she became the first female to successfully complete undergraduate pilot training and earn the status of pilot in more than 30 years. She will continue her service as she joins the Kabul Air Wing as a Cessna 208 pilot.
I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.
I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” …Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.
Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.
Um, tattling is when a little girl does it. When a hot woman does it, it’s called whistle-blowing.
And it’s all about our response, as the audience — as if the only possible reason a woman would show her body was because she expects praise for it, and not because it functions in the service of a story she is acting in, or simply because she individually likes the way she looks without pants.
When we dismiss Dunham as a woman in control of her own representation, we hinder our own ability to make decisions about our bodies that don’t come exclusively from social pressures to look a certain way. And who wants that? It’s certainly not doing any of us any good.