A couple of weeks ago I was outside a bar on a Saturday night and a woman asked us (the bouncer, another guy, and me) how to get to the light rail to her hotel. We told her and then went on to discourage her, suggesting she take a cab. It was 11pm, dark and she was a woman traveling by herself who didn’t know the area. In general, these are not things that go together on the Baltimore light rail.
In the end, the woman, slightly offended that we didn’t think she could handle herself, wandered off into the dark toward the light rail.
Her offense got me thinking about whether it really was offensive to suggest she not travel by herself. It had everything to do with her gender and in a way that is no different different then suggesting a woman not apply for a certain job because she couldn’t “handle it”. For some reason I do not see the two as synonymous, but it appears that some people do.
I have lived in Baltimore for a while now and I am surrounded by overprotective men. There is not oppression in their behavior, rather it is merely care for my well-being. My boyfriend asks that I do not wander around in the dark by myself. He doesn’t tell me I’m not allowed to, just suggests that for my safety and his sanity he’d prefer that I didn’t just wander around at night (I enjoy walking at night, you see). We have made compromises–I stay in well-lit areas, or we go on walks together–and I do not feel like he’s treating my badly as a woman. I feel like he’s trying to look out for me.
Likewise, this week we were working late and as I was leaving (it was now pitch black out) my boss asked if my boyfriend was picking me up (I live walking distance from where I work so he’ll sometimes meet me at work). When I said yes my boss seemed relieved; he was concerned for my safety walking home alone a night.
I don’t find this type of treatment oppressive or offensive as a woman. These are people with a genuine concern for my safety, and it hasn’t stopped me doing things I want to do or going places I want to go. Yes, this concern is slightly gender-based. My boyfriend expresses this concern for all our female friends but not all of our male friends, but the risks can also be more gender based. As a pretty scrawny woman walking alone at night I am far more of a target for most random crimes than a bulky male walking alone would be.
I just do not see this type of behavior as oppressive. I can understand why those who have experienced negative treatment just for being a woman might initially view it as such, but the intentions are not the same.
At least that’s what I think.
What are your views? Do you think this is oppressive or offensive? Is telling a woman she shouldn’t ride the light rail by herself at night the same as telling her she shouldn’t work because she’s too fragile? Is it implying that women need a man by their sides at all time?