“You have to think about it this way,” he said to my sister. “You have a handicap: You’re a woman.”
Meli, my sister, is a liberal soul, a freethinker, a dreamer. She read Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and immediately decided that she wanted to take a road trip across the United States. But the Starbucks worker who took his break by joining our conversation decided to burst her bubble.
“Seventy percent of women get date-raped,” he said. “Seventy percent.” Women are 10 times more likely than men to be victims of date rape or sexual assault, according to www.smartersex.org. The site also shows that for every 1,000 women in college, 35 will be date-raped.
So what does that mean for women? Do we have to limit our activities, walk around with a male bodyguard next to us at all times and stay within a five-mile radius of our homes? Should we drop the whole independent women act and just go back to the kitchen, to being housewives and caring for our children while servicing our husbands, leaving behind all this education crap and any professional goals?
On New Year’s I was at a huge outdoor club party where the dance floor resembled a moshpit, and I dived in with three girlfriends. Inside, the floor was crowded with males, all of whom grabbed at us like hungry men grab at free food. One guy grabbed my wrists so hard that they turned red instantly, and then slobbered all over me. In my anger and mortification, I pulled back as hard as I could and saw that I couldn’t set myself free. That’s when I understood the real danger: They overpowered me.
My immediate reaction was to slice through the testosterone and reach freer air, where I searched for our male companions – who had left us to meet up with other friends. I shrieked at them for leaving us prey to those savages. But by doing this, I was admitting that women need men to make it in this world. And this was not the message I wanted to send.
Yes, unfortunately, women have to be more careful than men because the number of cases in which women are abused or taken advantage of by men is alarming – and it way surpasses the number of cases in which women abuse men. Still, this is not limited to just women. My friend Colin was getting off the subway in Cambridge, Mass., near our college, when a man came up behind him, pressed a gun against his back, and told him to give him his wallet and cellular phone. He then walked him to the ATM to put in his code so that he would take out all his money.
Danger does not target one gender.
A group of friends on their way to Gainesville, Fla., last year happened to stop at a gas station, where they were approached by a group of guys who asked them if they were Jewish. My friends quickly said no – even though they were – and the guys told them that if they were, they would throw stones at them.
It also targets religion.
My cousin, who lived in Israel, was named vice consul to Peru. A couple of weeks before he was to leave to visit us on his way to South America, he went to Hebrew University. That same day, a bomb set by the Palestinians went off in the cafeteria, killing him and a few others.
And it is everywhere.
There is no way to predict danger and there is no way to limit it to one particular trait – not gender, not religion, not country. It’s everywhere and something could happen to any of us on any given day. The question is, do you stop living because of it?
You can’t. If we stop living our lives because of danger, then the perpetrators have won. If we don’t go to a dance because we are women or we don’t go to a concert because we are scared, then we’re also missing out on things. And more importantly, we’re ignoring the other possibility: that we could have an amazing and safe time.
My sister is not handicapped because she is a woman. The only handicaps she has are the same as ours: the ones she creates for herself by missing out on life’s opportunities.
So hit the road, Meli.