Last week my daughter had an unpleasant experience with a male customer who was being lewd and gross. I won’t get into what happened because it was her story and is not mine to tell. However, when S and I were going to pick her up from work and S told me that J had texted her about it during the day I was worried she would come out really shaken and not want to go back. To the contrary she brushed it off as nothing.
And that kind of made me mad.
Because she is a woman this kind of thing will undoubtably happen to her time and time again and at 18 she had already accepted that. She had already become used to it. She already failed to be shocked by it.
I have four daughters, five including S who has been living with me for the last 7 months and who I love like my own. Statistically bad shit is likely to happen to one of them. When I was relaying the statistics for sexual assault against women to my partner – 1 in 6 women are raped – he said, “That can’t be right. That can’t be.” It’s not that he doesn’t believe me. It’s that he can’t wrap his mind around the sheer enormity of it. When I discussed his reaction with my therapist she said she felt the stats were grossly underestimated and she would put it more like 6 out of 10.
Here is the thing. I’m fucking outraged at this. I am. I am a woman who has shared articles about the unfairness of victim blaming. I am a woman who has been enraged by articles or sound bites from people that talk about, “How to stay safe.” Because fuck you, that’s why. We shouldn’t have to alter our daily lives so men don’t rape us. Men should just stop raping us. I know that. I hate that I have to tell my daughters how to navigate this world by altering their behaviour because I know I shouldn’t have to.
But I do.
I do it anyway because I want them to come home. And you know what I hate more than the fact I do that? I hate that I don’t even have to. Because they already know. Instinctively, they already know. Like some strange evolutionary trait attached to the second X chromosome, my daughters already understand and avoid walking too close to the alley so they don’t get pulled in but not too close to the street so they don’t get ripped into a car. They already know to watch drinks. Walk in groups. Text your friends. Make sure your girlfriends are in your line of sight at a party. Sometimes in sheer desperation I hand my daughters pieces of other women’s stories as though by invoking the spirits of these women who never made it home I will somehow help my daughter to return to me.
I can’t reconcile these two parts of myself. The part of me that wants to give them the tools to help them come home unscathed and the part of me that hates myself for having to do it.
To my daughter, I’m sorry you had to deal with that man. I’m sorry you will have to deal with something like that over and over throughout your life for the crime of being a female. It’s not fair.