Thursday, May 29, 2014

Put a (Fake)Ring on It

"I am meeting my husband at the next station." was a well used line while traveling through India and South America. I am far past imaginary friends and I am not that desperate to be married, so why would I make up such a lie?

If you are a woman you know why. Recently writer Amanda Hess reflected on the invisibility of misogyny as a reflection to the tragic Santa Barbra killings in her article Why It’s So Hard for Men to See Misogyny. I felt that the story struck home, especially when traveling.

As you may know from my blog, I love to travel, especially alone. It gives me the freedom and independence of setting my own schedules and the opportunity to join other groups or solo travelers. There are many pluses to traveling alone but often I am confronted by the idea that traveling alone for a female is unsafe.

Natalie Nourigat
I have come up with many methods to instil my safety while traveling, money belts, bag locks, getting to the hostel before sunset are a few. I check my lockers before leaving, I make sure to keep on the look out, I always walk without anything valuable showing, but my most used tactic was and still is the fake husband or boyfriend. I even went out of the way to buy a fake wedding ring in India.

Too often was my comfort zone invaded by intrusive men. I would be quietly reading a book at the train station and some guy would come up to sit down a little too close. On the metro in Delhi I began riding in the female only car to prevent unwanted touches. In Buenos Aires I actually was kissed by a total stranger who threw himself on me.

Too many times I have turned around in a club to tell a guy that I can't dance because I had a boyfriend, too many times I said my husband was going to meet me at the restaurant or my brother was coming to pick me up in a second.

Although this has happened to me while traveling, it has happened to me here in America too. I have even been bought drinks by men while my male partner excused himself to the restroom. I often find myself at parties being nice and suffering through boring conversations with men who have had a little too many drinks. I routinely escape with, my boyfriend just arrived, or wink at my friends to pull me away. I feel as if a simple "Sorry I am not interested in having you touch my leg" will somehow not save me from the situation that I am in.

Last week as I was standing on the curb waiting for my friend to pick me up, dressed in business attire, I got more that enough cat calls and honks.Had I been standing next to a man this would probably not have happened. I have rarely been approached by men when traveling in a group with other men, but too often I have seen men intrude into a group of girls.

Natalie Nourigat
Hess makes a great conclusion that women default to male presence as a means of safety in tricky situations. I find it upsetting that "I am not interested" is not powerful enough to end a mans pursuit  that we women default to imaginary husbands, boyfriends and other male figures.

I remember before leaving to travel many friends and family members asked me why I couldn't find a man to take with me. Society continues to create a standard that women lack agency. That without a man around, women are subjecting themselves to danger This leads to the belief that its their own fault if something happens to them, because they were taking unneeded risks. The perpetuation that women still must rely on men in a world where independence is one of the most coveted possessions, prevents women from being treated as equal. 

I leave you with this wonderful comic by Natalie Nourigat. See her page here: "Home Is Where The Internet Is"

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