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May 31, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Ladies please

I really really like walking places. I really hate getting cabs. Walking is good. I can leave whenever I want, it’s free, it’s exercise, it’s a good chance to sober up when cruising between parties on a Saturday night. I hate it when people impinge on my right to walk. But unfortunately this happens all the time.

Wellington has been named one the safest cities in the world. The City Council’s ‘Stay Safe in the City’ campaign (you know, the Friends/Sex in the City take-off) won its category at the New Zealand Community Safety and Injury Prevention Awards. The campaign focused on alcohol consumption, having a plan to get home and paying attention to traffic. About 70 per cent of the public and 84 per cent of students said they were now more aware of staying safe as a result of the campaign.

Yup. I was aware of these giant billboards of women striding through town, and yes there was some value in them to make us think about being safe and staying with mates, but like most campaigns on this topic, they put the onus on us, men and women having fun, not wanting to bother anyone else. Yes, we need to be responsible for ourselves and we certainly need to look out for our mates, but what should I have done better when I was on a bus at 7pm on a Tuesday and some guy followed me off it into a bar, where fortunately my friends were waiting? I was forced to ask a guy I trusted for a ride home. Another girl told me about how every time she goes to a particular bar, there’s one guy who follows her around, he’s even gone so far as to look up gig photos on Facebook just so he could find her name and add her. She felt the only other option after attempts at ignoring him and telling him she wasn’t interested, was to make out with her ex-boyfriend in the middle of the dancefloor. What this means is that men who do stop women from having fun or getting home safely force us to seek the protection of other males. It’s the “chivalry” that Susan Griffin called “the male protection racket”; a system whereby the threat of rape forces a woman to let another man “guard” her. Like an organised crime syndicate, the male protection racket creates danger in order to sell protection.

I hate that I can see the truth in this. There are plenty of men I trust, and most times a guy says “I’ll walk you to a cab” or “come stay at my place”, that really is the most sensible thing to do. Sometimes it’s still not a great option, but it just feels safer because you trust him a little bit more than whoever else is out on the streets that night. There are also plenty of times I have enlisted the help of women to fend off some man or done it myself with my “fuck off” glare. But it’s just quite unfair I have to have an extra $20 for a cab and have to plan my night around people who shouldn’t be a part of it anyway.


About the Author ()

Fiona was named "Recessionista" in the ASPA Fashion Awards 2009 for her Takaka op-shop frock and spray painted shoes. She co-edits the arts section and also likes to write about women and other stuff.

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