Why are some women afraid of men?

IMG_0999Nowadays society is expected to behave in a modern and functional way, where conflicts from the past related with gender inequalities and other factors of discrimination have been overcome. However despite the decades of feminism existence, the creation of laws to protect women, it seems that violence and discrimination remains if not the same, basically with analog results: Women can not feel safe in public places.

Since Internet is the new public square in modern societies, where much of the community exposition is taking place, I will use two examples extracted from social networks about fear of women towards men.

First, a post by a woman who shared a picture of a man whose face was not recognizable in a street during the night, she wrote: “My friends say I am over reacting when I express how frightened I feel to find a man like this while walking home alone”. Then in the comments, where the world burns, men started mocking on her for her feelings, one wrote in a sarcastic way: I should stop walking at nights so women do not scare at me.

Why do women are afraid of finding a strange man in a lone street at night? One could say because of crime, but crime also affects men, why men do not feel the same? I can tell two things, actually men feel also intimidated by other men, because violent crimen perpetrators at streets are men by large quantities, but women have an additional fear, being rapped. Even though it is possible that a man is rapped by an stranger in a lone street, that crime is so rarely perpetrated against men that they do not consider it as a reasonable fear. Women in the other hand are informed enough about statistics of women being rapped at streets, so the possibility looks tremendously feasible.

Second example: I am a member of a Facebook group supposedly created by women and only for women.  The objective of the group was sharing our business and general information about ourselves. In a sudden change of circumstances we found out that men were also added to the group because they started advertising productos for women. The reaction was shocking, lots of women expressed they felt no longer safe and dropped from the group, others created a new group assured only for female members, and they sent invites to the ones leaving to this new safe place.

Why are those women so afraid of sharing a supposed safe Internet space with men? Why the presence of men make it automatically a place where a woman should leave immediately? The reason is the kind of info these women were sharing was personal data. What kind of personal data? To sell things, if you have a home made business, you need to share your contact information; it implies things like your email, your cellphone, your home address, your workplace data. Why are these business women not willing to share those things with unknown men, but they do so with unknown women? Because women are potential customers, and most of the products sold by them are directed to women or for family needs, men do not buy those kind of items often; so they don’t see men as potential customers but as potential stalkers, harassers, robbers, etc.

For a man who could be reading this paragraphs those ideas may look exaggerations, How did those ideas come to women mind? I can tell you briefly, for the long exposition to constant subtle violence since childhood from men, violence that takes diverse forms like, being improperly touched in the public transportation since we had enough age to take the bus, being exposed to see unsolicited male private parts in the street just by walking to the school, being harassed in the street by men that think that a woman needs to hear the sexual things they would do to her if they had the chance to, being looked in a lascivious way because you wear a miniskirt or a maxi-skirt, a tank top or a sweater, showing a cleavage or wearing turtle neck, because a lascivious man has an issue in his mind, that has no real relationship with what a woman is wearing, because he sees her naked in his mind. Adding that to the violence that can surge inside relationships, with jealous controlling men, physically abusive men, misogynistic men.

Are all men like that? No, absolutely no, but the chances to meet one are so astronomically high, that women end up expecting not if it is going to happen, but when.

How do we can create safe spaces for women? The first try is to create isolated spaces where women can share only with women, where the violence tends to be highly reduced (yes, women can be hostile among themselves, but normally not in a way that can threat physical security of other women). But we need to advance to other forms to create better women-men interactions.

I tried to explain some of the reasons behind the fear women have towards men in modern societies. This is not an academic study so this analysis can be complemented in several ways, but the main idea is to ask people in general to stop calling feared women overreacting; there are reasons and the society has not changed enough to eliminate those factors.

As a closure, How could men contribute to create safe spaces for women? First we would need a society that stops sexualizing men lives, one that cease telling men that his value is related with the amount of women he can have sex with. However while this happens, we need more men who are clear about their value as human beings and who do not relate it with women possession, These men are not inclined to act in a violent way towards women, because they don’t need to grab anyone to assure their manhood or capacity.

The trapped body of men

IMG_0932pIt is common to relate male chauvinism with the issues women face in different aspects of their lives, but it is less frequent to open the discussion about how the culture of male chauvinism affects also men in sometimes subtle but pernicious ways.  Lets talk about men bodies, yes physical ones, so hidden by the culture that not enough lines have been written about how they are also manipulated by it.

First I am going to refer to vigorexia, also called muscle dysmorphia in medical literature. For those who ignore about the term it is the equivalence of anorexia but regarding muscle appearance; in vigorexia men see themselves as not masculine and muscular enough, as a result they exercise in excess or take supplements or drugs in order to compensate the distorted self image inhabiting their minds. As a result their health is affected by over exercising and the intake of harmful substances like steroids.

Then I  am going to talk about a more subtle manipulation of men by culture that affect their bodies, lets discuss dress code and personal care. It is a subject that could be considered trivial, men dress codes are basically compound by use shirt, use pants and use shoes; have you ever realized that men are less allowed than women to show their skin in the workplace? Women could use skirts and the length of them can be established, but men don’t have the option to use shorts, it is out of discussion, it is simply not proper outfit, period. Showing the chest? What do you mean? Nobody wants to know what is under your shirt, please bottom it up. Stretch apparel? Are you gay? If you allow your shirt to reveal your tits when it is cold nobody is going to think that you are sexy (as some could think if you were a woman) we are going to mock you for your bad taste in clothing. No sleeves? Do you think you work at a beach bar? This is not a basketball team either. And regarding personal care, please do it, but please nobody should notice what you have done; shave but please do not dedicate too much time to it, cut your hair but do not use to many products, we will think you are gay again.

Finally I want to discuss the most obscure assumption that male chauvinism has about men: They are disposable. How can this be? Men have the power of society, how can them be discarded? Lets talk about the war machine. Men are conquerors, they go to the battle, they fight for the country while women remain at home taking care of children; if many men are killed there is no problem, few men can still continue populating the country, women are a more scarce resource and their lives are connected with humankind survival; men only have to give their semen and new men will be born, who cares if they die in large numbers.

You could think that the last one is outdated, women also integrate the army, but in lower numbers; men also take care of children, but in lower numbers too; custody is still mainly assigned to women when parents split, a mother is hardly questioned about her abilities to take care of a child, a man is immediately sought with distrust if not with a suspicious look, like being a man were intrinsically dangerous for the children he could have in charge.

Terminating male chauvinism has also everything to do with men freedom, allowing them to regain their bodies, not being treated again as machines of distorted masculinity, not hidden, not disposable. Redefine men as able for fatherhood, not as mere genetic transmitters but as human beings taking care of others, as women do.


De la Bella y la Bestia a La Mujer del Animal

Para las de mi generación que crecimos leyendo a Robin Norwood y las “Mujeres que aman demasiado” comprendimos el equívoco mensaje de las fábulas, el erróneo sentido de que por la sola la fuerza del amor un monstruo era cambiable, que las mujeres teníamos el poder mágico de transformar a otro de naturaleza violenta en un ser distinto solo por el amor codependiente. Ahora que surge una nueva versión de la bella y la bestia es necesario acompañar a nuestras niñas en la lectura de los mensajes escondidos de esas historias, que perpetúan el exponerse a la violencia del otro en un falso heroísmo donde se cree posible salvar al otro a costas de la propia integridad. En la vida real bella no transforma a bestia, sino que ella se convierte en la mujer del animal, esa película de Víctor Gaviria que ha escandalizado a algunos en las salas de cine donde todavía se proyecta.


Escribo esto sin la intención de quejarme de mi madre, no podría, primero porque todavía vive y segundo porque hace muchos años que supe que no había nada que perdonar, porque ella hizo todo cuando pudo con lo que sabía, recibí de ella lo mejor que había en sus manos, su vida entera me la dio.  Sin embargo, como ella creció sin mucho afecto, no aprendió a expresarlo mucho, y si bien ahora es diferente y es más amable y cariñosa, yo crecí sin confianza para acercarme a darle un abrazo, ella me dio todo pero no supo como enseñarme a dar a recibir cariño, y probablemente a diferencia de ella, yo todavía no lo aprendo bien tampoco.

Entonces soy una adulta con grandes dificultades para abrazar gente o dejarme abrazar, lo siento extraño, invasivo o incómodo. Me siento fuera de lugar en ciertas situaciones sociales donde se supone que expresas tu afecto pública y físicamente, no me gusta tocar a la gente ni que me toquen.  Tocar parece un asunto reservado para el entorno sexual, allí lejos de la infancia donde la caricia tiene cabida, pero no el cariño, no he tenido realmente las dos cosas juntas, y no es que no me abrace a veces con mis amigos y amigas, si funciono, pero no se siente natural no se siente cómodo.

Mi mamá aprendió a ser cariñosa con mis sobrinas, ellas le enseñaron el lenguaje del contacto filial, inocente, gratuito, permanente, yo nunca estuve suficientemente cerca de ellas ni de nadie más para poder dar ese salto, sigue siendo antinatural para mi y sufro con ello, a veces quiero un abrazo y no sé pedirlo, a veces me abrazan y no sé recibirlo, la única cosa que aprendí fue el sexo, pero me he aburrido de él, no pasa de parecerme una transacción, placentera claro, pero sin el mayor asomo de ternura y afecto real, un goce para los sentidos que deja el alma de lo más vacía.

No puedo culpar a mi madre pero sigo siendo la niña que creció sin que la abrazaran mucho, sé que eso puede aprenderse, veo a mi madre y sé que es así, pero yo no he tenido quien me enseñe con paciencia, o tal vez sin proponérselo como lo hicieron mis sobrinas, yo navego en un mundo de adultos donde se supone que debes saberlo.  Simplemente no puedo, simplemente tampoco tengo con quien practicarlo y que yo me sienta cómoda y segura.

Tal vez algún día pueda sentirme acogida y en casa por primera vez, y que ese día haya alguien a mi lado que haga parte de ese sentimiento, por ahora me abrazo a mi misma y me acompaño, y me digo que todo va a estar bien. Por ahora yo soy la única persona en quien puedo descansar la cabeza, no es que no haya buenas personas, es que no estoy cerca de ninguna.




Tanta conversación seria
tan bien motivada
siempre con una explicación clara
de porqué estamos teniendo esta charla

Siempre buenas razones para hablar
que no quede alguna duda de que tal vez
solo tal vez
cada cosa seria que nos decimos
no sea más que una excusa
para poder escuchar la voz del otro
para saberlo ahí
para tenerlo presente.

Tanta cosa seria
porque no existe capacidad para decirnos
te extraño
me haces falta
te quiero a mi lado

No hay buenos argumentos para declarar
que el mundo se ve más bonito cuando estás cerca
que me muero de ganas por sostener tu mano
que quisiera quedarme toda la tarde abrazándote.

Si, palabras adustas
casi anunciadas,
porque no hay permiso de simplemente decir
solo llamé para escuchar tu voz
porque te extraño tantísimo.