Nowadays 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.