When I walk down the streets, I am usually afraid. The fear has various degrees, but it is always with me. I worry about the way I look: “Am I dressed properly? Do I have a resting bitch face?” I fear men: “Will the gentleman who’s staring at me hurt me? Are those drunks going to throw a derogatory comment my way? Are those bushes creep-free? Is someone going to jump at me and try to rape me, just as a few years ago?”
I don’t know what it feels like to feel safe in public. Or, I didn’t. Until I walked the streets of Brussels with a group of 50 feminists. How did I manage to join such a rare group?
I applied for the Feminist summer school, organized by European Women’s Lobby. Almost all European Union was represented. At our parties, tasty lunches, dinners, at serious group sessions and the visit to the European Parliament, we only missed feminists from Austria, Cyprus, Finland, the Baltics, Luxemburg and Slovenia. But, we were lucky to have with us great people from Turkey, Serbia, China and Brazil.
Back to my fear now. Imagine that guy, who would want to attack a group of 50 women and people of other genders. He’d only have a chance to do damage if he collected another 50 men. And, you know, good luck with that!
Thus, I wasn’t afraid of being physically attacked. But that’s not all. I also wasn’t worried about what I wore, or what my face looked like. Because, no one gave a fuck. I just was completely sure that these people, who are actively working on unlearning to hate women, wouldn’t, you know..hate me.
I don’t want to be afraid anymore.
Thanks to all that, I’ve found out how afraid I usually am. And, try to work, make stuff, do relationships, enjoy yourself, when you’re basically afraid all the time. Or, don’t try it. It’s not cool.
And I don’t only mean afraid of physical or sexual violence. You’ve probably heard about emotional, social, or economic violence. Although it’s usually being mentioned in relation to intimate partner abuse, I believe it also appears on a larger scale.
How else would patriarchy maintain the status quo? For surviving, it needs all forms of violence to keep us in submission. Economically by not employing us, or by not paying us enough, or by keeping us in poorly payed jobs. Socially by isolating us from each other, by making women hate each other, feel jealous of each other. Emotionally, by showing us we’re just sex objects, we’re not cool enough to be superheroines, comedians, stars, and so on. I guess you get the picture.
That’s why events like the Feminist summer school are so important. When patriarchy tries to isolate from each other, we have to fight it by connecting. When it’s trying to make us feel small and powerless, we need to empower each other. Please, let’s figure out how to create more feminist meetings. It’s vital for feminism in Europe. And if you happen on the application for next year’s Feminist summer school, don’t forget to apply!