Words by Anonymous,
Why do I walk with my keys in my hands at night? Why do I constantly scan my surroundings when I’m walking alone? Why do I text my friends, parents or partner when I get home safe?
Because I am a woman, living in a gendered society.
The World Health Organization defines gender roles as “socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women”. These roles have altered throughout time, especially in the past 100 years, through events such as the women’s rights movement and more recently the #metoo movement. Yet still, traditional or ‘primal’ gender roles are still present in today’s society.
Statistics, news reports and personal experience tell us daily that men can be violent and that men commit violent crimes. One woman is killed in Australia every week, one in five women have experienced sexual violence and one in three women have experienced physical violence. Now, more than ever, women feel unsafe not only in the streets of our cities but more often in the vicinity of their own homes. Violence against women has become embedded in our society
The question is not who’s to blame, but why is this happening?
Gender conditioning starts from the moment parents find out the sex of their unborn child. Girls receive pink clothes and dolls, boys receive blue clothes and action figures. A study published by Our Watch in 2018 found that even if parents believe that girls and boys should be treated equally, they unintentionally reinforce these stereotypes. Even if children are raised in a gender neutral home they will most likely adopt stereotypical gender roles and identities through socialisation. Women are expected to be accommodating and emotional, whereas men are expected to be confident and perpetuate strength.
Society as a whole suffers from these distinctly defined gender roles. Women aren’t the only victims of toxic masculinity. Countless studies have found that society’s idea of masculinity is also detrimental to men, leading to mental health problems and in some cases suicide. Our culture is saturated with toxic masculinity. It wasn’t so long ago (1987) that Marital Rape was still legal in Australia. So ensuring that our parks are adequately lit at night or asking women to take precautionary actions isn’t going to stop men from being violent. To stop men from being violent and women from feeling unsafe, society needs to shift away from outdated gender roles and break the cycle of gender inequality. Mainly through the media’s coverage on assaults, rapes and murders, society is quick to judge and point the finger at women for supposedly putting themselves unsafe situations. It shouldn’t be up to a woman to ensure that she is in a ‘safe’ environment. If men were educated and changed their predatory behaviours, women wouldn’t feel unsafe.