Last week, my wife went to book club.
As occasionally happens when she (read: anyone) gets together with her friends, the night got away from her and she was out later than she’d anticipated. So I texted her for an update and learned that, due to a series of mishaps with the subway, she’d ended up far afield from where she wanted to be.
Enlightened Nice Guy that I am, I got irritated and scolded my wife for not having taken a car and for putting herself in harm’s way. After all, it was after dark, and SHE IS A WOMAN!
The next morning, with her home, safe and sound, I was still irritated with her for not taking a car from the get-go and for subsequently stressing ME out. And then she told me something else that had happened.
She told me that as she walked from the unreliable train, a random drunk, college-aged guy just walked brazenly up to her, accosted her on the street and tried to kiss her. Luckily, she was able to scream at him, push him away and run into a nearby gas station, from which she called a car and finally made her way home.
She hadn’t told me the night before because she was justifiably angry with me for my terrible reaction. But she was even more angry at the world, because she remembered a time, in her younger days, when she might have agreed that she was to blame. There was a time when she did blame herself.
Because, like many (most) women, this isn’t the first time Mom and Buried had experienced something like that (or worse). And as a teen or a college student, she had moments after some garbage guy had done something ranging from inappropriate to outright illegal and she felt like it was her fault.
Which is insane and illogical – and depressingly familiar. We make them feel that way.
It’s what we’re seeing happen with the #metoo movement and the Kavanaugh hearings and every fraternity rape case and on and on and on.
Women are so conditioned by the judgment they receive and the dismissal they’re faced with that they’re ashamed to admit what happened. So they don’t.
And why should they? Why should they step up when someone as credible and clear-headed and sincere as Dr. Ford throws herself in front of a firing squad for no reason beyond civic duty and is vilified for it?
My wife didn’t do anything wrong. She merely went out and had fun with friends, got screwed by the NYC subway system, and subsequently found herself in a scary situation through no fault of her own.
It was HIS fault. And it’s OUR fault. Not because we’ve done something, but because we haven’t.
Instead of reckoning with the environment we’ve created and let fester, we just shrug and blame *the victims* for not adjusting THEIR behavior in the face of “harsh reality.” Instead of working to change that reality, we imply – or even outright say – that anyone who falls victim to it got what they deserved.
We should all know better than to blame the victims. Including me.
I should have known better than to let my anxiety over my wife’s well-being manifest as anger. She was rightfully angry at me the next day, because she expected more from me, and because she’s sick of the double standard.
God knows I’ve put myself in similar situations and suffered worse consequences. But getting mugged on the subway after I’d had too much to drink wasn’t my fault. I’m a guy! It’s what we do! Boys will be boys!
The best part of all this? Despite my protestations that she take a car home, there’s no guarantee they’re any safer! There’s no guarantee that the Uber driver or the cabbie wouldn’t try something himself.
And there never will be any guarantees. The world won’t be a safe place for women until men stop blaming the environment and start changing it.