Saturday, 1 August 2015

Safe and sound

As a straight white man living in a sedate area of a British city, I take my physical safety for granted. The chances of my being mugged or shot or raped or otherwise attacked are so miniscule I don't need to worry about it.

Not so for many, many other people who have to think about their physical safety all the time. Women wary of any unknown man on the street. Gays wary of anti-gay thugs. Black people wary of hostile whites. Atheists living in a religion-dominated society. Families living in the midst of civil war. Sexually abused children.

No society can call itself civilised when so many of its citizens feel physically unsafe and at risk from those around them. We should all feel safe and protected and unthreatened. But the reality is very different.

Luckily all I ever have to worry about is emotional safety - that there are people who care for me and respect me and that I'm not going to be constantly judged and appraised and found wanting. That people won't laugh if I do something wrong, or push me away if I feel lonely, or patronise me if I'm distressed. And by and large, in that way too I feel safe.

I hugely admire those people who're determined to be themselves and live their lives to the full despite huge threats to their physical and emotional safety. They refuse to be intimidated or scared and just carry on regardless in the face of widespread menace. I marvel at their strength and single-mindedness. I could never be that tough.

It's a sorry state of affairs when some women still feel the need to go out with a man or another woman, simply to ward off unwanted male attention. Even when we're well into the 21st century? It's scandalous.


  1. We're lucky here, too. But I'm afraid the violence in the world is going to get worse. It's hard to believe otherwise with the changing environment, increasing population. There's going to be more and more conflicts over resources.

  2. Jean: Well, I guess the possibility of violence partly depends on whether existing diminishing resources can be expanded or replaced. For example solar energy can replace gas-fired power stations.

  3. A police force with its eye on public safety as opposed to worrying about how P.C. it is looking might be a good start...

  4. i seldom go out after dark.
    it would mean being alone. and regardless of one's age... for a woman in today's world... not that smart to do.
    although here it's amazing how brazen the bad people are in broad daylight!

    i suppose it's truly not any worse than it ever has been with mankind.
    in biblical days... the robbers along the roads
    in olde england... the highwaymen
    on the seas... the pirates
    in our wild old west... the gangs and shoot outs ... the list goes on.

    we just seem to think our age is the worst i think. maybe because we hear it first hand in our living rooms on the nightly news.

    i like what you said about emotional safety. i think it's the most important of all! and i too feel very emotionally safe.

  5. Maybe because I'm a woman, I don't find it scandalous. It's just a part of life. I don't go to the mall at night by myself, even in the safest suburbs. I don't go for a walk in the woods alone in broad daylight. I never answer the door if I'm not expecting someone. I think it's just common sense.

  6. We moved from a nice neighborhood to an "eh" neighborhood, but there is no vandalism. I believe it is the safest area around. Nobody wants our stuff. ha.

    I do take risks...walk alone in the woods, drive off by myself...frequent neighborhoods that others wouldn't... but I'm a badass. :)

  7. Helen: I think we need both! The fact is many of our police are far from being PC. They're often sexist, racist and homophobic, and get pulled up for it time and again. Just last year for example a survey of senior police officers in England and Wales found that gay and lesbian officers still fear the consequences of revealing their sexuality as they rise through the ranks.

  8. Bijoux: Wow, that sounds pretty restrictive, even by what I know of women's self-protection. But yes, as you say, women (regrettably) learn to accept such measures as a fact of life.

    Susie: Interesting that you're so different from Bijoux! Jenny (my partner) is also quite bold about where she goes on her own. She reckons she could defend herself if necessary.

  9. Tammy: I think you're right that the present age is probably no more violent or crime-ridden than any other. In fact the era before police forces were created must have been one of rampant disorder. As you say, we're more aware of violence nowadays (both local and global) because it's instantly relayed to us through numerous media and social media outlets.

    It's terrible that so many women still avoid going out when it's dark. The "Reclaim the Night" campaign unfortunately had little effect.

  10. I take your point, Nick...but my emphasis is on how they think they look as opposed to how they actually are...

  11. I sometimes feel that sadly life is getting more dangerous for women in certain countries. I sometimes despair of the human race.

  12. I don't find it restrictive at all! Maybe because I never have trouble finding a companion to go with me? And the doorbell thing really helps avoid solicitors and religious cults.

  13. Helen: Oh, okay. Big organisations are always obsessed with the way they look, aren't they? And nowadays they're all terrified they'll look anti-women or anti-gay or anti-black. "We take equal opportunities very seriously blah blah".

    Jenny: I think you're right. Especially in countries with religion-based governments, areas controlled by Islamic State, and countries like India where rape culture is widespread.

  14. Bijoux: Okay, fair enough, my misreading. I'm glad it all comes naturally, as it were, and it doesn't feel like a restriction. Good point about avoiding the religious cults!

  15. I do my best to avoid walking alone at night. I don't answer the door whenI'm home alone unless I can see that it's someone I know or am expecting. I try to be careful about where i walk even in the daytime. I've been harassed by men too many times even in broad daylight to assume that I'm safe on my own.

  16. Whatever our perception of what 'should be', I'm afraid we have a long way to go before man's (current?) nature means we are all safe to walk wherever we want, whenever we want. Some of us are lucky; others aren't. Sometimes I think we get the labelling wrong, though; threats come from the ignorant, the bigoted (of any colour, creed or sexual orientation) and the criminal. Not sure that 'scandalous' is the right word - though, of course, EVERYONE should ideally be safe. I do feel we are making progress; I have to believe that. I thin, someday, the mental Neanderthals - of all colours, creeds etc - will catch up.

  17. I can't count the numbers of times I've been harassed. And it's getting worse all the time. You only have to look at the numbers of murdered women. We are over 50% of the population and are not safe from harassment, assault and/or death when we venture out alone. So my answer would be to curfew all men after 9 at night unless they're accompanied by a responsible, armed woman. Seriously.

    I'm so tired of it. It started when I was 6 years old. And other women have had the same experience.


  18. Agent: I guess most women have to take the same precautions, because like you they get constantly harassed by men. It makes me absolutely furious that women can't just get on with their lives without being hassled by predatory idiots.

    www: You're still being harassed, even now? That's ridiculous. Of course a male curfew sounds crazily extreme, but how else is all this random harassment ever going to stop? If men aren't willing to police other men, or police themselves, what other solution is there?

  19. As you know Nick, I live alone and have done for the past seventeen years. If I was to dwell on all the dreadful things that 'might' happen to me, I would never go out anywhere or anytime. About twelve years ago burglars broke into my home… well they actually hacked the back doorframe out of the wall to get in as the door was too strong to wield to their heavy instruments. Thankfully I was not at home and the thought of what those heavy implements could have done to me is best not thought about.

    Any day outdoors I might be run over by a bus or killed by a car travelling the wrong way on the motorway. I travel alone almost daily by car and or public transport and meet wonderful interesting people. A few years ago I was told that a single 'event' of my heart condition might mean the end for me. I could drop dead where I was at that moment: be it in my bed asleep, doing my chores or out enjoying myself.

    I came to terms with that diagnosis. I won't die until it is my time whether through heart attack or event outside my control. I have no intention of allowing myself to be imprisoned for one of life’s ‘If’s. What a waste of life that would be.

    Now, when is our next cup of coffee?

  20. Mike: You're right, we have a long way to go before we can all walk wherever we like in complete safety. There are many people who have no concern for other people's welfare and feel free to harass and attack them on the slightest pretext. And I do think it's scandalous. We should all have the elementary right to feel safe at all times, whatever the place and whoever is present.

  21. Grannymar: You're exactly the sort of person I admire, for the reasons I mentioned in the post. You refuse to be too daunted by all the possible risks in your life and just get on with enjoying yourself. I know of several other people who could theoretically drop dead at any moment but they refuse to sit at home worrying about it.

    I know how distressing the burglary was for you. It's the sort of thing you never forget, even if you've learnt to minimise the emotional consequences.

    Ah, the next cup of coffee. I'll have to look at my diary....

  22. I am in no physical condition to resist any kind of physical attack and hence choose to be funny. I am however in great mental condition to resist all kinds of mental assaults but no one indulges me. I haven't personally experienced either in a long long time though recently I had an opportunity to reminisce about some scars that my daughter in law found and asked about.

    What you observe about in your environment is as valid here and I am sure in most other places of the world. It is a measure of the times that we live in and the conditions that produce predatory human beings.

  23. Ramana: Glad to hear you're living in a very safe environment. But as you say, in today's world there are any number of physical dangers, which is one reason immigration has reached such a peak. Everywhere people are fleeing civil war, invasions and brutal repression.