On Being a Woman in America While Trying to Avoid Being Assaulted
Lately, I’ve come to suspect that maybe a lot of people, especially men, still have no idea what it’s like to be a woman in America going about her life while trying, and at times failing, not to be assaulted. So, these past weeks, I’ve been observing myself.
I, for instance, elect to walk on certain streets, not others. The elevator doors slide open, and there’s one man inside: I evaluate his size against mine, calculating how well I could fight him off, if I had to. I check the backseat of my car before getting in, just to make sure no one’s waiting there. I don’t leave my drink unattended; when I have to use the bathroom, I take it with me. It’s a multiperson bathroom. I take it into the stall. I lock my car as soon as I get in, then I start driving, pronto, no dallying. While I’m waiting at the bar to buy a drink, a man starts talking to me. I respond politely, if briefly: I hope to indicate, without provoking his ire, that I’m not interested. I get unsettling emails from a stranger, a man. I try to decide what’s safest, if I should create a filter that directs all his missives to the trash or if I should remain aware of what he’s saying. I make the filter, then I delete it. I should be aware, I think.
R.O. Kwon, writing at The Paris Review, shares this powerful, personal essay.