The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

WHITE: ‘Not all men’ are doing enough to make women feel safe

It shouldn’t be this scary to be a woman.
Women+deserve+to+feel+safe+on+and+off+Vanderbilt%E2%80%99s+campus.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FEmily+Gon%C3%A7alves%29
Emily Gonçalves
Women deserve to feel safe on and off Vanderbilt’s campus. (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Gonçalves)

I would say now is a scary time to be a woman, but it has always been a scary time to be a woman. 

In the wake of the horrific murder of Sarah Everard, who was walking home in London on March 3, women across the world have been reflecting on their own fears, stories and experiences surrounding their own safety. There is something so unnerving about hearing that a woman was killed even after taking so many of the recommended precautions such as taking the longer, better-lit path and calling her boyfriend as she walked. 

This hit even closer to home recently when a woman jogging near Belmont University was nearly abducted. It happens everywhere and college campuses are not the exception to that, especially college campuses in cities.

If you identify as a woman, you have probably heard a million times over advice like the following: don’t make eye contact with strangers, find a well-lit path, don’t go out at night alone and hold your keys between your fingers. However, the point still remains that those things don’t always change the outcome of a potential situation. While it is possible that many of the things women do to protect themselves, both consciously and unconsciously, may have an impact, they did not have an impact on Sarah Everard. 

We should not be looking for women to defend themselves against men; we should be looking for men to do more to keep women safe and to hold their male friends accountable for women’s safety. While I am speaking about all women, as a cisgender woman I cannot speak to the many additional dangers that transgender women—and especially transgender women of color—face on top of those that cisgender women face.

We aren’t asking for a lot here. We are asking to feel safe moving about our neighborhoods and cities at all times. Not just when it is light out, not just when we are with other people, and not just when we have the latest personal safety device at the ready. We should feel safe—always. 

When I absolutely must walk at night alone, I typically take many precautions. I make sure my phone is charged. I text someone where I am going. I make sure my location is shared with my trusted friends. I take my headphones out so I can be alert. I look around me constantly. If I see a  man, I keep my eye on them until they are far away. If I need to, I cross the street or pretend to make a fake phone call. I look behind me to check if someone is following me. I go through scenarios in my anxious head about what I would do to escape if I needed to. I finally arrive. I text my friends that I made it home safe. 

We should not have to do any of that.

Men can do so much to ease women’s stress and anxieties about walking home and most of these small tasks are basic, common sense. 

Don’t walk close behind a woman. 

Cross the street if you can, walk another route (which is very easy on campus) or keep your distance. Giving the woman room will likely give her peace of mind in an anxious setting. If a woman is walking towards you, move to the side so she can continue walking on the path she is on. If you are getting too close, take a second to stop and check your phone or something else to give the woman more space.

Do not talk to women at night in the dark unless you know them closely. 

It is not the right time to ask a woman for her number or even to have a normal conversation. She has an objective: to get home safely, not to talk to anyone. Even more obviously, do not catcall women. Ever. Unsolicited comments about a woman’s body are never okay, and they are terrifying at night. It is so easy to keep your comments to yourself. Catcalling is not a compliment; it is harassment

Don’t do anything surprising or make any sudden movements. 

If you are running, try to cross the street or move away from the path, as it can be scary to be approached from behind, especially at a fast pace. Other sudden movements, such as looking for something in your backpack suddenly or reaching for something in your pockets can be saved for a time when you are not near a woman. To someone who is already nervous and on high alert, this may signal that you are reaching for a weapon rather than your keys or wallet. 

Offer to walk female friends home at night, or at any time!

Walking home can be scary, and even if you think it is safe, it may not be safe for a woman going alone. You can show compassion by offering to walk women you are close with home. More obviously, never judge a woman, as it will only delegitimize her feelings. Instead, always validate the concerns: I can see how that is scary. How can I help? Can I walk you home? Can I call you an Uber?

Do more to prevent women from being harassed and attacked by others.

Keep an eye out for women who appear uncomfortable. Be an active bystander. You should intervene if you see anyone being harassed and stay until they are safe from the harasser. Talk to your other male friends about what they can do to make women feel safe. Make sure they walk the women they are close with home at night or check to see if they arrived home safely. Make sure you are not friends with a man who makes women feel unsafe or catcalls women.

Many of these suggestions are common sense, super simple and clear cut. Men need to be doing more to prevent women from being uncomfortable, and it doesn’t have to be hard. Right now, our discomfort is far from irrational. There are stories everyday about women being harassed, attacked and killed by men while just going about their day. It happens to our sisters, mothers, friends, professors and peers. It should not be commonplace to live in fear like so many groups of people do in public. 

Women deserve to feel safe while simply walking home. The fact that they don’t is a men’s issue.

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About the Contributors
Alexa White, Former Graphics Director
Alexa White ('23) is from Traverse City, Michigan, and is double-majoring in secondary education and English. When she isn't writing for The Hustler, she is probably teaching, reading or creating art. After graduation, Alexa plans to be an English teacher and hopes to inspire kids to love reading, writing and exploring their creativity in all forms. She can be reached at [email protected].
Emily Gonçalves, Former Multimedia Director
Emily Gonçalves (‘20) was the Multimedia Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Mathematics and Economics and minored in Latin American Studies. When she’s not taking photos, you can catch this Jersey girl making puns, singing, advocating for girls’ education and drinking lots of chocolate milk and espresso!
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