I Am The Lucky One
Apparently, I am the lucky one.
As a woman born in the 1970s I grew up understanding that women have equal rights. I grew up with women being able to vote, work, and decide whether they wanted children or not. Contraception was available and abortions were legal. The world was open and I had all the choices in the world. So I thought.
As a teenager and young adult I walked around at night and was typically not bothered.
Some of my best friends were men. Long term respectful friendships that I cherish till today. I learned so much from these friendships and, yes, they were purely platonic and an enrichment to my life.
I am no longer sure that my daughter will grow up with the same luxury. Should I call it luxury? Probably not. It is a right. However, this freedom, this right is being challenged.
When I grew up I was touched twice inappropriately by men. One fellow teenager felt the need to grope my breast while walking passed me in the hall way of my Highschool. One other man decided it was necessary to stroke my back under my T-shirt in a crowd once. I learned to walk away and keep drunk men I did not like at a distance. What was kind of normal, though, was being subject of cat calling. Or being inappropriately approached by men in train stations or in public places. I have no idea how often someone commented on my boobs or suggested activities I was not willing to participate in. I learned to dress modest. Sometimes I was called “slut”. And if I did not respond I was “the bitch”.
Nothing really caused me to be scared. I have not been afraid to walk down streets at night and often still enjoy an evening run or walk in the dark.
Apparently, I was part of the lucky generation.
What happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve is an escalation of hate and disrespect towards women that I did not know could exist in Germany . More than a 100 of women were groped, molested, or otherwise attacked over the course of a few hours. Skirts were torn off, panties ripped.
This is not even a unique or one time incident. Other cities reported similar scenarios. Just the pure number of incidents makes this Cologne event so shocking.
What does this mean? Should I change my behavior? No more evening walks? No more runs in areas without other people? Am I endangering myself by just getting out of the house without protection? Is it finally time to buy a pepper spray?
What do I tell my daughter. Do I have to impose a very modest dress code (do not show skin) or a curfew (never be out in the dark)? Should I tell her that men are not friends and should be feared?
I do not want to teach her to be scared. I do not want her to feel she is second to any boy or man. I do not want her to feel her freedom is restricted. And I wish we would all unite to teach our sons and daughters how to be partners. We are partners in life.
So, here is a call to action for mine and the next generation:
Teach your kids respect towards each other and to be true partners in life. To women, to men, to others. We live together. We need to make it work. It is our duty and responsibility.
I want my daughter to live in a world with choices, not fear!