two little girls playing dressup

5 Things I Learned Growing Up As A Girl (That I Shouldn’t Have Had To)

Learning about safety is vital for every child. Don’t go into strangers’ cars. Don’t give out personal information online. This is the difference between good touch and bad touch. However, girls also receive the expanded version. Walk with keys between your fingers in case you need a weapon. Make sure you tell a friend when you are going on a date with a stranger. Don’t wear earbuds while walking at night. It’s one thing to stay safe and alert. But growing up as a girl, you need to be vigilant as a lifeguard at the pool. 

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Feeling Unsafe Growing Up as a Girl 

There’s a gap in how safe men generally feel versus how safe women feel in the same situation. For instance, about 79% of men feel safe while walking alone at night, while only 62% of women feel the same. [1] Another study found that women are 10% more likely to feel unsafe on public transportation than men. [2]  

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Growing up as a girl, things like walking to school and deciding what to wear needed to be scrutinized. A report released by the Children’s Society found that one in three girls in Britain between the ages of 10 and 17 felt afraid of being stalked by strangers. In the study, many girls reported getting beeping at from men in passing cars while they walked in their school uniforms. [3] 

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Thus girls take extra precautions to ensure they are protected. Some of these are simple safety measures that men should take as well. After all, it’s a good idea for guys to let someone know they will meet a stranger. But if they forget, it unlikely to cause as much anxiety as it would for women. And some of these precautions wouldn’t even occur to most men.

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5 Safety Measures I Learned Growing Up as a Girl

Wear loose clothes 

Even on hot days, women prefer to stay covered to avoid getting cat-called or harassed. It’s an attempt to feel safe that doesn’t usually pan out. Women get cat-called or harassed in both modest and revealing attire. Some say that certain outfits are “asking for it.” But when it comes to harassment and assault, women don’t have to be “asking for it” for them to “receive it.”  

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Still, wearing loose clothes may help women feel safer even though it may not do any good. Making women feel safer while jogging or walking falls to men. And unfortunately, in a survey of 750 adult American men, one in five didn’t consider catcalling sexual harassment. [4]  

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To be clear, it is. Catcalling is not complimenting. It’s degrading and makes the victims feel unsafe.  

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How to fight back

Using keys as a weapon is a classic method, but there are others. Keep pepper spray in their purses. Attack the balls, Adam’s apple, the eyes, etc. Some girls are taught how to twist arms and break fingers. “Use your legs to kick because women have more lower body strength.” My brothers taught me how to break an attacker’s nose.  

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It’s one thing to know self-defense techniques, but many women constantly keep their keys in their hands or readily available in a pocket, just to be safe.  

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Read: A Study Suggests That Husbands Who Have Controlling Wives Live Longer and Are Healthier

Constant mental vigilance 

Even when women aren’t clutching their keys, they stay aware. Some avoid listening to music while they are out at night so no one could sneak up on them. Their eyes scope out safe spaces, like public coffee shops or a neighbor’s house, in case of a stalker or attacker. They walk past their homes if they think they’re being followed so that the creeper won’t know their address. If a person is giving them creepy vibes, they pretend to be on the phone to avoid eye contact. 

Growing up as a girl, you learn that if you fear someone is following you, stop and let them pass. Cross the street if someone threatening is walking toward you.  

It doesn’t take an assault or even a threatening word to make women feel unsafe. When I was walking alone at night on a dark street, two burly men walked toward me. I crossed the street, putting on the “I will murder you if you touch me” face that women do. Then they crossed too, walking toward me. I went back to the other side and ran toward a busy street. I didn’t feel safe until I was on the bus surrounded by people, including other women. Just an average day of staying vigilant. 

Stay in a group 

You learn about the safety in numbers quickly, growing up as a girl. I wasn’t allowed to walk anywhere at night without a friend, not after a girl was raped in the field next to my house. 

Girls go to the bathroom in groups, walk each other home, go to public places together, and always have an eye on each other’s backs. They warn each other when someone unsettling is staring or attempting an inappropriate pass at them.  

I went on a day trip with my friend, but we took a wrong turn and ended up in a scary neighborhood. A man began stalking us before we ran into a store and called a cab. I had joined the trip last minute, and I couldn’t help but worry about what would have happened to my friend if she was alone. 

Watch your drink 

Rapes are often committed by people that the victim already knew. So even casual parties require some vigilance, even more so at clubs or larger gatherings. Keep a hand over the top of the cup in case someone would slyly slip something in. If you leave your cup unattended, don’t drink it. Don’t accept a beverage if you didn’t watch it being poured and brought to you. 

Even if you watch your cup like a hawk, there’s the practice to avoid drinking too much. It makes them extremely vulnerable, and many women fear that. [5] 

Who is at Fault? 

You may have noticed that these safety measures aren’t foolproof; often, they aren’t effective at all. But they give women some semblance of safety and control in an environment where there is little or none.  

This raises a major issue. With so many safeguards in place, women who fail to comply and end up victims are often blamed for it. After all, they should have been dressing more modestly. They shouldn’t have been drinking. They should’ve come with friends. As if it is a women’s fault that a person decided to assault her. Yes, women should be responsible for their safety, but even the most responsible of girls have fallen prey to harassers and rapists. The running theme in these assaults is not the ‘responsible’ or ‘irresponsible’ choices of the women; it’s the choices of the people who assaulted them. It’s the choices of all people who make women feel unsafe. [6] 

And it’s hard to explain the fear of growing up as a girl to those who never had to walk with a key between their fingers. 

Keep Reading: Moms Are Sharing Powerful Photos To End C-Section Shaming

References

  1.  “How’s Life? 2020 – Measuring Well-being: Safety.” OECD iLibrary.  
  2. “Women 10% more likely than men to report feeling unsafe on urban public transport.” Imperial College London. March 25, 2020. 
  3. “’Paying to stay safe’: why women don’t walk as much as men.” The Guardian. Tali Shadwell. October 11, 2017. 
  4. Survey shows 1 in 3 men don’t think catcalling is sexual harassment.” AJC. Fiza Pirani. October 5, 2018. 
  5. Alcohol Consumption and Women’s Vulnerability to Sexual Victimization: Can Reducing Women’s Drinking Prevent Rape?” Subst Use Misuse. Maria Testa and Jennifer A. Livingston November 29, 2009. 
  6. ‘Stay safe’: why women are enraged by advice to steer clear of violent men.” The Conversation. Bianca Fileborn. June 15, 2018. 
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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