Paying To Stay Safe: The Costly Tax On Women No One Talks About
One man's luxury is another woman's burden.
Unless you’ve been living under a patriarchal rock, you’ve probably already heard about the controversial tax placed on feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads.
But there’s an even more costly tax society places on women that no one seems to be talking about — the safety tax.
In our current society, safety is a luxury for men. For women, it's a burden.
The nonprofit organization Stop Street Harassment found in a 2008 study that over 99 percent of women have experienced catcalling or street harassment. 95 percent said they had experienced excessive staring, 82 percent were the recipients of vulgar gestures, 57 percent had been touched or grabbed in a sexual manner, and 37 percent stated that a total stranger had actually masturbated in front of them.
Another study done by researchers at Cornell University and anti-harassment group iHollaback found that 84 percent of women experience catcalling by the time they're 17 years old. But it gets worse: 13 percent of women experience it by the age of 10.
Rape culture and the constant threat of becoming the next victim on the news is one of the most taxing burdens women have to deal with on a daily basis. Both the necessary precautions we actively take and the subtle decisions we subconsciously make cost women more time, money, and energy than most men can fathom.
Women have become so conditioned to look out for our own safety from a young age that we hardly even notice the toll it takes on our minds, bodies, and wallets. But when you actually stop to think about it, you’ll soon realize that being cautious is time-consuming, being prepared is expensive, and being careful is exhausting.
We modify our behavior and adopt preventative measures to feel some semblance of safety in a world where women are all-too-often prey. Despite the great strides feminism has made for women, it would be erroneous to claim that it isn’t still a man’s world.
The public space is owned and controlled by men. That doesn't mean that every man who benefits from this privilege is some sexist, misogynistic, pig. All it means is that men do not have to worry nearly as much about walking through the mall parking garage, wearing modest clothes to avoid being harassed, or holding their keys between their fingers to use as a weapon if attacked.
Women, on the other hand, are constantly immobilized by the safety measures we feel compelled to take. We switch up our routines if we think we're being followed. We stop and pretend to make a phone call if someone has been harassing us on the sidewalk. We take the long route home if it means we stay in well-lit areas. We live our lives unconsciously attuned to fear.
And that fear turns out to be really expensive.
We buy pepper spray, mace, and tasers to protect ourselves from an attacker. We buy security cameras and electronic locks just to feel safe in the comfort of our own homes. We buy taxis and Ubers when it’s too dark to walk a few blocks home. We buy gym memberships so we don’t have to run outside alone.
Living with a constant voice in the back of ours heads alerting us to potential perils is both draining and discouraging. Rather than living our lives carefree and to the fullest, we find ourselves living in a constant state of unease.
When all is said and done, the cost of being careful can take its toll on women. The burden of safety is placed almost entirely on women’s shoulders. And when we fail to avoid assault, we get victim-blamed for wearing the wrong outfit, drinking too many cocktails, or acting too much like actual living-breathing-thinking-sexual beings. Silly us.
We have no problem teaching our little girls how to stay safe. But maybe it's time we spend just as much energy teaching our little boys how not to threaten their safety in the first place.
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