I was talking to a friend of mine once—a guy—and I casually brought up the fact that I hold my keys in between my fingers when I walk alone in case someone accosts me. This is something I’ve always done—I don’t even remember who told me to do it. It is just something I know. When I told him, however, he was shocked. He thought it was something that only I did, an odd quirk of my personality. When I explained to him that most girls I knew did the same thing, he was almost disbelieving.
We live in a world of privilege. I don’t blame this boy at all for not knowing these things—after all, he is white and straight and lives in a safe place. But I also am unwilling to let myself accept that not everyone can walk down the street without feeling safe.
People who are oppressed and stereotyped on a daily basis are not in the minority. So many of us are people of color or female or have an orientation other than being heterosexual. It is so much easier to feel on the outside than to be aware of being on the inside.
Why can’t we live in a world where everyone is accepted for who they are? There are so many things we cannot control about ourselves—what makes people think it’s fair to discriminate on that basis? At our core, our DNA is almost identical. We talk about everyone’s being unique, and they are, but we are also all very similar.
I am stereotyped every single day. People think of me as someone who is scared of math and science, as someone who is unable to exert myself physically because I wear skirts to school, as someone who is small and innocent and unable to find my way from point A to B. Or, worse, someone who is meant to be available to men in whatever way they so desire. By the simple act of walking down the street with minimal skin showing, I unwittingly seem to have given men (a minority of them for sure, I don’t want to stereotype men in a statement about stereotyping and understand that the majority of men are kind, good people) the right to openly ogle me or yell offensive things at me. This is unacceptable. There is no excuse for this basic violation of common civility. I will not stop making noise about this until it stops happening, and I will not stop fighting for my friends who are oppressed because of their color or sexual orientation or identity, because I do believe that we can make a change together. We will not fix anything by remaining silent.