Women are either stupid, or bitches.
Let’s start with the second option. Try walking down the street with your mother. You pass a man on the corner who calls something out. He sounds aggressive, so you don’t respond. He follows you for two blocks, shouting at you. You’re so stuck up. So rude.
Such a bitch.
You blame yourself. If you had just said hi, maybe he wouldn’t have followed you. If you had only smiled, maybe he wouldn’t have humiliated you in front of your family. Next time, you’ll be nice.
One day, you’re walking to the library. It’s a Thursday at 11 p.m. You’re about to cut through the student centre when a seemingly friendly guy asks if you’re going out tonight. Tell him that you wish you were, but you’re heading to the library. He says he’s sad. He doesn’t know anyone. He wants someone to hang out with. This makes you sad too, because in this option, you aren’t a bitch. You’re nice this time. You invite him to walk to the library with you. His face lights up, and he agrees.
He begins to walk, guiding you through the alley next to MUSC. You’re slightly caught off-guard, but assume that this way is faster. After all, you’re a frosh who’s only been on campus for two weeks. You go through the usual welcome week questions: what’s your name, your hometown, your faculty, your year. His answers surprise you. You think he says an upper year, but you aren’t sure, his accent is hard to parse. He begins to ask you questions. They aren’t the standard welcome week questions. Do you have a boyfriend? You look around. You’re lost. It’s dark.
Of course you do, you reply. Your guard is finally up. Yeah, he goes to Mac. No, you’d never cheat on him. You crane your neck, looking for something you recognize or a building that seems open. He asks you another question. This time you can’t parse it. He awaits an answer. You offer a quiet ‘uh huh’, which apparently invites him to grab your waist. His other hand clamps onto the back of your head, and cigarette ash falls into your hair. His mouth presses against yours, and his stubble scratches your cheek. You freeze. An eternity later, he breaks away. He asks you if you can feel it. No. He says he can, and his hand moves south. You stride away. He doesn’t follow.
When you finally reach the library, you walk over to your table of friends, and ask if anyone has mouthwash. Gum would do. Maybe mints? They are perplexed, and you head to the bathroom. A girl follows you. You lean over the stained sink and splash water onto your face and into your mouth. You tell her what happened. She asks how you could be so naïve.
You wash your own mouth out with soap.
Women can’t win. We’re expected to be nice and polite, friendly and welcoming. “How’s it going, girl?” from the guy leaning on the bus shelter. If you respond, you’re encouraging it. You’re engaging. You’re asking for whatever comes next. We’re expected to ‘protect ourselves’. But who are we protecting ourselves from?
We should be safe making friends on our own campus. We should be safe exchanging a few pleasantries while we wait for the bus. We should be able to be as guarded or as friendly as we like, without worrying about the repercussions.