Last week, we published a story by Tiffanie Drayton about encountering a strange man multiple times in her neighborhood in the span of a few days, including on her own block, who then hunted her down on social media and sent her creepy and “flirtatious messages.” The experience made her feel incredibly unsafe, understandably so, and I was distressed to see some commenters be quick to dismiss his completely bizarre actions as coincidental or a misinterpretation on her part, mimicking the way some of her friends responded. Unfortunately, I think that happens a lot. On one hand, the instinct to dismiss those concerns — “I’m sure he’s not stalking you, he probably lives on your block/has an innocent crush/won’t actually DO anything to hurt you” — could be a (misguided, but well-meaning) attempt to make the person feel better/safer. On the other hand, they are also an example of the ways in which we tell women to ignore their instincts and give complete strangers, in particular men, the benefit of the doubt and a trust that has not been earned. There are very, very good reasons for women to not feel safe in this world of ours. The ways in which women’s personal spaces are violated on a regular basis are plentiful, from street harassment to inappropriate comments at work to online threats, and sadly, so too are stories of these behaviors taken to the extreme. As these 12 examples from Whisper illustrate, women who have been stalked are left isolated, do not always get the support they deserve from family, friends and community, and find the fear stays with them even after they’re finally “safe.” Keep reading »
The University of Wisconsin Madison Police Department posted an article this week about safety tips on campus and, of course, people are manufacturing reasons to get mad about it.
I really do mean manufacturing. These are really simple and effective safety tips that are not aimed specifically at women or the issue of campus rape. The only offensive thing about the article was the original title, “Shedding the Victim Persona: Staying Safe On Campus.” Once it was brought to the UWPD’s attention that “victim persona” unduly puts blame on victims for the crimes committed against them, they changed the title (albeit not the URL) to “Tools You Can Use: Staying Safe On Campus.” Voilà. They did their part to correct bad language. When contacted about the article, they stood by it as useful information for everyone. Keep reading »
Somebody call the PC Police: the Michelle Obama-inspired “Just Move!” stamp series, which encourages kids to lead more active lifestyles, has been put on hold because it depicts children participating in “unsafe activities.” You know, like skateboarding without kneepads and headstands without a helmet. Yes, really. Abstract, faceless cartoon images doing “unsafe” cannonballs in a brightly colored vacuum are apparently going to be the end of our nation’s youth if we allow these stamps to be released. In case it wasn’t obvious how ludicrous that is, let’s try to remember the last time a millennial child sent or even looked at a piece of snail mail that these stamps are intended for. Most of those kids are too busy staring at their glowing screens for things like snail mail, and definitely too preoccupied to do something like the physical activities these stamps are trying to encourage. Keep reading »
I’ve decided to stop using Instagram. It only just occurred to me that maybe I don’t want people to see where I am and who I’m with at that exact moment. There are lots of other things you can use Instagram for, of course, and I can always take those photos and ‘gram ‘em later, but that loses the whole “Insta” part of it.
Why am I giving it up? I’ve gone through my feed and I see some friends and acquaintances who are not only taking a photo of where they are but have also “checked in,” and described their exact place within that location (like, “Partying at [cool club here] in the back room, like rockstars!”) One day I thought, “Wow, this has the potential to be really dangerous.” Then I thought about how when I’ve gone on vacation I’ve posted my vacation pics on Instagram, too. It’s almost like I’m saying, “I’m not home right now, I am clearly across the country at the moment, feel free to rob my apartment and steal my car.” Keep reading »
StreetSafe, a relatively new app for smartphones, claims that for a minimum of $12.50 a month, it will coach you with safety advice in frightening areas on your way to any location. One first feature is called “Walk With Me,” where the user can connect with a Safety Advisor while walking down a street. If the user feels unsafe, the Safety Advisor will stay on the line with you until you have reached your destination. In the event that something does happen to you while on the phone with a Safety Advisor, they will be able to call 911. The second feature is called “Silent Alarm.” If this button is slid when you are in a situation where you cannot talk to a Safety Advisor, StreetSafe will contact the local 911 call center immediately, find your whereabouts using the GPS feature on your phone, and provide your age, physical description and any medical conditions to the authorities that are on their way to rescue you. Keep reading »