“Women and men do not receive an equal education because outside the classroom women are perceived not as sovereign beings but as prey.”
—Adrienne Rich Taking Women Students Seriously (1978)
I’m nineteen and I am scared.
In about a month I will be moving to a large university in Northern Virginia, to a bustling city just outside of the nation’s capital. I am not scared of the classes, the rest of my life beginning, or even how I will be fully separated from my family for the first time in my life. No, I’m not scared of any of that.
I told my father about how I was applying for internships in Washington, D.C. and that I plan to take the Metro (public transportation) to get in and out of the city. I was excited at the thought of my freedom coming in the new year, and all of the possibilities that entails.
“You know the metro is not a safe place for women,” my father told me with a cold voice. My excitement turned into fear almost instantaneously. I saw rape and sexual assault in the news daily and I was aware of the danger that I am in on a daily basis—or was I?
According to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, there have been a total of four (reported) rapes so far this year that could have happened on the bus, rail, in parking lots or other facilities. As little as that sounds, I don’t think men can understand the fear that women, including myself, experience upon hearing that number.
I don’t think women would feel excited to commute into a city that has reported 290 sexual assaults just last year.
Adrienne Rich was saying in her essay Taking Women Students Seriously that with the increase of incidents of rape and sexual assault, it only affects the female student negatively. She was referring to the issue of rape on campus that make walking home from the library difficult for women. This is a large problem, being that college age women are three to four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the average woman. This affects our schooling greatly, being that we are constantly subjected to sexist grammar and sexual harassment by professors and other students our age.
The sad part is that I am nineteen years old and I am just now being awoken to this issue. I participated in the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 and I am still just now realizing this pervading issue in our culture. I am beginning to look around at women in my age group and it has now become my duty as a woman to protect against sexual assault with things like mace and be there to support my friends around me that have experienced this.
I don’t think I could have considered myself an educated woman that is active in politics until just recently. I wasn’t even aware of what is happening to my entire gender a month ago. I also don’t think Rich was out of bounds when she wrote that women are considered prey. Whether we like it or not, our minds are being assaulted too.
With constant reminders that we are in danger and the inequality between genders, we are being molded into women that are meant to live in fear.
What are these reminders, you may ask? It could be in the media, in literature, in our unequal pay, in our pink taxes, or even in our interactions with the males in our lives. Men like my father, for instance, reminding me that I am in danger. He was reminding me that I am prey.