Why we should stop telling women it’s dangerous to travel alone
Not only it is sexist, but it is also not true.
For men, adventure means the great outdoors, beautiful escapes and the pleasures of solitude.
However, travel risks also exist for men. But in their case, it’s romantic, it’s about surpassing yourself, it’s adventure, yes big adventure.
The woman is the one who stays. Like Penelope who faithfully awaits Ulysses while he goes on adventures and exploits. Penelope’s heroism lies in her expectation, her patience, her immobility.
Travel is supposed to be dangerous for women, they are told that it will be in great danger. On the other hand, women are recommended to annihilate themselves in love and waiting.
This vision links to a sexist and misogynistic argument that a woman who travels alone takes reckless risks, that in the best of cases she is unconscious — if not that she is immoral.
The mechanism is as follows: women are deprived of an experience (travelling alone) while affirming, to support this point of view, that a woman who travels alone is a rare species. The circle is vicious.
In the collective imagination, it seems difficult for many to imagine that the weaker sex goes its adventures alone, without a man who would protect them from all the dangers of the world.
Once again, we infantilize women and dispossess them of their free will: to prohibit (or advise against, but in substance it is the same thing) something to a woman, even for her alleged “safety”, proceeds from the same kind of alienation. In such a representation, women are expected to ignore the dangers that await them in the world; but strangely, when they denounce these dangers as not being insurmountable but as being the act of malicious men (harassment, attempted manipulation, rape …), women are told that they are wrong, that they fantasize about a danger which is not one.
A few months ago in Tehran, a young German woman around me was subjected to intense and very intense harassment from a man. After seeing her in a grocery store near her home, he followed her to her apartment building and started waiting for her every morning and evening outside her door. He tried to speak to her despite his repeated refusals, launching declarations of love and marriage proposals in a poorly mastered German who had obviously learned the day before for the next day.
To avoid it and because she was very afraid, she started to systematically travel by taxi, to modify her schedules, to hide all her hair under her scarf when she approached her home. When she told her story around her, the good man jokingly replied, “Oh! but it’s cute: he wants to marry you, you caught his attention that’s all. It was lunar: she was supposed to be flattered by the harassment of this man. After a month, she went to the police station, where she was told more or less the same thing: “But don’t be afraid, he doesn’t want to hurt you, he’s just in love! After two months of continuous harassment, she decided to leave Iran permanently.
The traveller is torn between these two figures: the frightened woman who fantasizes about danger, who is not “funny” because she does not want to go on an adventure; and, on the other hand, the damn we’re trying to use
The characteristic of a patriarchal society is to structure the room for manoeuvre of women, to shape their preferences and their behaviour. A ban is always social, rarely natural. Resuming sexist injunctions (in this case, telling a woman that it is dangerous for her to travel alone), even in a benevolent manner, therefore only perpetuates this state of affairs.
Furthermore, constantly pointing out an alleged danger of solo travel for women only contributes to their objectification. Once again, women are presented only as potential prey, not as subjects with a vision of the world and the possibilities of defence within it.
The mechanisms at work in a society are never taken for granted. They exercise simply because they are encouraged. And so, the vitality of patriarchy is only made possible by these small daily abdications, by the fact that women are locked beings from the inside who have internalized the injunctions that they have been given since childhood. To convince yourself that being alone is dangerous and that you no longer want to be alone for this simple reason is to have fully internalized this injunction: you end up being convinced that it is normal to be afraid — and that, what which is not normal is to take such risks.
It is therefore important to go against the prescriptions of society: if not to overturn, at least to stop sexist mechanisms. The impact is real: on life, but also on those around him, and therefore a fortiori on an entire society.
Loneliness is emancipatory for oneself, but also for the image that one sends back to others and therefore for society. And if you are a woman and you hesitate to leave alone simply because you are afraid, ask yourself this question: would, in my place, a man hesitate for the same reasons?
The original content and copyright is given to @Lucie Azema in French @Courrier Internationale and NomadHer team has translated and edited in English. You can find the original contents here : https://blog.courrierinternational.com/ma-vie-a-teheran/author/broxane/