Night Walks As A Woman – JG

I heard about a shooting the other night.

I was walking my dog after a long shift at work, torn between wishing she would just do her business so we could go home and enjoying the quiet that only seems possible after the sun has long ago set. A couple blocks down, two of my neighbors were likewise savoring the peace from the comfort of their front porch. Having a dog means getting to know everybody who lives within casual walking distance, so I waved hello. I’ll refrain from using names, and stick to genders – they’re a married couple, husband and wife. He’s a quiet fellow but she’s pretty talkative, so naturally she’s the one that mentioned the shooting to me.

She told me they had found the guy and how close it all happened. I was grateful for the update, but as I went to continue my duties as a pet owner, she continued her warning. Which is really sweet, don’t get me wrong. It’s always better to be aware of current events… what stayed with me though was that she was warning me that as a woman, I was especially in danger. Not just from random gunman guy who wanted money for booze, but from random guys. Because I am a woman.

I nodded along because this makes obvious sense. At my weight, height and gender, even with a dog, it’s considered dangerous to wander about around midnight. Stupid, even. I know this, and yet, during our forty-minute walk I started to dwell more on the why. I was sticking to well lit sidewalks, looking both ways before crossing the street, paying attention to my surroundings… and yet, still kind of a dangerous habit to fall into, isn’t it?

All that thinking really didn’t change anything for me though, because I’m still going to walk my dog whenever I get home from work. But it made me consider a few things I take for granted. Maybe it is stupid, but I refuse to be scared of random men based solely on their gender, and I sure as hell refuse to be scared for myself based solely on mine.

Knife At My Hip

Knife at my hip, Ready to grip,
Dressed like a reaper, dipped in all black,
Equipped to strike out, slash out, fangs out
Like a cobra, you know the
One with its hood up,
But is it enough
To dissuade an attack?
To prove I’m not a target?
That I’m hardened against becoming a statistic?
Becoming a victim blamed for not anticipating the worst of mankind?
We weren’t designed to be predator and prey this way,
And I am not lesser for my lack of a Y.

Knife at my hip, Ready to grip,
Be on the alert,
Too many chances to get hurt,
Ever wary is every step,
Common sense asks: how far will I get
Without a man at my side?
It’s hard to deny
The ‘obvious’ weakness my gender emotes,
My long hair, my slender build all denote
A come on to hunters in the shadows.
It’s asking for trouble and begging for danger
Because everyone knows you can’t trust a stranger,
Not as a woman and not when you’re alone.
Know your limitations, remember their inclinations,
It’s not their fault, it’s what you were wearing,
How can any man keep from staring?
Or daring to try his luck?

Knife at my hip, Ready to grip,
What a play at masculine this is,
Walk in stride, not a skip,
Steady and confident.
A solo walk in the night?
Crazy, Insane, Foolish,
Why tempt fate, it’s useless,
You knew this was the practice of the naïve and stupid.
How dim must they have been
To feel safe without a white knight to serve as a barrier,
Between the ever present evil looking to carry her away.

Knife at my hip, Ready to grip,
Despite kind advice
And warnings neighbors give,
I refuse to give in,
I refuse to be afraid
Because of the horrors they say
Await women alone in the dark.
So I wander, back straight, casual in my way,
As I wonder, will tonight be the day I have to use the
Knife at my hip, Ready to grip.

Jessie Gutierrez

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