My most recent trip to Dublin reminded me how much I dislike walking alone when it’s dark. A friend walked me to the bus stop and went on her way. I missed the bus and there was a 25 minute wait for the next one. There were a few people so I felt OK waiting. After a few minutes I realised I was on edge. Every noise made me jumpy, especially when those noises came from groups of men who were passing by.
I was texting Paul and thought about phoning him, but didn’t want to take my phone fully out of my pocket. I was too on edge to feel comfortable standing around much longer, so I got a taxi. Of course I had to phone my friend and let her know my way of getting home had changed. We chatted until I was home safely.
Was I more aware of it because I’ve been away from Dublin so long? Was my discomfort stronger because I no longer drink alcohol and as a result pay more attention when the people around me are drunk? That’s not to say I feel inherently safer living in the country, because I don’t, but the geography of the place means I always have a lift waiting for me.
I think most women know the feeling I’m talking about. We slow down or speed up depending on who is walking behind us. We spend our time crossing and re-crossing the road to avoid men or stay in places lit by street lights. We change our routes. We have something on hand that can be used a weapon if we need it. We take note of which taxi our friends get into. We arrange to let each other know that we got home safely. Waiting for that text from someone can feel like an eternity.
These things are so ingrained in us that sometimes we don’t even think about them, we just do them. They are second nature to us. This. This, right here, is what I mean when I talk about rape culture. It’s exhausting to feel like this. Yet we do what we have to.
The most depressing thing is that so many women feel like this and I don’t see that changing any time soon.