I was in the car with my brother the other day. It was probably about midnight, he was giving me a lift so I could make the last train to Bristol airport for a disgustingly early flight. Because the flight was so heinously early I had to sleep in the airport, I was totally okay with the idea of it but mam and my brother were a little nervous. Sitting in the car my brother he told me something that made me think. My brother is eighteen years older than I am and he was telling me that when I’d been quite young he was walking home in dark, through a park in Dublin and he realised that his sister would probably never be able to walk with the same ease as him, and he said he’d never wanted me or our younger sister to be afraid of doing things, to be scared.
But here’s the thing, I am afraid, there are things I don’t do, I didn’t walk anyway after eleven when I moved out, I’m nervous on my own in towns especially after dark. There have been times when I have seen someone who looks like they might be in trouble, drunk, hurt, people who might need help, and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been to scared to go and ask if I can do something, to give them human contact, to help.
Like it or not, I’ve grown up in a culture of fear, a culture that says “Don’t walk down that alley, just in case.”, says “You can’t go travelling abroad on your own, not as a young woman alone.”, “Don’t talk to strangers.”, “Anyone could be a thief/rapist/murderer.”.
A culture that at the base of everything is telling me “You are a woman, you are vulnerable, you cannot trust anyone and if anything happens, it’s your fault”.