Just be aware.
I’m going for a road trip on my own, to my new home. I cross the desert into Texas. My sense of self is shifting, as I leave my hometown and find a new environment many miles away. My sense of place is being shaken (at will, but that doesn’t make it less scary.)
I find that outside of my existential fear of change, there is great anxiety in the logistics of being a woman in unfamiliar places, on the road, at rest stops and in the world.
Fear in a woman’s world is real. It is palpable and it can have a crippling effect on the ways we orient ourselves, how we conduct our business and where we go, especially in locations we are foreign.
I am encouraged by friends to be adventurous but to just be aware.
This is a woman’s trouble: to be aware of a world that requires fear before action or confidence, before dreaming, before leaving the house, before picking an outfit and certainly before drinking.
So I think: If I have fear, as a cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, white woman, who else is afraid?
I spoke to a gay friend of mine a few days ago, after the Orlando massacre, and he told me he has found himself unusually aware of his surroundings because he is afraid. The language he used was notably similar to what people have said to me about this upcoming road trip: awareness is key to safety. It’s worth pointing out that every time I’ve traveled, with girlfriends or solo, I am reminded each time, by all kinds of people, to be aware.
Be aware of my body, what time it is, where I am, where my money is, how I’m dressed, and more. I realize that basic awareness and common sense is vital to all people’s existence and modes of living. I also recognize a pattern of language that appears to be saved for certain people (read: those of us who are conditioned to be afraid for our own safety because we are visible targets for violence or assault or discrimination).
If awareness is meant to keep us safe, then it could explain why it’s popular to say she was drunk or wearing slutty clothes and this is why she was the target of rape and sexual assault.
If just be aware means “don’t find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time”, then I want to ask, who finds themselves in a wrong place, at a wrong time?
Women of color
Queer and Transgender people
(and more, or any intersection of these)
Why are we telling those listed above to be aware instead of those who act out, perpetuate and condone violence, domination and abuse? Because I am aware, my gay friends are aware, my transgender friends are aware, my friends of color are aware.
Home is a safe place to me (and for this I am fortunate). As I leave this safe place and venture into places unknown, I am aware of myself, what I am wearing, where I will be, what to avoid, on and on and on.
When fear rules logistics, availability, location and more, it means those of us who have been conditioned to know and learn fear, feel unwelcome where we have every right to be. It is a privilege to feel safe everywhere and for those who enjoy this privilege, it is time to be aware that safety should be a right, a universal truth instead of a peace of mind, body and spirit shared only by a few lucky folks.
Possessing a sense of self without limitation is powerful. Embodying a sense of place without domination or oppression is revolutionary.
It is time to employ the idea and live the truth that being aware means we can live together, without violence, assault or abuse, and that whoever may desire to sleep in an open field, to travel west or walk freely at night is unabridged in their ability to do so with the knowledge that to just be aware is a beloved task the community upholds in the honor of all its travelers and residents.
Savanna is a recent graduate of Oregon State University in Social Science. She created the blog Sex, Politics & Social Justice as an in-process learning project to gain political insight through the lens of intersectional feminism. She is moving to Austin, Texas where she hopes to expand her experience in the world and continue writing.