Creating a safer world for women means talking about our vulnerability.
by Hannah Anderson
I was somewhere in the North Carolina mountains, driving down a long stretch of highway on a cold December night, when my predicament hit me. It was past midnight and I was alone, over a hundred miles from home. And of course, my cell phone was nearly dead. My mind began racing: What if my car breaks down? What if no one stops to help me? Or worse, what if the person who stops isn’t a good person?
Suddenly I was face to face with my own vulnerability.
Female vulnerability is not something women like to talk about much. In recent decades, we’ve preferred themes of empowerment and success. From female pioneers at NASA to Wonder Woman, women have been proving their worth in society and showing themselves just as brave and intelligent as men. But even as we affirm female agency and strength, we can miss an equally important, albeit unsettling, reality: Women are vulnerable in the world in ways that men, as a rule, aren’t.
This has never been made clearer than through the recent spate of revelations about Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood sexual harassment and abuse. As powerful, successful women came forward with their own histories of assault, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ as a reply.” Her tweet, which popularized the #metoo campaign that activist Tarana Burke began over ten years ago, prompted more than 12 million Facebook reactions in 24 hours and a million tweets of the hashtag in 48 hours.
Both support and criticism flooded in, but perhaps the most telling reaction was the simple question: “What woman hasn’t?”
Some communities use female vulnerability as an excuse to repress and control women. From purity codes to sheltering us at home, our womanhood has been used as a justification for abuse and marginalization. Instead of confronting evil men who take advantage of women’s God-given physicality, it’s been easier to just sequester us.
Despite the potential for misuse, we still must recognize and name the specific vulnerabilities that women carry in our bodies. As personhood goes, women are as strong and as gifted as men. But if we gloss over our physical differences, we’ll also gloss over the dangers we face. All the gumption and intelligence in the world mean little when a man is intent on harming a woman.
SOURCE: Christianity Today
Hannah Anderson lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She is the author of Made for More and the newly released Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul (Moody). You can find more of her writing at sometimesalight.com, hear her on the weekly podcast Persuasion, or follow her on Twitter @sometimesalight.