The Story of Men is the Story We Decide to Tell: A Single Woman Traveling Alone

Emily Heist Moss prefers to look at the kindness of strangers rather than worry about men as sketchy stereotypes.

I prefer to travel alone. I spend an hour in front of one El Greco painting, and then breeze right past every other wonder the Museo del Prado has to offer. I stop and sit in a park for half a day pretending to read while scoping out the local population. I meet strangers and make friends more easily alone, encounters that usually top any tourist adventure I might find in my Lonely Planet guide. I’m at my most selfish and self-indulgent when I fly solo.

I also feel at my most vulnerable. I’m in unfamiliar places, navigating in languages I barely speak, if at all. Sometimes, I go to countries where the presence of a wandering single white woman is an attraction in and of itself. There are probably at least a hundred Indians with surreptitious cell phone pictures of me; apparently I was just that photogenic.  Are there moments of discomfort? Of course; I view them as the price of admission to the parts of the world I want to see. Do I feel in danger? Very rarely. Are my fears misplaced? Am I demonizing foreign men when I should be celebrating the kindness of strangers?

*          *          *          *          *

A few years ago, I was working my way from the north of Spain to Gibraltar.  One evening in Barcelona, I went to watch a light and water show at a city fountain. Late by my American standards, the Spaniards were still enjoying dinner at 11pm. A group of businessmen chatted me up by the fountain; they seemed harmless, if flirtatious. As I walked back to my hostel, I realized one of the men was trailing me.

He approached me, and said something in Catalan I didn’t understand. I responded in Spanish, telling him to have a good night, and waving him away. For a block, he hovered just a few feet over my shoulder. He approached again, lightly grabbing my elbow. Though the precise language of his proposition was lost on me, the gist was clear: American girls all have a price, what was mine?

I waved him off more forcefully, telling him clearly and loudly to leave me alone. I ducked into a KFC to regroup, hoping he would scuttle off. I had a few Euros and a hostel key, no cell phone and no one to call. My lurker made figure-eights in front of the restaurant, periodically checking to see that I was still there. Behind the counter, a pimply 16-year-old lounged with his coworkers. I looked at this kid, and then out at the man on the sidewalk, and decided I had to trust someone and it might as well be this teenager. I told him, as best I could, that there was a bad man outside and I needed help. He walked out with me where I pointed out the stalker, still pacing and eying me. My teenaged helper shielded me from view, protectively held my elbow, and flagged a cab. He told the driver to take me as far as my remaining Euros would get me. I cried in the backseat and told the non-English-speaking cabbie the whole story. He promptly took me all the way to the hostel, shortage of Euros be damned.

You can listen to this story and extrapolate that Spanish men are aggressive, sexist, rude horndogs. Some of them certainly are. When I tell this story, I focus on the creep and my audience usually launches into their own variations on this experience. Unfortunately it isn’t uncommon for single women to find themselves followed, touched, catcalled or harassed while traveling. You could also listen to this story and see two regular Spanish men, a fast food employee and a cabdriver, who helped me out of a sticky situation.

I’ve been telling the story all wrong. I’ve been calling it “that time I was stalked by the creepy guy” instead of “that time I was rescued by the kindness of strangers.” It’s unfair of me to emphasize the stalker when the KFC guy and driver played equal, and better, parts in this play. It focuses on the salacious, scandalous stereotype instead of the decency of ordinary people. I’ll tell it differently next time.

The truth is, I have exponentially more kindness-of-stranger stories than sketchy-foreigner stories. A man on a train platform in Morocco shared his tea at the end of a Ramadan fast and told me how much he loved America. At a hotel without room phones or wake-up calls, an employee came and knocked on my door at the crack of dawn so I wouldn’t miss my flight. At the airport in Delhi, two English-speaking Indian men offered me their phones while I waited for my delayed friends. If they didn’t arrive, the men assured me, I could come to the wedding they were attending. Every time I have asked for help, and many times I haven’t, it’s been offered generously and respectfully.

*          *          *          *          *

When my mother brags about me to neighbors in the supermarket, she often includes my latest adventure. “Alone?” they ask, appalled, “You let her go alone?” Set aside the fact that there’s no “letting” to be done anymore; the neighbors are clearly concerned for my safety.  What they don’t realize is that the places I go are no more or less dangerous than the city I walk through every day. There are certainly different risks when traveling alone and I don’t mean to minimize them.  People are people everywhere, however, and no matter where you are the vast majority are good and kind and wish to help.

I could focus on the anomalous man who made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable, or I could focus on the surprising and spontaneous kindness of strangers. I think I’ll take the latter. It’s not as exciting a tale, but it’s the truth.

photo: puuikibeach / flickr

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About Emily Heist Moss

Emily Heist Moss is a New Englander in love with Chicago, where she works at a tech start-up. She's a serious reader and a semi-pro TV buff. She writes about gender, media, and politics at her blog, Rosie Says. (Follow her: @rosiesaysblog, find Rosie Says on Facebook). 

Comments

  1. As a 19 year old I traveled alone for two years. Luck, ingenuity and guts wrapped up in naiveness kept me safe. I relate to the kindness of others, have the fondest memories of these travels.

    It’s sweet how you tied up your story in a bow with the good people and aking yourself to shift your paradigm see the wonderful men and boys in the world.

    There is a bigger issue that frightens women and teenage girls that is unaddressed here, why men behave like criminals and rabid dog towards women when it’s made clear their behavior is unwanted and we are scared by what they are doing.

    • There is a bigger issue that frightens women and teenage girls that is unaddressed here, why men behave like criminals and rabid dog towards women when it’s made clear their behavior is unwanted and we are scared by what they are doing.
      Considering the well wishing comments for the story here I think the bigger issue is that people are so busy presuming that men are criminals and rabid dogs (desite the fact that only a small portion of men are like that…). Yes the jerks need to be addressed but are you really going to act like its okay to pretend that all men are jerks or something like that?

    • Ross Simons says:

      I’m not going to lie, it actually really hurts to be vilified as if all men are vile, rabid dogs. If i’m walking behind a woman at night, I feel like I need to intentionally walk really really fast to rush past her, walk really really slow so she’s far ahead, or cross the street, because she might fear that i’m one of the rabid dogs that has set my sights on her.

  2. Emily, this is a great story with an even better message. Thank you. All too often (and as evidenced by Monday’s comment above) the emphasis is on the jerk who acted inappropriately, and not the multiple good samaritans.

    Monday: We don’t know what caused that guy to act like he did. Maybe it was the language barrier. Maybe he didn’t really want sex but something else. Perhaps it’s commonplace in that country for men to be more aggressive. Or, more than likely, maybe he was just a creep. But being a creepy isn’t just a guy thing. If you think you’re exempt from that particular trait just because of your gender, you’d be incorrect.

    But in the end, let’s be honest. This “creep” didn’t actually harm anyone. Yes his behavior was inappropriate and rude, but in the end he didn’t break any laws or actually do anything wrong. He just exercised poor judgment and lacks any social skills. The problem is he’s automatically thought of as a rapist and sexual deviant, despite not having actually done anything of the sort.

    • Hey Aaron, thanks for the support. The dude was definitely a creep, but I absolutely agree with you that projecting that onto all men (per Monday’s comment) is hugely stereotypical and wrong.

      I will add, though, that while the guy may not have broken any laws, he did do something “wrong.” I very clearly asked him to leave me alone (in multiple languages and with gestures) and he ignored me. I’m pretty sure, with the pacing outside the KFC, that I could make a case for harassment.

      That being said… it was ONE GUY. That doesn’t say anything about all the others, and definitely nothing about the two who helped me.

      • A really nice piece. Thanks for writing.

        Makes me think about how feminists always have to defend their interest in equality by spelling out that they DO NOT HATE MEN, which is so ridiculous considering that an appreciating of ALL people doesn’t equal hatred of ONE group of people, individual others, etc.

        I agree that there is the bigger issue of why threatening behavior is condoned. There’s a system in operation that permits that man to not take a ‘no’ (as opposed to enjoying friendly flirtation or accepting a ‘yes’ if both parties agreed on it) and doesn’t provide an alternate route for the female party. That sweet, teenage kid exists in the same hierarchical system as the creepy dude but he hasn’t been manipulated by it or given in to it. Why? Maybe because he’s younger, maybe it’s because that guy creeps him out too… but I’d like to think (of course) that he’s acts as he does because he’s decent, just and strong enough to withstand the message that men are permitted to act with impunity and women better run like hell if they don’t like it (and even then, people might say, the woman was “asking for it” because she “dared” to travel alone).

        • Rebecca:

          Who is condoning what the guy did? No one that I can see. Even in my comments I said he was acting like an inappropriate jerk. Men are not permitted to act like jerks any more than women are. Part of the problem is people like yourself assume that all men are in this hierarchy and therefore just salivating at the thought of exercising some sort of patriarchal privilege at every turn. I hate to burst your bubble but that’s not the case. We’re not twisting our mustaches & plotting ways to oppress women.

          Any fool (man or woman) can see what that guy did was wrong. Not illegal, but wrong. It was an unwanted advance from an overly aggressive guy who is obviously a real asshole. But look what happened. The MALE store clerk saw he was an asshole and intervened. The MALE cabbie felt sorry she dealt with an asshole and gave a reduced fare.

          The point is the majority of men are nice guys who do the right thing. Are there assholes out there? Sure. But they’re the minority. But it amazes me how you believe that the rest of us are operating under some glorified “Bro Code” in which we have the right to be overly-aggressive tools. That’s just not the case.

          • “Part of the problem is people like yourself assume that all men are … just salivating at the thought of exercising some sort of patriarchal privilege at every turn. I hate to burst your bubble but that’s not the case. We’re not twisting our mustaches & plotting ways to oppress women.”

            The problem is that privilege is usually exercised unknowingly. If there was some sort of evil plot or conspiracy going on, it would probably be a lot more visible to the people who are blind to the more common, innocuous ways sexism and misogyny are manifested.

            As for “people who assume all [blanks] are [blank]“, I hope we can agree that they are being counter-productive and (in my opinion) awfully silly, but busting out that statment in response is also a pretty good way to shut down what I think was a fairly nuanced and reasonable, if debateable, discussion. I hope we can all try to stay away from grand generalizations to the extent that’s possible, and also to respond to the actual idea being put forth, regardless of exactly what percentage of the population to which it’s meant to refer.

            • Because otherwise everything just devolves into an Us-vs-Them shouting match.

            • mm, there is nothing even remotely nuanced about the statement “That sweet, teenage kid exists in the same hierarchical system as the creepy dude.” It posits a worldview without justification.

              The idea that the “creepy dude” is not actually part of a “heirarchy” but rather a loan agent doesn’t seem to cross Rebecca’s mind.

              In reality there is a huge gulf between pretty standard privilege claims such as “I don’t have to fear that I will not be hired because of my gender” and the matter at hand, which seems to be “I have a right to another person’s body.” When you begin to think that privilege explains EVERYTHING you dehumanize by eliminating the capacity for individual choice.

              DaddyFiles point is that men are individuals making individual choices, and that includes the “creeps.” The men being “creeps” are choosing to do so on their own just as the men choosing to be “decent” are doing so on their own. Categorizing creepy actions as “privilege” but decent actions as “choices” is not just inconsistent, it’s dishonest. If you allow someone to make a choice for good, irrespective of privilege (which Rebecca seems to allow), then you have to allow that some of the choices to be bad must also be irrespective of privilege (which Rebecca doesn’t seem to consider).

            • This is good. I appreciate that you addressed a specific idea that you take issue with, giving the person who wrote it opportunity to clarify or defend it, or take it back if it’s recognized to be wrong. I’ll leave that to them.

              And you make a good point. Where I disagree with you (and the person who made the original comment, I think) is that I don’t believe the (hypothetical) cause-and-effect works they way you describe; that is, you seem to believe the argument is that privilege leads to and allows for creepy, inappropriate behavior. In my mind, the creepy, inappropriate behavior feeds into an atmosphere of power and vulnerability which helps create a structure of privilege and oppression. I guess one could argue that it’s a cyclical reinforcement, and maybe that should be considered, but that’s not what I’m trying to say at the moment.

              I’m not necessarily supporting what was said in the comment, just that a constructive opinion was presented and then the conversation was brought to a halt by a refusal to really look at what was being said.

              I’ll shut up for now.

            • No the problem with privilege is that it is an incoherent concept

            • I’ll try to break it down, then, like some did with the race issue.

              It’s not having to deal with a certain amount of crap every breath we take.

              Off the top of my head, here are some common perceptions of women that I see thrown in their face on a regular basis…

              (**Note: I don’t think most men say or believe any of these things. But knowing that some people do, that this mass of hate and ignorance is just floating out there, weighs on some of us sometimes.**)

              We love chocolate and gossip and romantic comedies. We’re baby-crazy gold-diggers. If we don’t want kids, we’re selfish. We’re irrational and overly-emotional, and on top of that, we use that fact to manipulate men. If we get angry about something, then we’re bitter, ugly, fat, man-hating dykes. We’re trying to keep men from having access to a male birth control pill, because we love our $30/month co-pay (if we’re lucky) for the responsibility of taking a strict regime of hormones that can increase irritability and risk for heart problems, among other fun stuff. We’re whores who use our bodies to taunt and trap men, and we make them feel like criminals for their desires. We portray all men as if they have no control over their natural urges, yet we don’t accept that as an excuse for violent or hurtful behavior. In most cases, one of the first things men should ask themselves about us, and then feel entitled to comment on, is whether they would hit that. We use sex as a weapon. We complain about it when we’re told to smile by male strangers and called sweetheart by older male co-workers, even though we should be flattered because they mean well; if we politely object or turn it around on them, we’re crazy bitches who can’t get laid. We expect men to buy us drinks and pay for dates, but we whine about being hit on or catcalled. We make false accusations of rape out of spite or regret or wishful thinking, especially when we brought what happened on ourselves, and men never get the benefit of the doubt. We’re weak-minded if we start to feel beat down or depressed by the fact that we’re reminded hundreds of times every day that we require endless improvement. If we try to improve ourselves, we’re shallow and vain and phony. If we don’t, we’re lazy, have no self respect, and are filled with bitter rage. We object to all porn, and it’s because we’re controlling and jealous. On the internet it’s OK for us to be blatantly threatened with excessively hateful sexually-targeted violence. There are things we shouldn’t do and places we shouldn’t go alone, or whatever happens to us is our own fault. We’re uptight, nagging whiners. We let ourselves be portrayed as having the moral high ground because of our supposed stronger self-restraint, which simultaneously deifies and dehumanizes us, and is one more way we bully and antagonize men. When we point out inequality or injustice, it’s because we actually see men as inferior. When we point out specific incidents of sexism or misogyny, and the constant atmosphere of anxiety and shame those countless moments can create over time throughout our lives, it means we’re overreacting because we hate all men.

              What’s the list for men? I admit I’m probably blind to most of it. So help me out:

              They’re violent, sex-obsessed, wife-beating, raping, child-molesting animals. They’re stupid. They don’t do their share around the house. They’re bad at communicating. They’re sexist, macho pigs. They cheat. They have superficial friendships. They lust after young girls. They forget important occasions. They’re inferior parents. They can’t shop or cook or do anything domestic. They’re always wrong, and they never admit it. They care too much about sports.

              Personally, I don’t believe a single one of those applies to more than a tiny minority. (Except maybe the thing about young girls, and I doubt that applies across the board. Oh, and they cheat, but so do women.) And I really can’t think of any more.

        • Makes me think about how feminists always have to defend their interest in equality by spelling out that they DO NOT HATE MEN, which is so ridiculous considering that an appreciating of ALL people doesn’t equal hatred of ONE group of people, individual others, etc.
          While its unfair that the fair minded feminists get treated like that there is no need to pretend those among them that do things like disregard experience are a figament of the imagination.

          In fact in line with what Daddy Files is saying. Somehow to you the guy that was harassing is the representation of men (or at least the one that gets the attention) despite there being more positive men than negative men in the story. Sounds a lot like what people do to feminists as a whole when expecting them to defend against the presumption that they hate men.

          • “Somehow to you the guy that was harassing is the representation of men (or at least the one that gets the attention) despite there being more positive men than negative men in the story.”

            Precisely. For some reason, feminists cannot resist stereotyping men as abusers, harrassers, and victimizers – despite such being in the minority, as illustrated by this story. Makes their argument about not hating men an uphill battle. As I said, no one can say what is in another’s heart (e.g. hatred of men). All we can do is listen to what they say and watch what they do.

            • I disagree that feminists stereotype men as abusers, harassers, and vicitmizers. It’s tough to prove the absence of something, so maybe we’ll just have to disagree. I just believe there’s a big difference between talking about something that some people do or have done and claiming that a large population of people are like that. And I don’t typically see those sorts of claims.

              The exceptions to the ordinary, the anomalies, are the things that get the most attention. That’s how it always is. And especially if that anomaly is an issue that we feel should be addressed, it deserves discussion. Which isn’t to say that the good things people do don’t deserve recognition; they absolutely do. There’s just less that needs to be said about them, other than “Thank you” and “Keep up the good work.”

              I also want to reiterate the point that I’ve tried to express before. If a feminist woman, or any woman, is sometimes fearful, suspicious, or even hostile toward Men in the abstract (and I disagree that most are), I don’t believe it’s because she thinks they are all capable of hurting or harassing her. I believe it’s because a very tiny minority can and do, and running into enough of them can make being a woman feel vulnerable and hated, even in the presence of men she knows to be kind, loving, and respectful. Not because the majority may be like the minority. I hope that sort of makes sense.

            • I just believe there’s a big difference between talking about something that some people do or have done and claiming that a large population of people are like that. And I don’t typically see those sorts of claims.
              I see it come up in the form of writing off the experiences of those that don’t fit said claims simply becasue they share a trait with the wrongdoers. You can’t hardly expect to be able to shut men that don’t rape out of the conversation on rape while at the same time expecting them to address it because they share gender with the majority of rapists.

              So why is it that when men feel hatred from feminists men are told to not take it personally but when feminists feel hatred from men men are not to hate feminists?

            • I don’t know the answer to that. I’ll only say that if there is hatred directed at men from feminists, or if it is perceived that way, then that’s a problem and I’m sorry.

            • I know that’s a hard one to answer (and my apologies if I came off as heated and angry when asking it) mm but thanks for acknowledging that the problem exists.

            • This site has plenty of examples of feminists stereotyping men as abusers, harassers, and vicitmizers. Just about every feminist site does that to a greater or lesser extent.
              “Which isn’t to say that the good things people do don’t deserve recognition; they absolutely do.”

              Except that feminists seldom acknowledge the good that men do, only the bad. The difference between feminists and non-feminists is that feminists tend to speak of and focus on how bad men are, whereas non-feminists are more balanced, acknowledging both the good and the bad in men and women. This is why feminists have the reputation that they do.

            • How can you know how every feminist in the world feels about anything?

            • There you go with another strawman.   Where did I say that I know how every feminist in the world feels? The fact that you can’t point to me making any such statement proves that you have built yet another strawman.

              In fact, I have stated on GMP that I DON’T know what is in anyone’s mind or heart.  I can only listen to what they say and watch what they do.

              That is why, if you were honestly debating, you would acknowledge that my comment (just above) mentioned what feminists “tend” to DO.  No mention of how “every feminist in the world feels.

            • Pointing out problems is not the same as placing blame on every person in an entire group of people.

              It’s also not the same as hating anyone.

              Even if every single feminist hated all men (and I don’t agree that very many do), it doesn’t make the issues they discuss irrelevant.

              “The difference between feminists and non-feminists is that feminists tend to speak of and focus on how bad men are, whereas non-feminists are more balanced, acknowledging both the good and the bad in men and women. This is why feminists have the reputation that they do.”

              I think the reason people have a negative reaction to feminists and feminism is because the same negative ideas are always perpetuated about them. If more moderate, reasonable people who actually shared the same principles weren’t scared off by the intense, reactive vitriol spouted about the evils and craziness of feminism, well, feminism might seem less evil and crazy to the people who keep saying that it is. But then, we all tend to find exactly what we go looking for.

              Feminists may indeed talk about and focus on the bad things that women deal with in this society. Because that’s the side of the story they believe isn’t visible enough. Because it’s a movement for equality, they highlight the INequalities. But I see all sorts of inequalities discussed, including those against men, people of color, non-able-bodied people, seniors, etc. I also see feminists “acknowledging both the good and the bad in men and women.” I’d like us to stop telling people that if they are fair-minded and not completely dissatisfied with their lot in life and not out to attack and blame others, that means they aren’t feminists, because I think that’s simply wrong.

              As a feminist, I like and support the message of this piece. And I appreciate the good things that people do. (Including all of you having this discussion. Thank you! Even if we disagree, you seem to be generally kind, thoughtful, intelligent people who care about your fellow humans.) Tell me a story about a triumph of equality and goodwill, and I will be right there celebrating with you. But as I’ve said, the exceptions — especially negative ones — always get more attention (like the man-hating feminists, anyone?). And negative issues need attention.

              I’m not sure what else I can say without talking in endless circles.

            • Pointing out problems is not the same as placing blame on every person in an entire group of people.

              It’s also not the same as hating anyone.

              Even if every single feminist hated all men (and I don’t agree that very many do), it doesn’t make the issues they discuss irrelevant.

              “The difference between feminists and non-feminists is that feminists tend to speak of and focus on how bad men are, whereas non-feminists are more balanced, acknowledging both the good and the bad in men and women. This is why feminists have the reputation that they do.”

              I think the reason people have a negative reaction to feminists and feminism is because the same negative ideas are always perpetuated about them. If more moderate, reasonable people who actually shared the same principles weren’t scared off by the intense, reactive vitriol spouted about the evils and craziness of feminism, well, feminism might seem less evil and crazy to the people who keep saying that it is. But then, we all tend to find exactly what we go looking for.

              Feminists may indeed talk about and focus on the bad things that women deal with in this society. Because that’s the side of the story they believe isn’t visible enough. Because it’s a movement for equality, they highlight the INequalities. But I see all sorts of inequalities discussed, including those against men, people of color, non-able-bodied people, seniors, etc. I also see feminists “acknowledging both the good and the bad in men and women.” I’d like us to stop telling people that if they are fair-minded and not completely dissatisfied with their lot in life and not out to attack and blame others, that means they aren’t feminists, because I think that’s simply wrong.

              As a feminist, I like and support the message of this piece. And I appreciate the good things that people do. (Including all of you having this discussion. Thank you! Even if we disagree, you seem to be generally kind, thoughtful, intelligent people who care about your fellow humans.) Tell me a story about a triumph of equality and goodwill, and I will be right there celebrating with you. But as I’ve said, the exceptions — especially negative ones — always get more attention (like the man-hating feminists, anyone?). And negative issues need attention.

              I’m not sure what else I can say without talking in endless circles.

            • mm. Sorry, I somehow copied your comment.

              “Pointing out problems is not the same as placing blame on every person in an entire group of people.”

              Unless broad generalizations are made about the group (in this case males), which often does happen.

              “It’s also not the same as hating anyone.”
              No one knows how someone else truly feels.

              “Even if every single feminist hated all men (and I don’t agree that very many do), it doesn’t make the issues they discuss irrelevant.”

              I disagree (about the relevance). Why? Hating a group obviously calls the hater’s objectivity about issues related to the hated group into question. As an extreme example, is it reasonable to believe that the issues raised about blacks by the KKK are relevant? Or, does their hatred and bias skew their thinking?

              “I think the reason people have a negative reaction to feminists and feminism is because the same negative ideas are always perpetuated about them.”
              I disagree. Long lasting, persistent reputations (good or bad) come from what the person/group does or does not do. Reputations can be built, torn down and rebuilt by what the person or entity does. If there were no substance to feminists’ reputation, it would have changed somewhat over the years.

              “Because it’s a movement for equality, they highlight the INequalities. But I see all sorts of inequalities discussed, including those against men”

              I disagree. For example, can you point to where the huge gender education gap between boys/girls/men/women is anywhere on the feminist agenda? If girls/women were 20% behind in high school and college graduation (as boys/men are), would feminism be silent? Or, would it be demanding “equality” in education? Demanding that laws and policies be enacted to correct this inequality? However, since males are the ones who are falling further and further behind, what is feminism’s response?

              Silence . . . Clearly, equality is not the objective.

            • In this thread, and in most other circumstances I can think of, most feminists of both genders and most women in general have made a point of acknowledging that *most men are good.* Whereas the anti-feminist crowd has pointed out that *most feminists are misandrists.*

              Of course one’s personal bias will influence how they see things. That needs to be taken into account, but it doesn’t negate a good point if one is made.

              Here’s a story about the gender education gap.
              http://jezebel.com/5831868/americans-think-women-need-college-more-than-men-do
              It’s not exactly what you were talking about, and it focuses on the issue from women’s perspectives (because it’s from a women-oriented site), but here’s a quote:
              “According to Reuters, the Pew Research Center talked to over 2,000 Americans and found that while 77% said women needed to go to college, just 68% said men needed to. Also, women tended to be more positive about their college experiences — female graduates were more likely than male ones to say that their education was worth the money, and that college contributed to their personal and intellectual growth. Another interesting finding: 40% of women’s parents paid for college, while just 29% of men’s did so.

              What’s behind this gap in how college is perceived — and how women experience it? Does college reward skills that are more common in women?”

              See? Feminists talking about ways men face inequality.

            • I also see a lot of discussion about how the idea of masculinity can be restrictive, burdensome, or harmful to men in many of the same ways that femininity can be for women.

              And I see making a point of celebrating good men.

              And I see talking about the ways that some women are guilty of the same things some men are (violence, infidelity, objectification, etc). I see standing up for male survivors of sexual assualt, against a mainstream culture that disbelieves such a thing is possible or thinks it’s funny.

            • mm, you have made my point. The gender education gap is not an issue that feminists care to address. In the entire Internet, with dozens of feminist web sites and countless feminists organizations, all you can find is a single 3 paragraph web magazine article that doesn’t even cite the gender education gap as a problem that needs to be addressed. IF feminism were an equality movement, there would be countless articles and postings on this, as well as a demand for government policies and programs to redress this inequality – just as they would do for girls/women.

              I am not saying that it is the responsibilty of feminists to address boys’/men’s isssues. I am just pointing out that it is not an equality movement.

            • I didn’t search the whole internet. That was one that I was already aware of having read.

              And sometimes, most of the time I would argue, equality isn’t about demanding government redress, it’s about working on a personal and interpersonal level to shift attitudes. That’s what most feminist discussion focuses on, in my experience.

            • mm, thank you. Your comment shows that equality is not the objective of the feminist movement. Not only does the movement not demand government redress for the education gap, they don’t even care enough to discuss the issue. If equalitiy were the aim of the feminist movement, feminists would vigrously and constantly discuss the education gap and demand government redress just as they have done for decades for the wage gap.

            • Eric. My goodness. Mm has been tirelessly acknowledging your points and trying to see where you’re coming from, and you can’t express the same respect because you’re so hung up on the fact that feminists are focused on making the world a safer place for females but not for you.

              Big deal! The world is NOT a safe place for most females. There are still inequalities. Some people make it their life’s work to fight to rebalance that. Some people make it their life’s work to see the intersectionality between all of the different structures of oppression, including the the restrictive stereotypes applied to men. There’s room for everyone. Lucky for men, we don’t have a gigantic power structure working against us, so asking for fairness is much easier. Look at that! A woman didn’t laugh or ridicule you for arguing that there are unfair stereotypes of men – she saw your point and acknowledged it as a valid one. And you and your father and your grandfather haven’t had to fight their entire lives to get to that point. We ARE privileged. Which is why feminists are still fighting for women. Because women still have the short end of the stick. While you personally might not be the kind of guy who is the target of feminist vitriol, if you listened to even just a handful of women about their day-to-day experiences you’d soon see the need for a stronger push for females to get to equality than for men.

  3. Nicely expressed. Thank you for hoghlighting the majority rather than the minority.

    As this experience illustrates, there are far more men who offer kindness and assistance to strangers on a daily basis, especially to women, than those looking to do harm in some way, but such often gets ignored, is under-appreciated and seldom if ever written about. It’s nice to see good guys getting some press. Thank you for writing this piece and thanks to the GMP for posting it.

  4. What a wonderful post! As a fellow lone traveler, I wholeheartedly agree. I think the moments of vulnerability leave us feeling more wounded, so it’s likely why we focus on them. These trips help me feel my own strength, and then it’s these moments that I realize how vulnerable I actually am. It’s a strange juxtaposition of things. I think what I love most is that I’m completely present to every moment so I experience just about every inch of life.

  5. I too prefer to travel (and go out and do things at home) alone. Being female has never made me change how I chose to spend my time or where. And I tend to trust (within reason), assume the best about, and be polite and thoughtful toward strangers, be they men or women.

    I have run into very few problems, and the rare occasions I felt I might be unsafe haven’t made me feel threatened by Strange Men in general. However, I think it is disingenuous to say that moving through the world as a woman doesn’t make one aware that there is a very small but palpably present subset of angry, creepy, or just brazenly deluded people out there who like to use others — particularly women — to make themselves feel powerful, and that that awareness can create a certain kind of pressure or uneasiness, even if no physical harm comes from it. It may not be enough to stop me or you from going where we like and enjoying the experience, but at best it’s there and it’s a crappy thing to have to carry with you, and at worst (in those rare cases) it really can be dangerous or traumatic. Traveling While Female, no matter how we act or how much we love it, is just a different experience than Traveling While Male.

    Still totally worth it though, and yes, most people you meet are kind, interesting, and helpful.

    • This is actually sort of what I think of when I think of women (or other marginalized groups) being oppressed. It’s not that we (most of us female westerners) are literally prevented from doing certain things or literally forced to do others. No one holds a gun to our heads and makes us spend crazy money on cosmetics, shoes, and purses. No one withholds food and shelter from us if we choose not to have babies. No one escorts us to a holding cell if we wear a short skirt in the “wrong” neighborhood.

      In the most basic sense, we all have free will and free choice, and our lives are what we make of them. Yet we all — men included — face pressures and injustices that we feel we had no part in creating, and often we choose to participate in the systems that produce them.

      That moment when I become consciously aware of the way I walk as a group of men follows me on the street, and decide whether to make it a little quicker, a little more confident, a little more purposeful… that moment isn’t important. It doesn’t make me feel unfairly treated. It doesn’t ruin my evening. It barely registers. If one of those men catcalls, I don’t think about how all men are scum and how much my life sucks; I may roll my eyes, but then I probably laugh — maybe even smile — and forget it.

      It’s the accumulation of a lifetime of tiny moments that adds up to an awareness that you don’t have the same freedom in the world at large as a man does. (If you’re lucky they’re tiny moments. If you’re less lucky, they can be huge.) You may have equality, respect, success, and love on a personal, case-by-case level, but your gender makes you somehow constricted. It’s not impenetrable or inescapable, like a straightjacket; you just know that it’s there all the time, making you think about things men aren’t even aware of, putting pressure on you like a tight turtleneck. And you can make observations about that turtleneck, and invite others to observe it and notice their own, without necessarily complaining about it.

  6. People are people everywhere you go. (Not just men, but women can also take advantage of people.) Regardless of the intentions men have, we need to have street smarts. Emily, rock on for doing it alone. I’ve learned some of my most valuable lessons the same way.

  7. Emily, i agree with the views you expressed – this was a well written beautiful piece. Thank you

  8. Hi Emily, this is a wonderful article. I too have travelled to other countries alone and have definitely been in a handful of unsafe situations – but I have also been in unsafe situations in my own country. However, I have innumerable stories of the kindness of strangers all over the globe. Thank you so much for once again allowing me to give them the gratitude and blessing they deserve. Good people certainly do far outweigh the ‘baddies’.

  9. Men shouldn’t take it personally at all when women see them as potential hazards when walking down a street alone at night. I don’t think this should be about changing women’s attitudes. Women constitute the vast majority of rape victims. It’s just plain fact. We live in a society that teaches you to not get raped rather than to NOT rape. Women can’t be blamed for being cautious in situations like these, when they’ve been taught their whole life that if their guard isn’t completely up, they’re at fault for their own sexual assault somehow.

    • At the risk of continuing the cycle but women shouldn’t get bent out of shape when men take such broad generalizations personally. The fear of rape the lingers over women is unfair, no question. But given that out of all men only a very small portion of us are rapists I still say its unfair for men to be expected to not take it personally when we are presumed to be rapists just because we gender with the most common rapists.

      In fact I think its funny. Women telling men not to take the broad generalizations personally and men telling women stop making such broad generalizations…

    • Sara: When you say “We live in a society that teaches you to not get raped rather than to NOT rape” that’s just not true.

      Who do you know that is taught to rape? I’m willing to bet that even the rapists have been taught not to rape. We all know rape is horrible, and the people who engage in it ignore that awfulness. Very few of them are brought up in a “pro-rape” environment.

      I understand why a woman would be cautious walking alone at night around a group of men who were acting suspiciously. But a man should be cautious in the same circumstance. The man might not be raped, but beaten or murdered is not a better alternative. Why do we assume only women are fearful of trouble at night while wandering alone??

      To say you’re automatically suspicious of men is pretty insulting. In fact, it’s no different than saying “Black people shouldn’t take it personally at all when women see them as potential hazards when walking down a street alone at night.” Seeing black people as automatic threats because they’re black is no different than seeing men as threats simply because we’re men. Please explain to me how you think these two things are different.

      • To say you’re automatically suspicious of men is pretty insulting. In fact, it’s no different than saying “Black people shouldn’t take it personally at all when women see them as potential hazards when walking down a street alone at night.” Seeing black people as automatic threats because they’re black is no different than seeing men as threats simply because we’re men. Please explain to me how you think these two things are different.
        This is one that’s puzzled me for a while (and just try image how black men feel on this).

        • I can only speak for myself, but unless an individual man does something to indicate that he might do something offensive or harmful, I don’t view that individual man as a potential menace. BUT that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a general awareness that I can be specially targeted and made to feel powerless because of my gender. It’s happened to every single woman I know, in one way or another.

          So it actually *isn’t* personal. I don’t look at John Doe as a potential rapist; I look at the world as a place that has the occasional sleazeball, and that often considers me less than because I’m a woman.

          • I should say: “I look at the world as a mostly pretty awesome place that has the occasional sleazeball…”

          • mm there is a big difference between what you say here (being aware of your surroundings) and what is often said (something to the effect of, “every man is a potential rapist and its the responsibility of men who aren’t rapists to solve it”).

            So while what you say may not be something to be taken personally that doesn’t magically eliminate the fact that the way the message comes across to men acutally *is* very personal.

            • If someone is saying, as you assert they do, something to the effect of, “every man is a potential rapist and its the responsibility of men who aren’t rapists to solve it,” then I take issue with them as well.

              What I thought people here and in other discussions were saying was that it is the responsibility of the person who may take a violent action to *not* take that action, and it is the responsibility of society as a whole, men and women, to continue to discourage people from doing harm to others.

            • (actually, you can see me debating with some folks who are a bit closer to that line of thought down the page…)

      • Most recent, most publicized case of women being taught not to get raped:

        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/dont-dress-like-a-slut-alleged-safety-tip-from-toronto-police-officer/article1911737/

        Men may not be taught to be racists, but in this culture, a lot of the responsibility for avoiding rape is put on the potential victim. And unfortunately, sexual assault (on men as well) is still used as a punchline too often, whereas murder is typically considered a lot less amusing.

        • Silly typo… I meant to type “rapists” not “racists.” Oops.

          • Right, but we don’t run around hollering about living in a “robbery” culture or a “theft culture.” We tell people to lock up their valuables, be safe, etc. No one is suggesting we need to teach people not to steal because we all agree that we’ve learned that, and except in the case of rape we agree that begging vicious criminals to stop being vicious criminals is unlikely to be a productive endeavor. Hell, I’ve never once had the slightest bit of success attempting to call out another man for his anti-woman views: “Oh, gosh, Rick, you’re right, I shouldn’t treat my girlfriend like garbage!” Nope. Never. Their lives continue the same as before. I certainly agree we need to stop victim-blaming and work to call that out when we see it, but we should also teach basic risk-consciousness to people. It’s not an either-or proposition and, like I said above, I think we’re much more likely to reduce raping by helping women avoid riskier behavior (or empowering them to defend themselves, or whatever) than we are by scolding rapists. They’re rapists. They don’t care what other people think or want. It’s why they’re rapists.

            • I mostly sort of agree with you. Where I’m a little fuzzy, though, is whether “riskier behavior” for a woman should be considered different than “riskier behavior” for a man. If there is a difference, then maybe *being a woman* IS the risky behavior.

            • If that’s the case then depending on the behavior in question then there would times when being a woman is the risky behavior (like being the victim of a sex crime) and times when being a man is the risky behavior (like nearly every type of non-sexual violence).

              And I think based on that there will be cases when what is considered riskier behavior will differ between being a woman and being a man.

              I kind of agree with Rick as well. Its a nice to try to teach people rape is wrong there are people out there who simply don’t give a f@ck.

            • Thanks for the lively debate, guys! Rich, I totally agree that being risk-consicous is a good thing in broad terms (i.e. don’t get in cars with strangers, be aware of your surroundings, etc.) that apply to everyone. Your comment was unclear, but I just hope that by “riskier behavior” you don’t mean “wearing a short dress” or “wearing a low cut top.”

            • Right. We don’t routinely question and pick apart what a person was doing or wearing if they get attacked in a non-sexual way. If a person gets stabbed or robbed, nothing they did is used to mollify the wrongness of what happened.

            • Actually that’s not entirely true. When it comes to robbery and stabbing there is sometimes a question of “why were they in that neighborhood?”, “they went there at that time of night?”, etc…

              Not trying to say its on the level of sexual attack victims who are victim blamed but it does happen.

      • I don’t think it’s insulting to men to be careful about your personal safety. I’ve had this argument with my boyfriend and he always gets mad at the idea that women fear rapists because men are statistically more likely to be victims of violent crime. Which is true. Nevertheless, statistics will be cold comfort if I do something stupid and get raped or killed. I read about a 17 year old girl who accepted a ride with 4 men after her car broke down and yes, she ended up getting gang raped and beaten to a pulp. And I feel just awful for her but I tell myself that I would NEVER, EVER accept a ride with a strange guy, much less 4 men. Is that sexist? If so, should I start accepting rides with strange men on dark highways just to prove a point that I’m not sexist? Sorry, not going to happen. My personal safety is way too important to me. Even if only 1% of the men who offers rides to stranded females are rapists, that’s a risk I won’t take.

        If I buy car insurance, it doesn’t mean I believe it’s 100% certain that I’m going to be in an accident. If I get a mammogram every year, it doesn’t mean I’m convinced I have cancer. If I’m cautious around strange men, it doesn’t mean I believe all men are rapists. A minority of men are rapists, and I want to make sure I avoid them, that’s all!

        • “Nevertheless, statistics will be cold comfort if I do something stupid and get raped or killed.”

          I just don’t think the onus should be on you to NOT GET raped. I hear what you’re saying, and it makes sense, but personally I’d rather put the responsibility where it belongs: on the person who rapes someone. And really, there simply isn’t anything that you can do to absolutely “make sure you avoid [rapists].”

          So much for cold comfort, I’ll take pepper spray and/or a rape kit over guilt for being in the wrong place anyday.

          • MM- You’re right that you can not realistically avoid every threat possible. However, you can take precautions that protect you just the same and minimize the potential to be in a possible dangerous situation.

            We can tell ourselves all day long that the responsibility is on the people who commit the crime, and it is. But that doesn’t do much to protect someone from the crime. Stating that the responsibility was on the 4 men that raped the young teenager doesn’t take away from the fact that they raped her. Changing her life forever. Sometimes men that committ a crime against a woman manipulate her sympathies.

            Most men are not rapists. But that’s not a good enough reason for a woman to protect herself from the men that are. And I think this anger some men portray about women protecting themselves in general, is really based out of insecurity. Because I will bet 1 million dollars that any man that is a father to a daughter, would be happy that his daughter error on the side of caution.

            As for the article, I do think we tend to focus on negative situations. And we should highlight our positive ones more often while keeping in mind the negative as well. Because that’s the only way we learn. From both our positive and negative experiences.

            • I do agree to some extent, hence the pepper spray. But where do we draw the line about what’s a reasonable precaution and what isn’t? And if you take precautions and something bad happens to you anyway, should you feel at fault for not having done more?

              By all means, yes, be careful and protect yourself. We’re all concerned for our own well-being, but when women have to start making different choices than men in that regard, that’s where I personally draw the line. If something terrible and life-changing happens to me because of that, I refuse to be made to feel guilty for it. Which is what we’re implying when we tell women and girls not to do certain things: “… or else…”.

          • I didn’t mean to sound like I’m blaming victims. I’m not. It’s not the 17 year old’s fault that she got raped by the guys who offered her a ride. They are criminals and deserve a long, long prison sentence. But I’m still going to take her horrible experience as a lesson to be cautious — it’s just common sense. I am responsible for my own safety.

        • I agree with several other replies that say that it is unfair to be wary of all men or to assume that any strange man could be a potential rapist. It is insulting to the vast majority of men who are not rapists.

          But, even as one of those ostensibly insulted men I have to say, “so what if it’s insulting?” I’m not going to tell people to stop being cautious just because other people may be offended by the caution. If someone doesn’t like the steps I take to keep myself out of danger, too bad. I would never discourage women from walking to their cars with keys in their hands just because some men might be offended by the precaution. Fear of being thought impolite is one of the ways that society keeps people in their places. Some people fear being rude even if it could save their lives. I say if being impolite or impolitic or insulting could save your life, don’t let anyone stop you.

        • Jill: That example of the girl who accepted a ride with four strangers doesn’t really apply. No one is saying women shouldn’t be cautious and exercise common sense. That goes without saying (for both sexes). And while these assholes deserve all the punishment in the world for the wretched crime they committed, it is never smart to accept a ride from a car full of strangers. Again, she did not deserve to be raped. But like you said, exercising common sense is imperative.

          But then your analogies really fall apart. First of all having car insurance is a law. It’s mandatory and you have to have it or you can’t drive. And routine check-ups fall into the common sense category. We all want to make sure we’re healthy. No one is arguing against common sense.

          But this is a far cry from being automatically wary of men for no reason. Again, if a guy is acting strangely or suspiciously then yes, you have reason to be wary. But what I’m mostly reading here is women need to be suspicious of any strange man under any circumstance because there’s a small chance said men might rape them. And with all due respect (seeing as I’m married to a rape survivor), that’s a little extreme.

          There’s a happy medium somewhere between suspecting every man is a rapist and randomly getting in cars with strangers. Let’s find it.

          • I don’t think every man is a rapist. A tiny minority of men are rapists. But because I have no way of telling if a strange guy on the street is a rapist or not, yes I need to be wary. I think my analogies are good. I get car insurance because I MIGHT be in an accident. I get mammograms because I MIGHT have cancer. I’m cautious in certain situations, such as traveling alone, being at a gas station at night, taking public transportation etc., because I MIGHT be a victim of crime (could just be a mugging for that matter). Men should not be offended by that any more than other drivers should be offended that I buy insurance.

            When I was 16, a guy asked me out. When he picked me up for dinner in his dad’s car, he was offended that I put on my seatbelt. This was in the early 1980′s when a lot of people still drove without seat belts. He said, “Don’t you think I’m a good driver?” I said, “Actually I don’t know, because this is the first time I’ve ever driven with you. You might be a good driver or a terrible driver. How do I know?” So, I was sorry that he was offended, but my desire not to be thrown through the windshield trumped his desire to have me view him as an excellent driver. (and yes of course excellent drivers can still be in accidents through no fault of their own, so the analogy is not perfect, but I think it makes my point)

            So yes I will probably continue to be somewhat wary of strange men, just like I keep an eye out when using an ATM, just like I am wary of possible bad drivers on the road around me, just like I lock my door against possible burglars even though I’ve never had a break-in, and now I am running out of analogies.

          • I have a question: rather than asking why some women might be aware of the unlikely possibility that the men they encounter may want to hurt them, why don’t you men work with the same assumption in mind?

            I think every comment made here by a woman has acknowledged that the men they pass on the street are incredibly unlikely to harm them.

            And I think every comment made here by a man has acknowledged that unfortunately a very tiny minority of men (and women) do hurt people.

            So why don’t men live in the same kind of on-edge state?

            I think, to some extent, the condition of being a woman is a condition of fear. Not of fear exclusively, or even predominantly, of course, but I definitely think a subtle undercurrent of fear becomes socialized within us. Just look at the comments about any father encouraging his daughter to err on the side of caution. We don’t treat our sons the same way.

            • True, most parents don’t but they should since males are statistically more likely to be the victim of violent assault.

            • Agreed.

              I’d also add that a lot of this conversation has focused on physical harassment, which discounts the impact that verbal harassment can have on a person’s mindset, and is far more common. They may be minor incidents that can be shrugged off with no real harm, but they can add up to feeling of vulnerability and inferiority.

            • So why don’t men live in the same kind of on-edge state?
              Because we aren’t allowed to according to the script of being a man. I think this has something to do with why men are more likely to engage in wreckless behavior than women. When it comes to socializing children it seems girls are bogged down in so much fear in interferes with their ability to function (as in tettering on the edge of instantly writing off all males as threats) while boys are stripped of fear to the point that they don’t properly assess risks (as in not actively ignoring viabale threats like the violent assault that Eric M mentions).

              And frankly both mindsets are dangerous.

            • Precisely. I couldn’t agree with what you just said much more.

            • Agreed, the reason men have a higher rate of death than women is largely due to risky behavior. It’s no surprise than car insurance is far more expensive for men under 25. Because statistically, young men drive faster and more aggressively than most girls the same age. Men are disproportionately the victims of violent crime because statistically, men are more likely to be involved in risky or criminal activities that put them in harms way. That’s not true in every case, of course — men can get mugged while walking down the street, or have a home invasion robbery. But the high numbers compared to women are driven by riskier behavior. I expect if you are a suburban dad, you likelihood of being assaulted or murdered is as low as your wife’s. Astronomically low. But if you are a 22 year old guy in the inner city, it’s much, much higher.

              So maybe instead of criticizing women for being adverse to risks or being too wary in risky situations, we should encourage boys to take fewer risks. I know I worry far more about my 18 year old nephew than I did about my niece at the same age. She had common sense — he doesn’t, despite being a really good kid. God only knows what crazy stunts he and his friends can think up.

            • So maybe instead of criticizing women for being adverse to risks or being too wary in risky situations, we should encourage boys to take fewer risks.
              And I think one thing that would help with that would to stop framing the fact that boys are socialized to actively ignore risk as some sort of “freedom” that girls don’t have.

            • It’s a knife that cuts both ways. I (and the majority of feminists, in my experience) honestly believe that when talking about gender inequality, we need to talk about both sides.

            • I’ll just have to take your word on that mm (what you say about “majority of feminists”). I’ve come across too many that are too quick to value their interpretations of men and our experiences over what we are actually saying. Perhaps if more of them were like you…

            • Agreed!

        • Excuse me but no one , men or women, should take a ride with strangers, little less a group of them. Many teenage boys are kidnapped and forced to get into a car. This could happen to anyone regardless of being female or male. In fact, in places like Mexico or Colombia where kidnapping rate is so high, women are the first ones to approach the victim precisely under the belief who is going to believe that a woman is going to kidnap.and with that many fall in the trap.Being safe is for everybody men, women, young or elder.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      Let’s say the situation was one in which Emily was followed around suspiciously by a woman, Sara. Should she have been less cautious in that circumstance?

      If so, why should her guard have been lower in that case?

      If not, then I would suggest this is not about being cautious of men, but of being cautious of strangers.

      • I can dig that. There have been enough cases over the years in which women have acted as the bait in traps for the exact belief of, “women don’t do stuff like that.”

  10. Anonymous Male says:

    It’s a good bet he followed you and stalked you because you’re a woman, but it’s not the only possibility. He could have been harassing you because you’re an American, or because he’s crazy and latched onto you the way crazies latch onto individuals all over the world. Gender hierarchy may not be the only thing at work here.

    The flip side of the sexist coin is that maybe these men were kind to you because you were a woman alone. A single man accosted by strangers may not have gotten the same assistance from strangers. The two helpful men in Barcelona may have just been following through on another facet of sexism. They may have thought to themselves, “poor thing doesn’t know enough not to walk alone at night. I’ll be the man and protect her. Maybe she’ll be so grateful that….”

  11. Oh, for goodness’ sake, fellas, would you lot ever go away with your petty grousing about females reacting in fear when you approach them! Do you seriously expect a woman to prioritise your egos over her personal safety? You’d be hard pressed to find a woman, or little girl, who hasn’t been sexually attacked, and unlike simple assault, there’s very little they can do about it. It’s not always advisible to go to the police (even WPC’s have publicly stated that they wouldn’t dare go to their colleagues were they raped, because of how badly they’d be treated), and if they complain about it, they’re called liars or misandrists, or told they’re hysterical.

  12. I have had something very similar happen to me. I was in Paris at a transit station waiting for a friend. I’d missed my planned connection from another city, so I was late. I knew my friend would come back at regular intervals to see if I had arrived. I sat at the station with my bags as it got dark out. An African man looked at me like he was going to ask some innocuous question like what time it was, so I looked up and made eye contact. Big mistake. Here it is rude not to make eye contact, but in West Africa I know now that it is very rude and/or flirtatious to make eye contact. No amount of cold-shouldering could make this man leave me alone. He insisted that he buy me a gift, which I refused with short, aggressive “no!”s Finally he decided on his own to find something to buy me, and I saw my chance at escape. I asked a French woman if I could borrow her phone to call my friend, and she made it very clear that even though she spoke English and understood that I was lost, she did not care one whit what happened to me. Two Turkish brothers and their friend overheard me talking to the woman, and came to offer help. My first thought was that if I wasn’t going to get attacked by one man, it was going to be three men. The African came back and threatened to kill me for talking to the other 3 men. They got between me and him and offered to walk me to my hostel (I had an address but no map). We exited the transit station, and in the darkness outside they decided it was too far to walk and that we should take their van. More alarm bells. Do not get in the van with the strange men. They do not have candy and puppies in there. But I got in the van, and they turned out to be very nice and funny men, and I arrived safely at my hostel because of them. Three of the men in my story were respectful and good to me. Only one was bad to me, but even then it was at least partly because of mis-read body language and misunderstood cultural norms.

    • @Donna,
      He may have misunderstood your intentions initialy, but even an imbecile can understand the words, “No”, “Stop that”, or “Go away”.

  13. Very nice story, with a consciousness of growing understandings within it.
    I’m so pleased that the young man behind the counter responded perfectly to you. Most men are instinctively caring and protective, don’t you think?
    Often it seems that when a situation is presented to us, we rise to it. When we are creating our own situation, sometimes … we do what we can get away with. The gentleman in the young man and the taxi driver kicked in when asked … thank goodness. The other guy… scary.
    Sometimes I throw around the word ‘gent’ in a teasing way, and by golly, most men reach up to grab that straw and be the very thing.

  14. Peter Houlihan says:

    Very encouraging story, and thankyou for sharing.

    Good god if that didn’t create an explosion of comments.

    There seems to be two main strands:
    1.The guy wasn’t doing anything wrong.

    The hell he wasn’t. It was my thought for a few lines that there was some innocent explaination, but stalking someone like that is pretty threatening.

    2.Women shouldn’t treat all men like potential rapists.

    This one has me thinking. I have no issue with women taking precautions against strange men, but when it becomes an institutionalised and sexist culture of fear its a problem. Its too big an issues to summarise in a few lines, but theres an excellent article on it here:
    http://human-stupidity.com/stupid-dogma/teenage-sexuality/pedophile-hysteria-hurts-kills-children
    Actually it discusses the “man = paedophile” issue, but its fairly parallel.

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  17. The above article is written in good way. I am a man, I was travelling by intra-city train. There was some crowd in it, but not too much. I was standing in the train holding the pipe.
    An unknown girl was continuously touching me by her shoulder, though there was no need for her to be that enough close to me. I shifted a slight, thinking its just a coincidence. With 5 minutes, she shifted to be too much close again to me, for my discomfort. With the pretension of holding her purse, her hands were touching my crotch.
    I immediately felt disgust at this creep lusty woman, these type of few creepy women think that they can get away with this, just by being women. And left that compartment to shift to another compartment. But this does not mean that I started crying that all the woman in this whole worldover are creep like this.

  18. The “other cultures oppress women” is the last politically-correct excuse for racism. It dates way before feminism (in one of the key scenes of the 1917 silent film, “Birth of a Nation”, that practically created the modern KKK, a black former slave tries to rape a white girl but she kills herself instead) but some feminists exploit that old cliché to sell their message but that fear-pandering is just disempowering. It is says “if you are independent, someone will attack you!”

    The media exploits random, heart-wrenching stories of abuse in other culture (like the notorious Delhi gang rape) as concrete proofs that only white,english-speaking secularised or christian wealthy countries are vaguely aware that women are living beings, like violence doesn’t happen in our own countries as well.

    But when I look back on some of cases like Delhi, the way everyone, man or woman, wants to know every little obscene detail of the injuries or the objects used during the rape (we wouldn’t call it “murder” but sexy, sex “rape”! with sexual organs involved!) draws the attention of everyone, it could be frightening to find out how much of our own pulsions and sexual fantasies have to do with our obsession for things that we pretend to be disgusted by.

  19. Cyan James says:

    Thank you, thank you for sending this message loud and clear, Emily. As another single white female who loves to travel alone, I agree that the sobering moments do occur: the footsteps trailing you down an alley, the occasional intense checking-out sessions when you’re not sure what’ll happen or how to escape if you need to…but far, far greater and more significant to me while traveling have been the amazing kindnesses shown me. The restaurant owner in Erice (Sicily) who, concerned about me eating along and sure I must be suffering from a recent abandonment by a boyfriend, or somehow terribly lost, kept bringing me little things and standing in the doorway to keep me company; Leo in Palermo who arranged transportation for me to see an out-of-the-way museum, simply because he didn’t want me to have to tramp long kilometers over a bunch of fields; the Couch Surfing community who has always been there, constantly guiding me through strange situations; the men willing to let me use their phone in London; the father and son who shared their home-made arrancini, the shop-keeper in Nepal who let me huddle in his shop and use his phone after I was dropped off and lost in a strange part of town; the Mexican cafe owner who brightened my birthday dinner when I was eating alone…there are so many times I have been obviously alone, and yes, something bad could have happened. But, vulnerable as I was, I found instead with trust and openness came incredible kindness. The world can be a small, kind place. Not always. But often. Often enough to venture out and try it.

  20. The article goes through all the men that helped or assisted a woman when she needed it, I love men, they are built to help and assist women.

    Thank you for skewing this story to being grateful instead of focusing on the ‘horror’ of one person who as others have said, was not in alignment with you as a woman.

    Whatever we focus on expands, let’s focus on the good men and women do each and every day to assist each other, wherever we are in the world.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] sex-less weeks in a row at the Good Men Project! It’s a miracle! This week, I wrote about traveling solo when you’re a single white female in parts of the world where single white females [...]

  2. [...] – comment from The Story of Men is the Story We Decide to Tell: A Single Woman Traveling Alone [...]

  3. [...] The Story of Men is the Story We Decide to Tell: A Single Woman Traveling Alone [...]

  4. [...] Originally published at The Good Men Project. [...]

  5. [...] Emily Heist Moss’s excellent article “The Story of Men Is the Story We Decide To Tell: A Single Woman Travelling Alone,” she explodes the standard “creepy guy” story that most women can tell you as an example of [...]

  6. [...] Emily Heist Moss’s excellent article “The Story of Men Is the Story We Decide To Tell: A Single Woman Travelling Alone,” she explodes the standard “creepy guy” story that most women can tell you as an example of [...]

  7. [...] Sexual Assult and Rape on university campuses are also an issue of sexual and mental health for students. It has been suggested that on university campuses (without giving more stats) there is a high chance of aggravated sexual assault if there is alcohol involved and the victims  (mostly women) know their attackers. Perhaps there are a few things that we can take from this. No one is saying that any woman should be afraid of her male friends even if they may be drunk, but as some males might generally see an ‘in’ ( in terms of talking to women)  if they have at least been introduced the statistic however does not make a distinction between how well known these males are only that they are ‘known’ i, for example ‘know’ my super market checkout attendant. I will also steer away from what i feel to be a cultural notion of victim blaming especially here in Australia, as outline by the slut-walk movements in the Green Left Weekly. Where public perception and common lexicon suggest that “dont get raped” is the preferable message to “dont rape”.  While this message was popular in the recent ‘Slut Walk’ and ‘reclaim the night’ movements, something like that good men project is defiantly worth a look. Balanced on both sides and not a work of  feminism or misandry and isint sexist or perhaps as the article suggest  The Story of Men is the Story We Decide to Tell: A Single Woman Traveling Alone. [...]

  8. […] society. It is practically expected. Men are considered to be “unable to help themselves”, but only bad men rape, and men are taught to ignore women and get lots of sex at all costs.Victims are considered worthy […]

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