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Fake Police Officers and Other Things Men Don't Realize Women Fear

By The Gorgeous Ladies Of Pajiba (GLOP!) | Think Pieces | October 3, 2016 |

By The Gorgeous Ladies Of Pajiba (GLOP!) | Think Pieces | October 3, 2016 |

Last night, Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint by two men posing as police officers. Weirdly enough, that’s not what inspired this post, but it did hammer it home even further that it needed to be written.

This weekend, I was listening to My Favorite Murder, one of my absolute favorite podcasts. The first live episode of the show featured its first guest—comedian Dave Anthony who discussed the Trailside Killer, David Carpenter. And this podcast hosted by two feminists made me feel like a dumb girl for the first time ever.

Dave Anthony: There’s a woman driving, and he hits her car, and he pulls her out of it and starts ripping her clothes off in the middle of the road…

Georgia Hardstark: *gasps* Terrified of this. I think about this all the time.

Anthony: What?

Karen Kilgariff: Someone hitting your car intentionally so they can pull all your clothes off?

Anthony: (sarcastically) I mean, but who doesn’t? Like I was at State Farm Insurance the other day and they brought that up…I’m gonna describe that as a unique anxiety that you have.

This bothered me in a very specific way that I think a lot of us can relate to. Where you’ve been made to feel dumb or offended but you don’t want to be offended, because you don’t want to feel oversensitive or at least be written off that way. So you try to ignore it, but within a few minutes I stopped the podcast for the first time ever and didn’t finish it.

The thing is I know I’m hard to offend (yes, this might shock many of you). And if this same exchange had happened in an all-male podcast, I don’t know if I would have had the same reaction.

But then I realized, this exchange wouldn’t happen in an all-male podcast. Because, like Anthony, most men might not have any idea that this is something women think about all the time. That no matter how random or “unique” it sounds, the idea of being hit by another car so a man can rape you, or stopped by a fake police officer and attacked like Kim Kardashian just was, this is stuff women think about all the time. Because we have to.

With that in mind, I reached out to my fellow GLOPsters to pull together a list of things men probably have no idea women fear on a daily basis, or have to do in preparation to avoid those things we all fear. And we want you to share yours in the comments. - Courtney Enlow

Kristy Puchko: Our hairstyles. I’ve had a conversation with a friend who purposely wears her hair to look short at night because she read somewhere that rando rapists target women with longer hair and use their ponytails as handles. It may be an urban legend. But it’s the kind of thing that makes her favor ballcaps when she has late shifts.

Courtney Enlow: I know, I KNOW, I shouldn’t think this way, that this is the problem, but I do watch what I wear out if I don’t have my husband with me. Post-kids, I have cleavage for the first time in my life, and I’m honestly too nervous to display it unless I’m with him or in a fully safe or fully female environment, like a friend’s house.

Sarah Carlson: Carrying your keys as a weapon when you’re walking to your house or car. Being wary of any place that isn’t well lighted—dark corners, bushes, alleys. Watching other cars on the road, noticing if someone is making the same turns as you and then taking a detour so as not to lead them to your house.

Rebecca Pahle: If you’re out at night, walking on the side of the sidewalk closest to the street, because who knows who could pop out of one of those recessed doorways.

Rebecca Pahle: I’m not a big drinker—I think alcohol tastes gross and drunk people are obnoxious, and I’ve just started drinking socially in the past year or so. (Plus, I was part of the nerd crew in high school and lived at home in college, so I never had those formative “coming-of-age” alcohol experiences.) I’ve been tipsy before, but never well and truly drunk. And part of that is that, in the back of my mind, I think that if I get drunk, I’m going to get raped and/or murdered. A big part of that is my raaaaging anxiety issues and obsessive nature (I do NOT like to not be in control of my situation), but I do think that, if I were a guy, I wouldn’t be nearly so worried about it.

Sarah Carlson: Yeah, I’ve never been drunk for fear of what would happen.

Genevieve Burgess: Parking your car somewhere you can see underneath it when you’re walking back to it. Checking the backseat before you get in.

Rebecca Pahle: Being aware of how you walk when you’re alone at night—“confident and with authority” is how it was once described to me. For God’s sake, do not look lost.

Genevieve Burgess: Honestly, I think a lot of men don’t understand what it’s like to exist around people constantly who are taller and stronger than you. Shorter men, maybe, but I’m 5’5”. I can count the men I’ve known who have been as tall or shorter than me on one hand. I spend my life looking up to men. Again, I am not afraid of all men who are bigger than me, but I am constantly AWARE that they are.

Kristy Puchko: As a smaller woman (5’ 2”) I am constantly shoved to the side as people who are bigger (often men) make their way by me. Or in the instance of the subway, I’ve been sat on. They know I’ll move. And I do. because what? I’m going to start a fight with a dude twice my size over a seat on the N?

Courtney Enlow: I’m 5’2” and even men I love dearly, my best friends, I’ve had moments of panic when they’re drunk, especially when they’re bigger than me. Because what if?

Petr Knava: Not to manjack the thread but I’ve heard such vivid accounts of fear from my female friends about hearing footsteps behind them as they walk home at night that it’s basically second nature for me now to cross the road and then speed up to overtake on the other side as a way of diffusing any of that fear that might be being caused by my footsteps if I’m walking behind a woman. Then I can be visible at least

I dunno how you guys actually manage to get through the day, I’m a little bit in awe, I’d probably just end up living in my basement with that much potential shit out there.

Kristy Puchko: I was actually just about to say how I will change my path home if I think someone is walking too close or following me. I’ll jump into a bodega. I’ll cross the street. And I judge myself for being paranoid. But then again, you just don’t know.

Courtney Enlow: I’ve tried to lose people. I’ll go the wrong way home so they don’t know where I live. I’ll go to a coffee shop and get coffee I don’t want just to get away.

Riley Silverman: How about giving Lyft/Uber drivers a fake address to where we live and pretending to go to a different house so the driver doesn’t know where I live?

Sarah Carlson: My front and back doors are locked at all times of the day. I’m never without my cellphone. When I’m unloading groceries from the cart to my car, I’m holding my purse. Then I lock my car and walk the basket to the cart stand. Then go back and unlock my car, get in, lock it again.

Rebecca Pahle: Who does doesn’t wear their earbuds/listen to music while they’re walking around late at night? Gotta be able to hear if someone’s coming up behind you.

Genevieve Burgess: I never wear earbuds while walking around because I want to be able to hear everything around me. I get nervous enough when I wear them while running.

Kristy Puchko: As soon as I’m off the train, they’re out of my ears.

Courtney Enlow: I walk home with them in my ears but not on or on really low.

Genevieve Burgess: Saying “Hey, I’m home!” to your empty apartment when you notice someone hanging around the hallway as you open the door.

Courtney Enlow: It is now a joke where I call out “burglar?” when I hear my husband stop home in the middle of the day, but it was born out of my terrified “…hello?” the first hundred or so times he did it.

Kristy Puchko: Faking a phone call as you approach, “Yeah. I’m right outside. You want to meet me at the door?”

Genevieve Burgess: My brother helped me move into my current apartment and when a seemingly friendly guy in the building assumed he was my boyfriend and also moving in neither of us corrected him. My brother gets it.

Genevieve Burgess: This hasn’t happened to me, exactly, but I remember at some point being warned not to stop if someone tapped my bumper if I wasn’t in a public, well-lit area. That it could be a ruse to get me to pull over and get out of my car.

Emily Chambers: Or refusing to pull over for a cop car in a poorly lit area? Signaling to them that you’re going to pull over farther down the road? And not necessarily because you think they’re fake cops?

Courtney Enlow: When people go on their soapboxes about “just comply!” I always think about how (white) women are taught to call and make sure the police pulling them over at night are actual police. Different women are given different messages.

Riley Silverman: Just Friday night I was leaving a friend’s place and there was a shady looking guy (barefoot and shambling around in boxers) across the street from her place. I made it to my car, then messaged someone at the party to tell the other women who were about to leave about him. Then I basically sat in my car with the motor running till I saw he’d left the area.

Riley Silverman: Also this one might be more specifically a trans girl thing for me, but if I’m going to a friend’s place or a house/apartment I’ve never been before, I never just go straight to the front door. I either text the person to come out, or at least send them a photo of the building to confirm its them. I’m terrified of accidentally knocking on a stranger’s door because there’s such a world of risk.

Courtney Enlow: I’m sure it’s a zillion times heightened but I’ve definitely done that too. Or if I’m meeting a friend at a party. I won’t go in alone.

Vivian Kane: I manage to convince myself there’s a peephole and/or camera in every single public restroom I enter. The single, stall-less ones are the absolute worst. I would love to stop being paranoid, but until women (both actual women I know and those on the news) stop finding this shit in bathrooms, I can’t stop worrying about it.

Vivian Kane: Also awful? Bars or gas stations with semi-secluded bathrooms around back or down long hallways where the doors don’t lock, just the stalls do. That’s perv central. I also get super paranoid after anyone (plumber, electrician, etc.) does any work in my home. Especially bathroom. Always the bathroom. It’s just the most vulnerable room we have, and creeps love to exploit that.

Riley Silverman: The bathroom thing drives me crazy. My friend Tamale Rocks caused a big uproar about a year ago when she discovered a two-way mirror in a bathroom at a gig she was doing in Chicago, and people were coming out of the woodwork to defend it. People were saying it was part of a prank where they’d put a wax figure of a monster in the room behind the mirror and then turn the lights on to scare women in the bathroom, AS IF THAT WAS TOTALLY FINE TO DO. Meanwhile, the repeated strawman argument against trans bathroom rights is that one person up to no good could take advantage of them, meanwhile actual situations where women’s privacy is being violated in the bathroom is mocked and downplayed.

Genevieve Burgess: Piggybacking on the service people issue; I live alone. I’ve lived alone for over two years. I can get VERY anxious anytime I have to call maintenance or other service people because it’s a studio and it’s REALLY obvious that I’m the only person who lives there. I don’t like people leaving my actual apartment knowing “there’s a single woman who lives alone here.”

Just a quick note: Some of you might feel compelled to post about how this is all just being safe in general, how this has nothing to do with being a woman. To you, I would say, I would beg, that you listen. That this is not simply being safe. That this is born out of terror, out of an almost evolutionary survival effort that is part of every woman’s entire day, that we enter into everyday tasks like walking outside or in parking lots or existing at night with one thought: please don’t rape or murder me.