Tag Archives: women

Everyday Sexism

Today while getting my tetanus booster shot (PS, you need this every 10 years, so a lot of ya’ll are probably due soon) and flu shot (ok, I’m late, I know), the nurse who assisted me commented that she “couldn’t even get boys” to take two shots in one day.

There are so many problems with that statement, even though I know she didn’t mean any harm. Though meant to be a praise to me, her words insinuate that women are less likely to be proactive and practical with their healthcare (generally, statistically false) due to a greater degree of fear or inability to handle pain than what might plague men.

This is problematic because it’s the kind of subtle sexist mindset that a lot of us still have permeating our words and actions. Similar to how the words we use to describe women we admire (beautiful and kind are much more common than assertive and powerful) differ from those we use to describe men (smart, strong, charismatic, powerful and maybe handsome), there is an expectation of us based on our projected gender that probably has little to do with who we actually are.

Is a man ‘supposed’ to be unafraid of shots? Is he ‘supposed’ to be stronger, more willing to take pain, more in control of his own health?

Apparently, according to this nurse, my courage in the face of two one-second shots was impressive, and even more so because I am a woman. I know for a fact that men and women can both be terrified of shots. They can also be pretty chill about them. It’s not a sex thing, it’s not a gender thing, and it’s not even a personality thing.

Ultimately, this nurse was just trying to make conversation and take away any nerves I might have. We all say kind of stupid things sometimes. Even so, it reminded me of how pervasive sexism is in our culture still and how even the smallest acts can perpetuate it. I don’t want my nephews or my future son to grow up in a world where they’re shamed for hating shots, spiders, thunderstorms, heights, whatever. And I don’t want my girls to be told that their courageous acts are measured on a scale of 1 to Manhood.

So look for these little things. Stop yourself from saying them. Correct yourself. Don’t laugh at the jokes. They aren’t really funny anyway.

A Call to Would-Be Wandering Women

Have you ever noticed that the people who tell you about how dangerous it is for a woman to travel alone are typically not solo women travelers?
What a strange thing!

I hear all the time about how risky it is to do what I do, but it usually comes from older men (particularly 40-50 year-olds) and women who clearly have not been adventuring recently, and especially not on their own. I can’t help but wonder: how exactly do these folks know what it is like to be a young woman traveling alone in today’s world?

My frustration about these remarks is twofold. For one, I don’t really know how to respond to them. Clearly I am not going to change my mind or plans just because they mentioned a vague danger lurking near my independence. But, I can deal with that, and in fact, the more I travel, the better equipped I am to combat these strangers’ concerns with hard facts.

I guess the thing that truly ‘grinds my gears’ as a fellow hiker would say, is that all these people dissuading women from traveling alone are simply doing so because it is what they are used to seeing. Do I believe the lady at the deli / older man telling me not to trust anybody is actually concerned for my personal safety? No.

I am not saying these people have bad intentions. But their autopilot response is not exactly reassuring, compassionate, or convincing. I see these comments as society replaying back exactly what we have been told in the past. In the scenarios we are told to imagine, women are victims, helpless against violence, theft, bears, heatstroke, who even knows.

Certainly, there are places and situations where women may face challenges that are different from those of a male traveler. Just like a young person may be treated differently, like people of other races or ethnicities or religions, what have you, may be treated differently. 

So what I am advocating for is not a total discounting of caution. Every traveler, especially solo adventurers, should do their research and prepare accordingly for the risks they may face.

But for goodness sake, can we please stop pretending that women can’t go out into the world and take care of themselves? It is really time to accept that anyone can be independent, strong, and adventurous. We need more women to get out there and prove it.

So if you’re a woman wavering at all about whether or not to wander, let me encourage you to make the choice yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot handle.