I recently came across a thread on Twitter about solo female travelers’ concerns in countries that the media calls ‘dangerous.’
There were two points in the discussion:
1- Some badass solo female travelers can visit everywhere they like.
2- Some countries are dangerous, especially for women. Misogyny, rape, and femicide are real phenomenons.
While both points have their rationales, the thread became a gantline between two men’s hands.
It is the usual plague of our world. We’ll never get rid of men’s audacity to talk about women’s experiences.
What we know as gender is a social construct. Apart from biological traits, men and women don’t differ unless they’re products of social discourses. I don’t assert men shouldn’t have ideas about inequality while I express my thoughts about toxic masculinity as a woman.
Yet, talking about an issue and considering yourself an expert at something you haven’t experienced is different. Thinking that you may imagine what women go through is perverse. In the mainstream language, it is ridiculous.
I am a woman. I live in a country that stays outside the perfect American dream. I traveled to several countries alone. I encountered every possible danger that could have led to my death. I feel like I’m fortunate enough to stay in this life to tell you this:
I’m neither a badass solo female traveler nor a damsel in distress. I’m more than your stereotypical bullshits.
Stop ignoring your privileges.
Privileged people look for experiences to prove to us that they aren’t so privileged at all.
It is sometimes hitting the bottom, facing the depression, and making your way back to life. It is being broke, not knowing what to do, and building your business. It is bulking your bank account after paying colossal student loans.
I respect all these achievements per se, but I don’t see the influence of poignant experiences that minorities face on your articles.
I know it must be hard. After centuries of living in the most comfortable situation, a bunch of people come and criticize you for being privileged. You feel hurt, don’t you? You think you don’t deserve the criticisms because you haven’t done something wrong? I feel you, mate.
My grandmother was sexually abused when she was ten years old. My mother couldn’t go to the university while she wished to be a lawyer. My girlfriend was raped when she went backpacking in Europe. After a night out, my sister was robbed, and we called ourselves lucky because she was alive and not raped. They all happened because some ignorant people called them ‘women.’
So, I feel you.
Talking about your privileges makes you uncomfortable. It irritates you through your bones and eats you up despite your attempts to not take it seriously.
What perturbs me is rather my anxiety that nobody will believe me when someone rapes me in the street. Nobody will plead him guilty. That’s my discomfort.
So, yes. I feel you for being victimized for doing nothing. People confine you in arbitrary definitions and accuse you accordingly. Whatever you do can’t be accepted in society because you are called ‘privileged,’ right? I get you.
When it disturbs your comfort and convenience, it is natural to burst out and deny your privileges. Yet, when you have no idea about people’s experiences from marginalized gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, it doesn’t make sense to speak for these matters. We have the freedom of speech unless it hurts others.
However, as smart, educated, and sensible human beings, the least you can do is own your privileges. Gillian Sisley mentions how she acknowledges her “significant privilege, as a white woman, living in a first-world country, coming from a middle-class family,” and she is one of the most fearless women who advocate for minorities’ rights.
Inequality has become another orbit around the world that forces us to follow its pace. It is not God-given — it’s the product of previously privileged people who massacred minorities. Denying its existence and effect on our lives would be just complicity.
Stop considering third-world countries as exotic places to conquer.
There was another hypocritical point in this thread. The countries in question were third-world countries. The way men talked about these countries made it evident that they wished to have an adventure and conquer.
When will you realize your Robinson Crusoe-like attitude? When will you give up your desire to go and explore authentic cultures?
Calling different countries ‘exotic’ is racist. Calling your journey an ‘adventurous vacation’ is unhealthy. Calling their experiences ‘authentic’ is hypocritical. Haven’t you read about colonialism at all?
When you grow up in a culture that praises your skin, race, gender, sexuality, and socio-economic situation, everything that stays outside the spectrum becomes exotic and authentic to you. You visit places like Crusoe with your diary in your pocket and look at locals with hungry eyes. You want to know them, learn about them, go under their skins, and penetrate their minds. I won’t go further about the physical and mental colonization of third-world countries. You should check Vandana Shiva, V. S. Vijayan, Mahesh Rangarajan, and Amitav Ghosh if they aren’t too exotic for you.
You are just another squeaky wheel in the colonial and capitalist machine.
You pivot your experiences around your promised land and call Others ‘exotic.’ You disregard the individuality in the conversation.
Stop seeing yourself rightful to talk about minorities’ experiences.
I will never understand why it’s impossible for you to accept your mistakes and start learning.
I can see learning isn’t an essential matter, either. You are willing to educate yourselves about topics that will bring you the capitalist notion of success.
But, when it comes to humanitarian issues, you lack the education and empathy that not everyone has the same opportunities. I also believe your inequality isn’t an excuse for your stagnancy. You can always thrive on exceeding your poor conditions. They’re not limitations for your success. But, ignoring them would be the most flawed judgment of humanity.
Stop thinking there is nothing wrong with this world and your mindsets.
It is challenging to put yourself in a different person’s shoes. It is hard to imagine their lives when you don’t have bits of their experiences.
You’ll probably don’t make sense of what I wrote and define me as another ‘lunatic woman’ who gets aggressive.
But it is lethal to think everything is normal. It is hard for a black guy to live in the States. It is hard for a black woman to take place in the royal society in Britain. It is hard for a Muslim woman to survive in Europe. The world is complicated and exhausting for those who don’t meet the standard definitions — white, male, middle-class, heterosexual.
While we can’t find solid solutions to heal violent mindsets, the least we can do is to acknowledge and talk about them to educate one another.
Stop ignoring this world’s brutality. Stop thinking you don’t need education. Stop thinking it’s not your problem. Stop looking for stats.
Just because something is likely to happen, it doesn’t mean I can’t be worried about rape. Just because the ratio is low, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you or me.
Stop worrying about making it a big deal.
Make it a big deal. Make it your problem. Listen to other perspectives. Walk through, not against, them. Use your privileges in a way that will help others so that they won’t feel lonely.
Stop calling people’s opinions ‘bullshit’ just because it’s inconvenient for you. Stop ignoring their points. Although they may not make sense to your world, just listen for the sake of kindness. That you don’t understand them doesn’t make their struggles less valid than yours. If someone is scared, it is because the world isn’t a safe place for her. Empathize with her.
How many times will we end our articles with final words? How many times will we be called ‘hysterical’ for speaking up?
We can surely disagree with each other. But neglecting our painful experiences and existence is disrespectful.
Traveling is another privilege. That a white, middle-class woman finds a chance to travel to so-called dangerous places doesn’t make her more badass.
We should stop defining women based on limited perspectives. Women are either mothers or sluts, married or spinster, lady-like or bitchy, white or black, Sleeping Beauty or Maleficent, badass or damsels in distress.
Start acknowledging the diversity of individuals and experiences.