Not Afraid of the Bears
I hate the city.
Sure, there are moments. Moments when you realize that there are certain things only a city can offer you. Like you’re tired of the ubiquitous Chinese food where you live and tired of your own home cooking, and crave some semi-authentic food from another part of the globe. A large city can provide you with that. You are also more likely to find open-minded people who like to use their brains and who eschew traditionalism and religion. That is harder to find in smaller places.
But I still hate the city.
I grew up in Canada. I have lived in most of the largest cities there. Having lived in large Chinese cities, and spent time in Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, and London, these ‘tiny’ Canadian cities are villages in comparison.
I’ve also lived in plenty of smaller places. I deliberately chose a small, relatively isolated, Canadian town for my undergraduate experience. It was mostly for research opportunities and to get the hell away from my abusive, NPD mother, but I have to admit that the kilometers of forest, lakes, and fresh air called to me.
Similarly, when I went to grad school in the US, I chose a very small town – still for the research opportunities – but there were mountains and forest in close proximity.
I’ve also lived in the Yukon in Canada’s North. Pristine rivers, lakes, forests. Pure air. Silence. Anti-intellectual and cliquey, but nature reigns supreme there.
In all of these places, hiking and other outdoor activities were a given – one of the perks of living there. But I didn’t take advantage of the locations as much as I could or should have. Afraid of bears or other wild animals? No, actually. There are plenty of things you can do to co-exist with animals that, for the most part, aren’t deliberately looking for you.
In all these places, I was afraid of the men. The existence of men, and the threat of attack or rape is what kept me out of the forests and hiking by myself. Men are the only animals that will deliberately hunt you down or opportunistically target you, and hurt you for pleasure.
I remember, as an undergraduate, one day enthusiastically heading off onto the hiking trails in the forest behind the college. There had been reports of bears, especially at that time of year. But my thoughts weren’t on them at all. Within minutes of starting my hike, I was plagued with doubts about being in the forest alone, and then, as if reading my mind, out of nowhere, men on mountain bikes took over my trail. Scared the shit out of me. Men, in a group – scariest thing on the planet. A panic attack resulting from knowing that they could do whatever they wanted to me with impunity turned me around towards the safety of my research lab.
At that time, I forgot that there is no safety indoors either. Like all women, while I’ve experienced a lot of harassment, violence and sexual assault in public, all of the violent rapes I’ve experienced have happened in my own bed at home or indoors while travelling. This is women’s experience, women’s reality.
Will there ever come a day when a woman can leave her home and not have to feel afraid? Will there ever come a day when a woman can stay in her home and not have to feel afraid? Just the threat of what can happen is unacceptable. The threats are based on reality and they have power. They do.
It’s not the bears we have to worry about.
Posted on November 14, 2015, in Feminism, Male Privilege, Misogyny, Patriarchy and tagged bears, hiking, nature, safety, threats, violence, women. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Not Afraid of the Bears.