Not too long ago, I was waiting at the bus stop after having visited a friend in the evening. As I was standing underneath the roof of the bus stop, I became aware of music, playing very quietly. Looking back, I think it might have been part of a project to make people feel more at ease while they’re waiting, but at that moment it made me very uneasy. I felt goose bumps rising and shivers creeping down my back, as it was so unnatural for that soft tune to be playing in a deserted street at night. It reminded me of movies in which a serial killer announces their presence by quietly playing the same tune over and over again. I decided to wait a few steps outside of the bus stop, although it was drizzling quite persistently at the time. At this point, I was so freaked out that I didn’t dare to pull up my hood, as it would hinder my view. A few minutes later I gratefully got on the bus, while still keeping my eyes open for potential attackers.
Even I, being the dramatic person that I am, can see that being afraid of music playing serial killers might be a tad over-the-top. Fact remains, however, that I often don’t feel safe at night. By looking at the CBS statistics on feelings of safety, I found out that 42,8% of women and 26,3% of men regularly felt unsafe in 2016. While the percentage of men feeling unsafe is definitely lower than the percentage of women, I can’t help but finding it quite shocking that this many people experience feelings of unsafety in their daily lives.
While talking to my (female) friends about being scared at night, we became aware that we had all at least one time in our lives pretended to be on the phone while riding our bikes. By doing this, we hoped to be regarded as less helpless, as a less attractive target. Curious indeed, that many of us feel scared, even in a country that is proven to be one of the safest in the world. Maybe sharing these experiences it can lead to small changes to make the lives of those around you bit more enjoyable. For example: if you are one of the lucky people who doesn’t mind riding their bike in a deserted part of town, please check if all your friends feel the same (and stick with them if they don’t).
Another experience I’d like to share with you, has to do with a feeling I got when I was in café De Bieb with all my fellow members of the editorial board. As I entered a toilet cubicle, I was overcome by a strong feeling of happiness. Why? I saw a jam jar standing there, filled with tampons. As I discussed my feeling of joy with a fellow board member later, she told me that she had experienced the exact same thing upon seeing the jar. The fact that we were both so happy to see openly offered free tampons, concerns me. Tampons and sanitary towels are usually still kept secret. We smuggle them with us when we go to a public restroom, as having a period tends to be perceived as something dirty and because we know that most public restrooms do not provide them. In the last few months, I heard three different men say: ‘Most of the time, I just forget that women have periods’. Let’s not do that, please. It’s uncomfortable enough as it is, without having to cope with it in secret. So even if you’re a man who lives alone, or with other men, please do put a small trashcan in your restroom. That way, you spare all your female friends the unpleasant experience of having to smuggle used sanitary towels to the trashcan in your kitchen, or even to their own handbags.
Lastly, I have a plea for all women. I am aware that this is already a widely-discussed subject, but I feel that it can never be over-discussed. Let’s not be embarrassed of our hairy legs. The never-ending response to discussing the subject of leg-shaving is: ‘You don’t have to shave your legs; that’s your own choice!’ But let’s be honest: if we want to avoid disapproving stares or cheeky remarks about us being in a rush in the morning, we have to shave our legs. Personally, I admit to feeling happy when my legs are all soft and shiny. All the advertising has worked on me: I like shaven legs. But this doesn’t mean I feel that having smooth legs is something to achieve at all times. All legs are hairy, that’s their natural manifestation. Did you ever notice that female legs with hair on them are so not-done, that in all commercials for shaving products, a hairless leg is being shaved? Let’s take a moment to think about this madness. Apparently, a female hairy leg is so undesirable, that it can never (no exceptions!) be shown on television. The removal of hair should be done in private, just as having a period should be dealt with in private.
I know that the problems cited in this article will be identified as mostly female, but that’s probably because I am one. I am, however, not aiming to raise awareness for female troubles alone. I just think it’s important to add subjects that are seen as uncomfortable or shameful to our common topics of conversation. Sharing among friends is a relaxing activity; it makes you feel supported and connected. I don’t expect talking to bring an immediate solution to the many things that are still faulty in our society, but it might ease some apparently minor daily struggles until something more permanent is established.