A friend posted this story of a man returning a lost camera on Twitter tonight. It’s a heart-warming story of someone going to great lengths to do a good deed for a stranger, but my first instinct was to be creeped out. The return of the lost camera (and the photos, which was really the important part) was initially so overshadowed for me by the stifling creepy crawly feeling of being invaded and vulnerable if someone had been doing that much detective work to figure out who I was and where I lived and how to contact me that I actually had to step away from the story and take a deep breath before I kept thinking about it.
When I mentioned to the friend* that posted the link that I was creeped out by it (mostly as a check on my own reaction, I suppose), he vaguely agreed that it was a little creepy but that he was mostly just amazed that the owner got his pictures back. He said that he was thinking of it “as a photographer” and that was why he was so amazed by it. Ah, I thought. There it is. I was thinking of it as a woman. As a single woman who travels alone and has lived alone. Rape culture and male privilege mean that I don’t get the luxury of looking at a story like that as someone who depends on digital everything in my personal and professional life, as a creative person who understands how devastating it can be to lose your work, as a human being who has lost family members and knows what those last pictures can mean. I have to think of it as a woman first, because if I don’t, I put myself in danger. If I lose sight of the fact that I stand a 20-25% chance of being raped in my lifetime, or of the fact that as many as one in three men have attempted or succeeded in some manner of non-consensual sexual contact in their lifetimes, I put myself at risk. And not only that, but that if I do put myself at risk, either accidentally or knowingly, and end up one of those 20-25%? There’s a very good likelihood that if I do report, I won’t be believed. That I’ll be ostracized. That I’ll be told it was my fault. That people I like and care about will unintentionally continue to victimize me with their reactions.
So men, this is why some of you say that all women think every man is a rapist. This is why you might get labelled “creepy” or get yelled at or shot down if you stick your foot in your mouth in what you’re convinced is a harmless way. Because there is far, far too much at stake for us to risk it.
*Let me be very clear, this friend is someone I like very much. He’s kind, he’s enlightened, he’s compassionate. This is not about him. He did not do anything wrong here, other than unintentionally point out just how different our perspectives are, even though he is clearly one of the good ones.