I wrote in my journal, sitting alone on a bench in New Orleans, “What really bothers me is that if someone were to harm me on this trip, folks will blame my solitude for the attacker’s crime. My choice to be alone, which I find liberating and important for women’s progress, would be used as a warning to women who value their lives (no matter how rigid and confined their lives may feel).”
To travel alone as a woman is to hold the space of a whore, and outcast, an oddball, an Un-woman. Predators know that this is how many people would see me, a woman traveling alone, and they use this societal understanding as a cloak of darkness, in which they can commit terrible acts, and be completely justified.
I want to talk about how negative perceptions of women who travel alone further victimize single travelers who are attacked or harmed during their journey. By creating an “I-Told-You-So” cultural climate, society often blames brave, radical women who suffer from attacks during travel, and in doing so discourage women in general from having the audacity to travel alone. In short, negative perceptions of women’s experiences in traveling alone are a form of social control that keep women’s identities riddled with fear and codependency, indeed barring them from the full spectrum of the human experience (adventure, discovery, getting lost and finding one’s way again…)
People in general avoid laying blame on predators. I think this is because blaming the attacker means dismantling a culture that creates attackers, that creates monsters and hides them while they do their crimes. Indeed it is easier to blame the stupid victim, and, coincidentally, it becomes very easy to control the victim’s behavior by promising physical safety when they adhere to certain behaviors, and promising physical harm when certain unspoken rules are broken.
I feel the secret pleasure of victim-blamers when a woman traveling alone is hurt. It is their desire for a certain type of woman, a woman that does not travel alone and who does not experience her independence, that makes my type of womanhood punishable by death, a death which would be justly served by my assailant, in the eyes of these victim-blamers, misogynists, those wishers of slave-women. I would shoulder the blame – my sexuality, my commitment to freedom, my insistence on doing things my way, would bear the blame, these radical qualities would all be the reasons I am dead. Indeed within this framework, I had a death wish by behaving as if I had the freedom of a man.