Maybe it’s because I wasn’t pretty when I was younger. Maybe it’s because I’m falling into the old-school way of thinking, but when someone tells me I’m beautiful, I don’t mind. Maybe I am just jaded from nothing really bad actually happening to me. Maybe I was just lucky all those times when I found myself alone with a boy or a man I barely knew, that somehow the universe chose good men for me to meet. That somehow I’ve become immune to the fear that so many women seem to have, even when a man says something as innocent as “hello” on the sidewalk.
When I was young, the first time neighborhood boys played too rough, I don’t remember but I apparently played rough back, and my soccer cleats bruised their skin and their pride. Later, when I was older, there were three times that I remember slapping a man across the face when he touched me when I didn’t want him to, when I didn’t know him. Again, I’m saying I was lucky, in some ways I think. I was lucky I didn’t meet someone that hit me back. I was lucky I was never in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was lucky that my use of force when I needed to use it, was accepted, and people backed down.
Just recently another woman here sent out a warning about a man bothering her near the train station. I’ve heard stories from students and friends. I’ve heard of men trying to push their way into apartments at night, I’ve been told stories by good friends, both men and women that have gotten robbed on the streets here. I don’t brush their stories off, but at the same time, I can’t say that my experience has been the same. One night, I was sitting under the archways of the Uffizi writing. A man came up and started talking to me, of course, it was truly to get to know me, and though I wasn’t looking to have a conversation, I never felt threatened as I sat out in a public square. I spoke to him, had a conversation as I do with women, children, and men of every age in this city.
I don’t know why I can dance through the streets of Florence at 3 am alone for eight years and barely have a problem, and honestly, the only reason that a man on the street doesn’t strike me as menacing is because I’ve never been manipulated, never been abused, never been harassed – in my definition of harassment. It’s a topic that is so interesting and complex for me. It’s a topic I have a hard time talking about because many people (especially women) see my views as “old-fashioned” or “wrong” or “anti-feminist.” I just base it off of my experiences. So many of them things that are the definition of what not to do: don’t get in a car with someone you don’t know. Don’t separate yourself from your friends. Don’t wander down dark wooded paths with people physically stronger than you. But I did them all, and they were wonderful, and they’re some of the most incredible experiences of my life – and I met incredible people, wonderful and respectful humans, that I would’ve missed out on if I had that fear gripping me every time I walked down the street. I’d wouldn’t have had those conversations if I ignored those that tried to talk to me. I would’ve felt the world was much more of a terrible place because I listened to other’s warnings instead of the human that was in front of my face.
I’m not saying that bad things happen to good people, or that some other women don’t have the same bundle of emotions I do, or that some of them have gone through terrible things that make the public seem so much more dangerous. I’m just saying that for every bad story, every city that says it’s so “dangerous for women,” there are others like me that have always felt safe.