Finally! We have more time in the sun! Yes, ok we lost an hour of sleep, but I do not know one person that does not look forward to walking out of their office at 5pm still feeling the sun on their skin! Even the times I walk out of the building hissing, covering my eyes like a vampire after not leaving my office in 8 hours, I still manage to eventually feel human again and the excitement hits as I list in my head the endless ways to spend this precious extra time in the light! I can take a walk, go to beach, run, finally work on my photography skills, sit at the park and read my new book, or ride my bike. In the back of my mind I am always reminding myself that I still have a limit to daylight, so I must pick an activity that allows me to be safely in my car, in a crowded area, or home by the time it gets dark.
This thought takes me back to a conversation that began in the WRC office last week. We were all giddy with joy about the time change, each one of us listing the glorious ways we were going to spend our extra time. We slowly began to realize our conversation was not actually about longer days. The joy was for us as women feeling more independent because the daylight allows us to do what we always want to do after work instead of feeling so unsafe we choose to just go home, go to gym, or rely on friends and family for safety in numbers. A large part of that is because we live in a culture that does not take street harassment or sexual assault seriously. Not only are we truly frightened of being attacked on a regular basis, but we are also acutely aware that society still holds us responsible in many ways if and when we are assaulted.
We often talk about safety here at WRC because of the field we work in, but the conversation around safety is incredibly important and quite frankly needs to happen more often with family, friends and on a community level. Women and men need to ask and listen to the women in their lives to really understand the constant fear we all feel when we are alone on the street particularly at night, the restriction we have with the amount of time to enjoy activities after work, how we need to strategically park our cars in well lit areas because it will be dark by the time we finish happy hour with our friends, or deciding to play inside with our kids and wait until our partner comes home to go for family walks. This fear is real. Street harassment is scary and the fear of being attacked always looms.
I can speak for myself and many other women when men are yelling at you, approaching you, following you, or attempting to grab you (yes that happens) we are not flattered, we are frustrated, angry and terrified. In those moments we are questioning how to react, do we yell back to embarrass them so they leave us alone? Ask politely in case they get angry for not wanting the attention? Say nothing and hope it stops? Or run because you think they are going to attack you? This is the reality, and we all agreed that it feels more manageable when it is still light outside because there is more people readily available if you need assistance. More manageable is not enough.
Each woman has to decide what feeling safe looks like for her especially when reacting to unwanted harassment, but we as a community have a responsibility to send a clear message that street harassment is not acceptable, say no to violence against women and stop victim blaming. We still have a long way to go, but I hope this will at least encourage you to begin the conversation. Through talking we discovered there is a direct link between daylight savings and quality of life for women, that it is more than extra hours in the sun. It is permission for us as women to do the things we love and feel that little bit safer in the process.
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