Do Women Really Not Feel Safe on Campus?

Caroline Strapp ’22, Guest Columnist

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Last Sunday night I was talking to a friend of mine about the idea that many of us women don’t feel safe on campus. While some of you might roll your eyes and say ‘oh come on’, this is a common feeling among women. I would like to clarify that as a woman I do not speak for every woman, I represent my own personal beliefs, though I do feel that other women may have similar experiences to my own. 

Dickinson’s campus is not an overtly dangerous place. If I were to say that I am constantly afraid of terrible things happening that would be a false statement. In my day-to-day life unsafe translates more to a feeling of dread. Dreading that if I walk out of the gym in a sports bra and leggings I will attract unwanted sexual attention. Or dread that when walking on the sidewalk men might yell obscene things at me from their cars as they drive by. Both of which are common experiences by my female friends and myself. While these types of experiences are not violent encounters they are still unpleasant and unsettling. 

These passive forms of sexism are a reminder that I should feel lucky to not have encountered much worse. As a woman I have been told by my parents never to walk alone, especially at night, and if I do I should have some way to defend myself. As a newly licensed 16 year old driving to the movies to meet up with my friends I remember my mom telling me that when I walk to and from my car I should keep my key between my fisted fingers in case anyone attacked me in the parking lot. This form of self defense as well as pepper spray and even a taser are ones that my female friends have also been told to use. A poll I took among friends revealed a stereotypical answer. My female friends all responded yes to one or more of these protection methods while my male friends mostly voted no to all. 

While I may have brushed aside these suggestions and warnings in the moment, I find myself holding my key between my fingers when I walk alone at night, wishing I’d taken more self-defense classes and maybe conforming to femininity a little bit more to investing in a purse and some pepper spray. My feelings of unease on campus do come from a real fear and threat of violence, although I would not say that Dickinson’s campus is an inherently dangerous place. Instead I would say that the combination of horror stories, parental advice and personal experience has culminated in a lifetime of being taught to fear the night.