A couple of days ago, a CSU Confessions Facebook post was sent in by a woman (presumed to be a student) who expressed her nervousness about walking through campus late at night, alone, with a man walking not too far behind her. Given that the post was sent at all, one can extrapolate that the woman was not harmed by the man, which may have been why the CSU Confessions’ moderator saw it fit to say that the man was probably fearful that she thought he was a stalker.
What bothered me about this wasn’t the frustration of either party; it was the failure to see the opposite sex’s perspective, and that one clearly has it much worse than the other.
Being male, I can say from personal experience that the man’s thought process is not an unusual one. When a female I know, as more of an acquaintance than a friend, does not want me to drive her home, the implication that I may be a rapist or murderer is hurtful. Even if there is no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t intended that way.
However, what bothers me more than this occasional twinge of frustration that I’m not allowed to be a nice guy is this: the real problem, and the much larger problem in this situation, is the one facing the women of CSU, and somehow it is the problem that is going unheard, overshadowed by the fear that men have of being misunderstood.
My fellow students: there have been several sexual assaults on campus and around Fort Collins this school year, (seven were reported within six weeks at the beginning of our fall semester) and while that fact may be old news to us men, I have observed firsthand that it is at the forefront of the minds of many of the women I know on campus. When my female coworker (who also happens to be a CSU student) does not want to walk to her car alone, or a woman I go on a first date with says she always gets nervous getting into a car with a man on her own, I cannot help but realize that I live in a completely different world from theirs.
My world, like the world of most men on campus, I suspect, is one without fear. I could walk through the Oval at 2 a.m., alone, and not only would I not be nervous about it, but it would go unnoticed.
I cannot speak for all women, but I suspect that many would have serious doubts before doing that exact same thing.
So, here is the crux of the issue: men are afraid of being treated as creepy or a potential threat to women because other men are threats to women. Women are afraid of being raped and/or murdered.
Who has the bigger problem here?
I hope everyone at CSU can agree that our focus in resolving this conflict should, irrefutably, be on solving the problem women face on a daily basis—which is the first step to solving the men’s problem anyway. After all, both sexes can help make sure that no one is left alone with people they don’t know. We can all communicate openly and honestly with each other. We can all encourage our friends to utilize the call boxes around campus and contact authorities in bad situations. We can all speak up when we feel uncomfortable or notice someone else is. We can all plan ahead for parties and late nights. We all need to discuss serious issues like these instead of treating them as taboo. These things could make a world of difference for men and women alike on campus, resulting in a friendlier environment for everyone and, maybe, a world where men can be nice and women can be safe.
Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danriceman.