This Is What It’s Like

I found out today that a woman I knew was killed. Murdered. For no apparent reason other than she was too trusting of someone. Killed maybe because she was blind and therefore targeted. Murdered almost certainly because she was a woman.

I am sad. I am sickened. I am scared. But I am not surprised.

I say this because I know what it’s like to be a woman and I know what our society is like.

It’s like being scared the moment you walk out your door. You scan the area, the distance to your car. Extra cautious if it’s early morning or late at night.

And vice versa; if you park your car in your driveway or parking lot near your apartment, you wonder how quickly you can make it to your door without being noticed. You wonder who is watching and what they might do if they see no one else is around. You hold your breath as you damn near run after locking your car, keys prepared to unlock your door as quickly as possible. You make it inside and automatically lock the door behind you. You do this several times everyday.

It’s like being grabbed and groped whenever you go to the bar or out to a party. You’re expected to dress cute to get attention but the right kind of cute so that you’re not asking for it. You wonder how you’ll walk that line tonight. You’re touched and when you whip around you’re either met with someone attempting to ignore or brush off their actions as an accident or you’re met with a disgusting assuming grin; someone egging you on and acting entitled. This happens most weekends.

It’s like having to watch every single man you see as you go for a 15 minute walk with your dog. You’re hyper aware as they walk by you, make eye contact with you, drive by you, and walk behind you. You hate it because it’s like you have to judge them for who they are by one glance. You don’t want to but if you don’t, you know you could end up like that woman you know. You think “Is this the man who’s going to touch me? Try to take something from me? Try to take me? Is this the man I’m going to let my dog try and fight off while I run like hell? Is this him?” This is what it’s like to go for a walk.

It’s like being roofied at that new bar downtown. You’re only on your second drink having fun one moment then you’re being pulled off the bathroom floor the next. You don’t remember anything after that. This is what happens when you run into that guy you’ve known for years and thought you were friends with.

It’s like sleeping with a knife next to your bed on the nights you’re in your apartment alone because your roommate is working second shift. You know that apartment with six men saw you come in alone and watched her leave. They’ve already approached you once, wouldn’t let you leave, tried to get your roommate to go with them. You thought you lived in a “good” area; everyone told you so. You’ve double checked every window, every door just to make sure they’re locked. But now you’re sleeping with a weapon right beneath your head and actually you’re not even sleeping. This is what it’s like most nights.

It’s like seeing your friends find the body of a woman you once knew. You see all your friends panic as they swear off taking Ubers or Lyfts, meeting anyone on Tinder like it’s only their responsibility to keep people from killing them. You cry together but inside your blood is boiling with rage. Yes, people, both men and women, are killed and murdered all too often. But most men aren’t killed for being men. They aren’t targeted for their gender like women are. Men place power on sexualizing women and then get sick power and sexual pleasure from hurting women; men are not hunted. This is what it’s like.

So stop slut shaming our 12 year old girls for wearing spaghetti strap tops and telling them it’ll be their fault when they’re attacked cause boys (and men) can’t control themselves. Stop teaching boys that they have no control over their hormones, it’s ingrained in their cells. Stop killing black mothers just because they give birth and stop killing their babies in the street. Stop killing trans women just because they end up in the wrong beats. Stop ignoring all the women who say Me Too; stop shaming these women when they end up in emergency rooms. Stop telling women what to do with our bodies. Stop selling us as if we’re commodities. Stop electing those who turn a blind eye. Stop electing those who deny, deny, deny. Stop electing men who champion our cries.

This is what it’s like to be a woman.

Portia Montoy was born and raised in Salina, KS and moved to Wichita to attend Wichita Statue University where she graduated with her B.A. in English Literature in 2019. She works for her local public library where she coordinates lifelong learning programs. She is currently working towards her Masters in Library Science.