Jennifer O’Connell: Good men need to act like they’re part of the problem

Men need to learn to give women space in situations where they might feel vulnerable

We learned how to give each other space during Covid; men could apply the same approach to women in situations where they might feel vulnerable. Photograph: Erik Witsoe / EyeEm / Getty

We learned how to give each other space during Covid; men could apply the same approach to women in situations where they might feel vulnerable. Photograph: Erik Witsoe / EyeEm / Getty

Just in the taxi, I’ll be home in 15 minutes. Don’t go down the lane. Avoid the building site. Be back before it gets dark. Buzz me when you get in. Text me the number of your taxi. You’re not getting the bus at this time? You’re not going for a run on your own? Did I double lock the door? Why is he sitting so close? Where are my keys? Why is he staring? Why is he walking so fast? Why has he stopped? Am I safe? 

This is the secret language of women. It is a language of silent prayers, dire warnings, private deals with fate. It goes like this. If I do everything right – if I walk my friend to the bus stop; call my partner from the taxi; fearlessly meet the gaze of oncoming strangers; carry my keys in my right hand – I will be okay.

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