Sometimes I forget that women are meant to be vulnerable

I don’t ever want to be vulnerable purely because I’m a woman. I understand life has its moments, and leaning in to vulnerability – when you’re with friends and loved ones – can be a valuable thing to do. Let people in, get closer, see their vulnerabilities too and nurture them through hard times. But broadly, I don’t want to be vulnerable. I go through life doing powerful things, and rejecting vulnerability because I don’t want to feel weak. Unfortunately, the world is peppered with men who want to remind women just how vulnerable we are.

Recently, as previously mentioned, I’ve had to get rid of a lot of stuff. I had spreadsheets of which friends were coming to get which thing, on which day, and the stuff my mates didn’t want all got put on Gumtree or Freecycle. I measured everything, took photos, put adverts up, and people started to get in touch.

One guy phoned to ask some questions about something on offer, but sadly it had already gone. That phone call was fine. The second one wasn’t.

The second call came from a man who asked some serious questions about a sofa I was selling (not the sofa that launched a thousand fucks, a far more wholesome one). What was the fabric like? Did it have any damage? And then… how big was it? Did I reckon I could lie full-length on it while he sat on me till I couldn’t breathe?

Women, remember! You are vulnerable!

I hate this bullshit. I hate it because some entitled prick thought he’d spend a Friday night randomly harassing a woman purely because he could phone her. That he thought that was a good use of his time. That he believed that was funny. But most of all I hate the fact that it reminded me I am vulnerable.

I don’t want to be vulnerable. Don’t want to have to make special accommodation because I’m a woman. After that call, I unticked the box on the Gumtree ad which said ‘allow people to contact me by phone’, and made sure to arrange any and all collections for when my best friend – a man – would be here with me. It makes the whole ‘selling shit’ thing extra complicated, and means I probably won’t be able to sell everything I need to – there’s only so much time he can spend here, after all, because at some point he has to go to work.

That guy thought he was making a hilarious joke, presumably for an audience of… just himself. But what he actually did – what all these fuckers actually do when they think they’re being funny – is give women a little reminder that we’re vulnerable. That we have to make special accommodations to make sure we don’t get raped/assaulted/harassed/killed, even if what we’re trying to do is something as simple as flogging an old sofa.

And yeah, I shouldn’t have ticked the box that let people contact me by phone. That was what I kicked myself for initially. But weirdly, there wasn’t a prompt before that box which said ‘be aware if you tick this men might call you at 10pm on a Saturday night to get their rocks off by making you feel scared’. And so it just didn’t occur to me.

The thing people don’t realise about victim blaming (why was she wearing that? Why was she walking there? Why was she letting strange men come to her house to pick up sofas?) is that sometimes, as a woman, you forget. You forget how vulnerable you are to dangerous men. You let yourself steam through life powerfully. You allow yourself to exist as if you weren’t going to be harassed at any moment. You lull yourself into a false sense of security, believing that you get to move about the world like a normal person.

Like a man.

You might get a few weeks of this life, or a few months or years if you’re lucky. But there’s always a guy somewhere just waiting to remind you that you are not a ‘normal person’. You don’t get to have this kind of life.

You’re vulnerable. You forgot. You stupid fucking bitch.



  • Quinn Rhodes says:

    I relate to this a lot as a trans guy who is usually read as a cis woman. It’s so messed up that women and other people who experience misogyny have to move through the world like this, reminded how vulnerable we are whenever we dare to be powerful. As you said, it’s a way that we’re reminded that we’re “other” – a way that we’re told we shouldn’t take up space – and it sucks. (Also, the image for this post INCREDIBLE.)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yeah, the arseholes who want to make us feel small are unlikely to stop and consider that maybe they have not accurately determined our gender, and I know that this shit also sucks for people who are not cis. As a general rule, with posts like this where I’m talking about personal shit that happened to me, and then trying to articulate why I think it’s a problem, I am gonna be a bit cis-centric because I highly doubt the person harassing me had a motivation of seeing me as ‘other’ in a broad sense – he did it because he saw me as a woman. That he would have seen other people as ‘women’ too and also decided to do that, even if they weren’t, is also shitty. But it’s not something I went into in this post because I feel like I’m swerving way out of my lane if I also try to guess how this experience would have played out/felt if I weren’t cis.

      Sorry, I’m trying to address your twitter comments about this post maybe being cisnormative which is why this is a bit waffly. The short version is that I don’t think it is – I think it’s important to be able to speak to why this guy thought he could/should do this (because I am a woman and I am stupid enough to include my number on the page, because I forgot for a second that my extremely femme name would mark me out as a target for men doing creepy shit), but I don’t deny that this happens to non-cis ppl too. I’ll have a think on it though, because a) right now my head is not in a great place so I can’t guarantee all the posts I’m putting out have been pondered/edited to the degree I usually would – I’m throwing things up extremely quickly because my time’s taken up with some other stuff so I don’t wanna just say ‘no it isn’t blergh’ and not think on it further and also b) I don’t want to exclude anyone when I’m talking about this, I just feel uncomfortable doing lots of extrapolation and trying to guess other people’s experiences. I’ve been accused of being cisnormative before, and I think it’s a very fair thing to level at me – I am cis, and for the time I’ve been writing this blog, the vast majority of my experiences have been with a cis het dude. So… this is a very cishet place, because it’s my place and this is my life. But that doesn’t mean that everything can only ever be about cis ppl or relevant to cis ppl – it’s just that so many of my posts take the formula of ‘here’s a thing that happened to me, and here is what I think it means/what I’d like ppl to take away from it.’ So tl;dr thanks for raising it and I’ll give it a ponder.

      If this is something you’d be interested in writing on though, my door’s always open for guest blogs etc!

  • Phillip says:

    When I think of men and vulnerability, it basically comes down to who has the most money and hence the loudest voice and hence the most valuable opinions. It may have started long ago when men discovered force of muscle and that they had been unequally endowed with more physical strength than most women and some men. I mean brute strength. I do think that humans have (a generality) come quite a ways towards at least an acknowledgement of the imbalance. However, we need more that the smoke screen of refinement of description of equality. I do hope that improvement comes sooner rather than later. We all need it for so many things that need fixing.

    I hate selling stuff so much that I often just give it away. Not always an option.

  • katerina says:

    I feel for you, and I’ve been there. I’m so sorry for the rough reminder of something so unfair. Hope you’re doing okay <3

  • PLJ says:

    Thank you for sharing such an eloquent post on a topic that strikes right to the heart a part of what is so wrong in society generally, and between the sexes, specifically. It is horrible that half the population has the power to torture and harass the other half of the population in this way. It reminds me of bullying. it is sexual bullying. I don’t even know if the men who do it rationalise it the way you describe, they just do it because they can. Who knows if they have any clue about the impact, or whether they even care. It is tragic and disgusting that you have to experience this, that any woman does. I am certainly tired of it too, because these kind of men ruin the world for everyone else…both women and men.

    • Girl on the net says:

      “they just do it because they can” – ah yeah. I think you’ve hit on something that a mate of mine and I were talking about recently. The fact that – as women – we spend so much of our time discussing and dissecting *why* men do these shitbag things, but the time those same men spend examining their actions is… zero. Like… I bet if you pulled this guy to one side and asked him why he did that, he genuinely wouldn’t know. It’s boring as shit, and incredibly frustrating, and yeah you’re right – they’re ruining it for all of us.

  • Theo says:

    There’s nothing quite so strange as realizing that you don’t move through the world according to the same laws as those around you. With me being a cis man and my best friend being a woman, we are often prone to discussing the discrepancies in the ways each of us interact with the world. I’ve never once worried about walking around at night, and realizing that some people *have* to was a splash of cold water, to say the least.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yeah, I’m often surprised by how much shock men express when they hear about things like this. It’s nice when they listen and take it on board – too often the response is ‘it can’t have been THAT bad’ or ‘well I’ve never done that’ or something else that’s dismissive, so it’s nice to know men who are willing to listen!

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