While out for dinner last night for the first time in over a year, I asked my friend, “What would you do if men had a 9 pm curfew?” Her right hand covered her chest and she told me that she caught a chill.
It’s a good question. Danielle Muscato first asked it back in 2018 on Twitter.
Men and women, both, should take time to think about what such a change would mean for our society. While an imposition for some men, a 9 pm curfew for men would be liberating for many more women. As we slowly find our way out of lockdown — the longest being here in Toronto — we’re all going out more and experiencing many of the freedoms we lost. With that, my guess would be that many women have to remember to be vigilant again.
My friend said that she’d go out for a walk alone at night, with her headphones on. She also told me that she keeps a key between her fingers when walking alone, because that’s what she’s been trained to do. She wouldn’t need to if men weren’t also on the sidewalk with her after 9 pm.
I take this freedom for granted. If I’m going anywhere outside of my apartment, I take a pair of headphones with me. During my evening walks, I use a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and turn the volume up as loud as it’ll go. I do everything I can to shut the world out, even lowering the brim of hat so that it sits at the top of my glasses. I don’t even look for well-lit streets, preferring the darker ones when I can find them.
I have noticed how women respond when they sense that I’m walking behind them, mostly at night but even during the day. They do one of two things: speed up to make room or slow down to let me pass. I feel uncomfortable every time this happens, but I can’t imagine what it must feel like for the women who are just being careful. Even when greeted with a friendly smile as they look over their shoulder to see where I’m at, many women only acknowledge my presence as a threat because I am a man.
We should also take some time to consider what this question is asking about our society. How have we gotten to this point? When so many people are suffering from isolation and loneliness, and when we swipe on dating apps more times than we unwind toilet paper, why can we not all walk comfortably on the same sidewalk?
Women are acting out of fear. They live in a system that has neglected to provide them with a sense of security. Men continue to perpetuate their fear, knowingly or not. Women are denied being truly themselves because they must remain aware of threats present in their environment — a poor use of their energy.
I’m curious to know what you think. What would you say if you were asked, “What would you do if men had a 9 pm curfew?”