When I decided to travel solo, it never crossed my mind that I shouldn’t travel because I’m a woman but as I started to research travelling solo, many people made me feel like this should be a concern.
At the end of the day, safety concerns are safety concerns, whether you are male or female. Yes, travelling solo does have different safety concerns as you don’t have someone to watch your back but this is true for all people, not just women. People of all genders get attacked.
By saying this is something that women need to be worried about is completely feeding into the culture of victim blaming. If something were to happen “oh well you shouldn’t have been travelling on your own as a woman, you put yourself at risk”. Rather than teaching boys and men to not sexually assault, we teach women to not put themselves at risk – hence blaming them for whatever happens. Whilst on the trip, many people asked us if we carried a weapon for protection and many people offered to give or buy us a weapon. We always declined and said that our brains and fists would have to do.
When we were looking for travel insurance, it was quite difficult to find an insurance company that would insure us hitchhiking because we were women. Sarah argued “so for example if Lilly and I were trained army officers escorting a disabled man, you would insure us?” The answer was yes. It didn’t matter that the male in the group wasn’t physically capable; it only mattered there was at least one penis in the group.
These huge, sweeping generalisations – that all men are strong and all women are weak – need to end. Like with gender, there is a spectrum and everyone is different. People come in all different shapes and sizes. With things like this still being in place, it discourages females from travelling. Imagine going to buy insurance and being told you can’t be insured for hitchhiking without a penis. If you are already worried about going off and travelling, this definitely isn’t going to encourage you! Why are there certain things women are still deemed too weak to cope with on their own? We have come from a patriarchal system where it’s a man’s place outside and a women’s place inside. But things have changed and this binary system should no longer exist.
We have been contacted by a woman writing her master’s thesis on female hitchhikers who are “breaking or at least interrupting patriarchal order”. She would like to use our blog as raw material for her thesis. We feel honoured to have been asked and are looking forward to helping her out with her PhD. I have this internal fight within me; on the one hand I want to ignore my gender and believe that the way to move forward is to stop referring to gender, but then on the other hand maybe that isn’t accelerating gender parity fast enough. By standing up and saying “you can do this as a woman” we can encourage other women to travel who feel like they can’t. If women are still being made to feel like they can’t do something, then we need to make them feel like they can.
Women are either told they can’t do something because of their gender or if they do achieve something, they’re told that the only reason they’ve done it is because of their tits. Men on the trip actually said to us “it’s easy when you’ve got tits“, insinuating that we were flashing our tits or fucking our way around the USA because that is ALL we are, a fuck object. They don’t acknowledge that it was easy because Sarah and I use our BRAINS and are resourceful and have very good perception when it comes to judging characters and situations.
WHY ARE WE STILL HAVING TO ACKNOWLEDGE OUR PENIS-LESS-NESS?
On 7th March 2017, the eve of International Women’s Day, we gave a talk at an incredible event called Night of Adventure which raised £22,300 for Hope and Homes for Children. The line up included a lot of kick-ass female adventurers and over half of the speakers were women. When we first discussed putting a slide in about gender, we both looked at each other and grimaced. By drawing attention to our gender, are we further excluding ourselves as different, as “other”, as less, than men? It always annoyed us on the trip to talk about the fact that we’re female; it’s annoying that it’s still such a surprise that we’re not “too scared” of the big wide world and we don’t want to just hide in our homes and cook and procreate (yes on the trip we were asked “how old are you? Don’t you have children?”).
It’s a tricky situation. Do we acknowledge that we’re female thus drawing attention to our difference? Or do we ignore the fact we’re female but then remove the opportunity to speak out about gender disparity? I will only begin to ignore my gender when someone without a penis is not refused insurance to hitchhike without said penis. For the same reason it is still necessary to have an International Women’s Day; there still isn’t gender equality and we must do all we can to fight it.