Open your eyes. I see your eyes are open… and now the Kobayashi Maru of Gender Problems

My car broke down last night during the rain.  I was about a fifteen minute walk from home and I had a brolly, so off I went.

The path home is not always particularly well lit and I’m a quick walker.  I’m also a quiet walker.  While overtaking a woman who was walking along the same road, she decided to confront me.

‘Are you stalking me?’

So much went through my mind when I was challenged with that.  On the one hand, personal security is a reasonable consideration for a woman walking home at night in the dark and wet.  On the other hand, what could I have done differently to stop this situation from cropping up?  My car had broken down and I was walking home; I had no idea that it would be unreasonable for me to use the footpaths in order to walk home.  And how do you escape from this Gordian Knot of social interaction?

As I wasn’t stalking her, the answer to her question would be ‘No.’  If I were stalking her, I wouldn’t admit it, so the answer to her question would be ‘No’.

So I figured the answer would be to make my actions predictable and let her know where I was going.  That way, she would know if I were an illegitimate traveller if I deviated from my established path.

It all seemed fairly reasonable.  She apparently didn’t seem to think so.

Is there a way out of this problem?  Or do guys have to decide between taking a cab or risk being accused of stalking?

A few years ago, I had cross words with a friend of mine when she indicated to a black guy that she was uncomfortable with him using the same footpath.  She thought it was great that he apologised and crossed the road.  I thought — and still think — that it was a crappy thing to do: in order to escape the stereotype that ‘All black guys want to attack white women’, he had to stop using the same footpaths as them.

This doesn’t seem like a reasonable outcome.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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