This is a guest post is by Tonya Vrba, a passionate writer, whose commentary and reporting on health, career and dating issues has been published on various blogs and newspapers. You can learn more about Tonya’s work here.
Last week I rode my bike to the gas station. As I hadn’t ridden it since the beginning of winter, the tires were as flat as I had ever seen them. At the station, I pulled my bike up to the rusty machine that would pump air into my tires. Previously, I had used my parent’s little foot powered air pump. This was my first experience trying to fill at a gas station.
I felt like a stereotype. Look at the helpless maiden in distress try to use the easy machine. I didn’t stand there long before a young man pulled up and graciously offered to help me. Still embarrassed, I accepted. Turns out the machine was far easier to use than I had thought it was.
The thought struck me then that this situation was only right. A man should come to help a woman. Yet, what if I had been a man? Would the same help have been offered to me? To make the situation a bit more gender equal in my head, I offered him two dollars payment – one for each tire. He refused, saying, “my mom would kill me if I took that.”
I bet he would have taken my dollars if I had been a man.
This situation stuck with me as I thought about all the benefits women still draw from stereotypes. Why is it only proper that a man open a door for a woman? Why should the boyfriend or husband take the responsibility to fix her car instead of teaching her how to do it herself? Why does society feel the need to provide us with extra protection based on our gender?
There is no harm is having doors open or receiving assistance when you need it, but in the name of equality, don’t men deserve the same?
Here is an example from my college life at the University of Iowa. In the past, the university has had problems with sexual assaults on women. A service was created in 2007 through the university police called Nite Ride. This offers women free safe rides home, no questions asked. This service has made the college and bar areas safer for women at night.
Should we stop and think about why there is no similar service for men? Granted, there’s not a wide spread problem with men being raped, but that doesn’t mean they are in the clear. In the spring of 2009, there was a series of unprovoked attacks on men. Groups of men would gang up on one, punching and kicking him into unconsciousness. A man can feel physically threaten walking around the bars at night as easily as a woman. While police numbers were increased, no thought was given to adding a male Nite Ride.
What will a future where men and women are equal look like? Will people be just as open to helping a man with car problems for no fee? Will programs similar to Nite Ride have a unisex vehicle? Perhaps it will be just the opposite - and men will treat women the same way they treat other men, expecting them to fix their own cars and to defend themselves when assaulted.
Personally, I hope for a world where we all help each other, open doors for another, help others in need and provide adequate protection when necessary regardless of gender.