I swear . . . that I shall turn to no man for protection.
In an ideal world, or a less troubled one than this, a woman can live by her desired principles without sacrificing her well-being.
I take as my example the Oath of the Renunciates, credit to Marion Zimmer Bradley. Though it was designed for fiction, it resonates with me, and I find I like myself better when I live under those precepts. I am of value as a woman, the way I am made, and not held above other women if I take on male traits. I am a person; I deserve to be treated as a person; I deserve to interact with others as if we are all equally persons.
Therefore it pains me when I find myself in situations which demand that I violate the Oath. I despise myself when I require specifically the protection of a man. I read the above not as a withdrawal from the protections owed me by society, because the police employ women as well. (I hope there are genderqueer police. I do not know enough about it to say one way or another.) The only viable alternative, when I feel threatened by a far larger individual, is to seek safety in numbers. I could look to my partner, but he is male, and then I must be certain I am asking him as my beloved, as a dear person who happens to be six-foot-something and at least twice my size. I can swear it — will anyone believe it?
Best to avoid the need. But sad, because then I miss out on activities I might have enjoyed. But not so sad, because if a group is willing to prioritise reputations over safety, is it a group to which I would like to belong? But sad all the same, because now a resource is closed to me, one which might have allowed me to better understand people whose company I quite enjoy.
I can only be so “prepared to defend myself by force if I am attacked by force” and preparation is no guarantee of successful action. I can be all the kinds of prepared I can think of and still freeze up or turn tail and run, because instinct overrides all best intentions. Therefore my preparation must also allow for my humanity, and “allegiance . . . to the laws of the land as a free citizen must”. Thank goodness for the loophole in the language. My defense may well be the force of a loud voice, or the force of a dead weight making it harder for my assailant to move me, or indeed the force of flailing limbs that make me a difficult beast to grab.
My safety has to be my priority, because the best defense is not putting myself at risk, isn’t it? All the same I’m sorry there’s such a risk at all, and ashamed of those who make it dangerous for anyone to move freely where she will.