I have this image in my head of driving across the country with my tiny car packed full of my belongings, my windows down, my music up, and my head free of thoughts. I’ll listen to books on tape, take awkward MySpace pictures of myself at every state border, yawn endlessly on stretches of highway that are surrounded by nothing but cornfields, visit friends along the way, take detours, and plan devious pranks against drivers that share the road with me. I’d arrive at my destination a slightly altered person because of this experience.

The problem is, my mother isn’t comfortable with this image, and isn’t willing to let me drive across the country alone. When we talked about it, the exact words that came out of her mouth were “I’d be comfortable with Matthew doing it, but not you.” The problem, apparently, is that she wouldn’t be worried about mean men doing bad things to my brother, but that’s a very prominent danger with me. It’s just the way it is, she says.

I’m not saying that her fears are unfounded. As soon as she utters these words, of course, my stomach constricts with fear of those “mean men…” who could do “bad things” to me. I’m not naive, and I’m not stupid. It’s possible.

I’m not a fearful person. I have lived abroad for 6 months out of the past year. I have boarded trains, made connections, flown on planes, traveled through many countries and across many borders both alone and with female friends. I have arguments for my ability to take care of myself while alone on the road.

I’m frustrated with the differential treatment that my brother and I get because of our genders. With my brother around, I was ‘protected’ as a teenager. I’ve always been more comfortable traveling with him than traveling alone. But I’ve always felt very very uncomfortable with the notion that I am in danger if I’m alone. I’m frustrated with the culture that socializes women to believe that we need a protector. I’m frustrated with a culture that supports and allows women’s fear. I’m ANGRY with a culture that doesn’t challenge sexual assault and provides fodder for concerned mothers. I’m FURIOUS that my dream of driving across the country alone or taking a trip abroad alone is compromised simply because I am a WOMAN and I live in a MAN’S world.

My friend Caroline said it best:

“Caroline …Abhors the fact that we live in a work where women must change their everyday goings-on to ensure their personal safety. Oh what it would be like to live in a world where you didn’t have to hold your keys a certain way, scan a parking lot, or even complete your weekly grocery shopping without being followed around the …store. Absolutely ridiculous and just truly fires me up.”

It infuriates me that I must change my dreams to ensure my safety. I’m so angry right now that I can barely form a coherent thought.