The Safety Cost of Being a Girl

safety costsGood morning.  Please welcome Mel from Broke Girl Rich to the blog today.  She’s here talking all about the safety cost of life in the big city  and how she stays safe in New York without spending a fortune on a personal bodyguard entourage.

A few years ago, I was looking for an apartment in New York City. I work in theater and often get home really late at night. I’m also not exactly rolling in dough. So my initial apartment searches led me to some really unsavory places.

After learning a little more about the different neighborhoods, I managed to find quite a few “middle of the road” areas within my budget and I brought my brother with me on a few of those appointments to check out apartments. I was shocked at how many places he didn’t bat an eye at that I genuinely felt super unsafe in – even in the middle of the afternoon. That’s not even taking into account getting home at 2 AM or later some nights.

I finally settled on an apartment pretty close to the subway at the top of Manhattan that was at the top of my budget and didn’t make me feel unsafe.

The whole experience really stuck with me though because it was the first time I’d really felt like being a woman was costing me. To feel safe, I wanted a neighborhood that had really well lit streets. I wanted to be close to the subways so I wouldn’t be walking really far late at night. All those things cost more money than several of the earlier apartments that was a longer walk or down streets that didn’t appear to have any streetlights.

It got me thinking – do women really wind up paying more for safety? I think the answer is a resounding yes, especially in these two categories:

Commuting Costs

When you’re fearful of a certain area, you don’t hesitate to pay extra to not go near it. This can add up to extra commuting costs – more gas burned by taking the long way home, higher train fares so you can park and drive home from a safer train station or even taxi fares because it can be a safer way to get home than public transportation.

And if you’re pooh-poohing the taxi thing, you must be a man. Woman are so ingrained from such a young age to not walk places alone at night that it is an active decision you make every time you do it. You are aware that it is not safe to be out alone at night. You may be used to your commute. You may have done it for years. But every time you do it alone at night, you are aware that the very same commute is no longer as safe as it was in the daylight. Choosing to take a taxi over public transportation or walking is a very safe and often wise choice for a woman on her own to make – but it’s also an expensive one.

Safety Paraphernalia

When I moved to New York City, I received a self-defense DVD and a rape whistle from my mom for Christmas. I laughed off her worry, but the fact is that there is a huge market in these products for a reason. You can pickup a whistle for less than a dollar, but isn’t it madness that woman even have to spend any money on something like that to feel safe?

The cost of self-defense classes can be considerably higher. You can spend $10-20 on a do-it-yourself DVD, but most women who engage in any kind of self-defense training usually opt to take in person classes, which can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars.

Have you ever found yourself spending more just to feel safe?

If you enjoyed this you can check out more stuff from Mel on her blog Broke Girl Rich and see what she’s up to on Twitter.

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  • This is so true. I once lived in a really rough neighborhood and had to walk alone at night. I’d put on five hoodies, and a few pair of sweat pants in attempts to make myself look like a bulky dude. Today, I love in a pretty safe neighborhood and my husband doesn’t understand why I don’t go running at night by myself. The few times I have, I swear the creepers come out. Either he has better luck or doesn’t notice because he’s a man. When I went back to school I was pregnant most of the time and the school was in a not so great neighborhood. My brother in law gave me a taser for Christmas and it was the best gift ever. Made me feel a lot safer coming out of night classes.

  • There is definitely a gender divide in how we are taught to handle issues of safety, and, with that divide, comes different costs. It is sad that it is that way, as even if women are not in more danger (not saying this is so, just proposing the concept) we are taught that we should be afraid. With that fear, comes insecurity, and we will invest our hard earned dollars to feel more secure.

    • It definitely does go back a little to the ideas that somehow we can take control and do these things and protect ourselves and that’s definitely hyped a lot more than trying to convince men (and some women) to not be horrible thieves/murderers/rapists. Although those people are also unbalanced and at the end of the day, the only person whose decisions you can control is you – and the market is going to capitalize on that.

  • This subject is so important! Thank you so much for sharing it, however, I had hoped it would be a little bit longer. I’d love to hear more about this subject and to get some tips and ideas about it.

    Thank you!

  • Thank you for helping to get the word out about this. It infuriates me that men make ignorant comments about why we “waste” our money to live in certain areas etc but these men don’t get followed on the street or chased by pervy men. These ignorant ****s have NO IDEA what we go through. They have no idea that we have to sweat our brains out wearing baggy pants and hoodies over our dresses to take the train and that we can’t stay out late anywhere unless we want to shell out a fortune for a taxi. I wish they could experience first hand what it is like to have men chasing after you and trying to grab you—maybe people would take this issue seriously if it actually affected men! Law enforcement and the government don’t do enough about it because MEN ARE NOT AFFECTED!

    • I suspect that’s true. Men do still largely control policies and legislation, but we can step up and so can the next generations. As more women rise to positions of leadership, better policies for our safety can become the norm.

  • I have to agree with you on the commute thing: I’ve been harassed, followed and groped more times than I wish to remember. Not even kidding. Getting my first car was really liberating, not only to go where I wanted when I wanted to but also because I felt safe as soon as I got in and locked the doors.

    This holds true for the other side of the equation as well: earning money. Where my colleagues could easily hop on a plane and go wherever they wanted to, they were much more cautious with sending me places.

    • Ew. I never thought about the other side of the equation. That’s so unfortunate that your opportunities for earning more money and getting to travel more were mitigated by your gender! I mean, I’m all for making the safe choice, but that really bites.

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