Ahh, summer in Seattle — our reward for
enduring eight months of damp, cold and rain that is our lot in this corner of
the country known as the Pacific Northwest.
Because my husband and I are doing some long-overdue work on our boat,
which is our home, we are not venturing farther than the Greater Puget Sound
area this summer — which is fine because Seattle is at her most glorious right
now, and while we paint, sand, varnish and scrub, we are becoming tan and
strong as we bring our boat back to her full splendor.
I have been traveling vicariously, though, reading travel magazines and
guidebooks and anticipating trips we plan to take in the next couple of years.
And I’ve been investigating the myriad summery things we can do right here in
the Emerald City.
Bad advice not
A recent issue of a local bi-monthly travel magazine the article “Being
Brave: Overcoming Travel Fears.” Curious, I read the short, bullet-pointed
piece that dealt with the fear of flying, medical emergencies and learning key
phrases, and offered logical, basic pointers
for unseasoned travelers.
However, when it came to suggestions for dealing with aggressive locals in
foreign countries, I bristled in my traveler’s armchair and nearly threw the
magazine across the room. Other than pretending to be on your cell phone to buy
time to assess a situation, the writer’s
suggestions were solely focused on women: what women should and should not do
to be safe.
Are you ready for this?
First, he suggested single, female travelers should “dress appropriately
and consider wearing a fake wedding ring.” He next suggested that women use the
phrase, “My husband doesn’t like me talking to strange men,” which, he claims,
I glanced up at the accompanying cartoon illustration: Superman with a
camera and a suitcase.
This guy is definitely a traveler — a time traveler. Apparently, he skipped
over the whole women’s movement.
Does he think these fearful travelers are going to countries that force
women to wear burkas? I think not.
It’s true that women are objectified in places one would least expect, and
it is a fact that it is safer to travel with a male companion in certain
countries, but this writer offered no differentiation in the circumstances to
which he applied his solutions.
Appropriate dress? Don’t even get me started on the “she asked for it”
debate. Let’s just say that, in Panama, where my husband and I spend part of
every winter, men always wear long pants in the city despite the extreme heat.
When we go to Panama City, my husband dutifully dons his slacks and dress shirt
to be respectful and to garner the respect of the locals. I can wear whatever I
want, though, without risk of offense, but that’s Panama.
The cultural norms of places like India or Indonesia require a different
type of sensitivity to attire — read up before you go, and dress accordingly.
When you travel, remember, you are a guest. If you wouldn’t attend a wedding in
cut-offs and T-shirts, don’t go to another country dressed inappropriately —
male or female. When we travel we are ambassadors for our country and our
Speaking of gender, I would counter that instead of a fake wedding ring, a
set of brass knuckles would be more effective. How does a fake wedding ring and
a comment that implies being controlled and owned by your husband protect you?
That only serves to weaken women and give the power back to men, rendering
women as chattel to be fought over and won — or lost.
I raised my daughters to demand the respect they believe they deserve. Had
I borne sons, I would have instilled the same ethic in them, as well as
teaching them to respect women — and all people — as equals.
No need for
My daughters, in France a couple of summers ago, were walking down a street
in Rennes, when a couple of men approached them, said something lewd in French
and would not let them pass. Despite feeling threatened and scared, my older
daughter, who speaks fluent French, proceeded to filet them with some choice
French of her own.
It wasn’t easy, and the guys didn’t back down quickly, but eventually,
these idiots gave up, knowing they had met their match in my brave, strong
Superman had the night off, and two Wonder Women took control.
Instead of focusing on women wearing “appropriate clothing,” how about
raising our children — male and female — to respect one another, no matter what
they are wearing? No one has the right to comment on another person’s
appearance or to impose themselves on another’s time and space.
Let’s speed up this time machine and get back to 2014. We are better than
this, and we are in this together. It’s a small world that is getting smaller
all the time.
When you travel around the world or around your town, represent your home,
your gender and humanity in a way that makes you proud.
IRENE PANKE HOPKINS (irenehopkins.com) lived on Queen Anne for 20
years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.