Maybe it was a traumatic personal experience. Maybe it was a terrifying account relayed to you by a distressed friend. Maybe you happened to watch the news that night.
No matter the reasoning behind it, many women walk out of the house daily with more than just getting to their destination on their minds. This isn't a "poor me" or call for sympathy; it is reflection of where we are in society.
Talking about the thoughts that might never need to enter a man's mind in terms of feeling safe is a good way to begin to highlight the differences, and furthermore, working toward closing that gap.
Walking alone on any street at any time of day is a risk in today's society. That is the sad truth, but the danger factor rises if you are a woman.
There are the seemingly innocuous catcalls flying out the windows of cars as often as we pause to wait for a street light to change. Then, there is the heightened creep factor when someone walking by you on the street does the same. A natural response is to put on some headphones and keep facing straight ahead, not giving anyone the time of day. Ignore it until it goes away.
This is probably the number one tactic women use to avoid being bothered or harassed. But even this reaction can prompt anger from the person trying to talk to you.
Some men people look at the above examples and don't see anything wrong. The most unsettling aspect of those actions is the unknown. You don't know the limits of strangers on the street. If they think it's acceptable to shout at a random person on the street, then what do they think is unacceptable?
That's why another thing women have to keep in mind is to be careful who you smile at or engage with. This may sound silly or extreme, but all it takes is smiling at the wrong person to make them feel all too comfortable to invade your space. These are the kinds of things that go through women's minds, especially if she's experienced something of an unpalatable action against her while she was just trying to get through her day.
As someone who has experienced a male grabbing me from behind while on a run, I can tell you when something like that happens, the number of precautions you take to prevent that from happening again increase exponentially. Outdoor runs no longer consist of freeing yourself from the stresses of the day and trying to squeeze in some cardio before dinnertime. They're filled with anxiety, questioning every shadow, ripping your earbuds out as soon as your hear footsteps behind you and almost tripping because you can't run five steps without checking over your shoulder to make sure you're safe.
This applies to every woman who has experienced something like this and, sadly, even worse.
Once the normalcy of your life is rudely interrupted (or has the potential to be) by a selfish and disgusting individual, your defenses are up.
You are likely most at risk right when you begin to feel "too safe." It sounds like an oxymoron, but the second you let go and relax is right when something has the potential to happen to you. The night I was grabbed, I remember feeling a sense of security because a street light had been fixed that wasn't working the night before. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to finish my run strong. Then it happened.
So now, many women put the onus on themselves to walk around maintaining a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings.
It's not only to look out for potential danger, but it's to be armed with information if that danger does unfortunately strike. You want to know your cross streets, what kind of people were around you, exactly what time of day it was, what landmarks are you near. You become a detective. The best offense is great defense anyway, isn't it?
Until men are walking around worried that they won't know which street to give the dispatcher when they ask where you are after being physically harassed, then they won't truly understand the worries that are constantly swamping women's minds. But sharing with them these daily defenses is a good start toward understanding it.