Ditch The Damsel: How Women Can Reclaim The Fearless B*tch Within

by Erika Brown

"Who says you need a man?"

This question is often asked by your girlfriends as they console you over your most recent split. But really, who ever said you needed a man?

The fact of the matter is that no one had to explicitly say women need men; it's implied in nearly every aspect of Western social culture.

Think of all the Disney movies you watched growing up. There was always a damsel needing to be saved, and there was always a hero there to save her.

Think of all the toys you played with, the clothes you wore and the way you were treated because of your gender.

I do believe women are gentle, compassionate and sensitive creatures, but so are men. The human condition is too complex to genderize.

Gender roles have existed in every great civilization, and I'm not here to bash on them because at one time, these roles served an evolutionary purpose.

Women, as reproductive powerhouses, needed protection from the elements because without them, their existence would surely be damned.

My qualms with gender roles lie mostly in the way they function to make women experience limitations and lack of control, which lowers their self-esteem and perceived worth.

Sadly, I often hear many women feel they can't travel alone because the threat to their safety is more powerful than their self-assurance.

I met many of these women last summer; I was one of these women. When I left to travel alone for the first time, I was paralyzed with fear.

I remember sitting on a plane to Turkey, worrying about everything, unconsciously victim to the fears of a male-dominated world.

"I'm going to get raped," I thought with cautious certainty. "I'm going to get kidnapped or killed. I shouldn't walk alone at night, unless I want to bring danger upon myself."

I imagined various scenarios where I was being attacked and what I would do to protect myself, though I didn't believe I could.

I didn't realize I wasn't the victim; I was the attacker. I was, quite literally, perpetrating my own mind with fear. But I got off the plane anyway, and I stepped into a world of chaos.

I didn't have a man, any mode of communication or a clue how to even navigate myself from the airport to the hotel. I also didn't have deodorant, which I desperately could've used after a 10-hour flight.

It was really hot when I landed in Istanbul. It looked like a giant combination of every ethnic restaurant I'd ever been to, minus the helpful English translations and option to order a cheeseburger and fries.

There were so many people. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't read Turkic.

I felt sick, like I was going to have a seizure and die right there in that airport, anonymously, with my limp body trampled by the crowds.

"What the hell was I thinking, coming here so unprepared? Coming here alone?" I concluded I had reached a point of insanity from which I could not return.

I had a panic attack while I meekly stood in line to get my Turkish Visa. Though I did't want to attract any attention to myself, my heavy wheezes and bulged eyes gave me away.

I was sure my attackers were all around, just waiting for me to walk down a dark alley. I got stamped out and walked into Turkey, nauseous and shaky, certain that my body was going into failure.

But, it didn't.

There were no attackers waiting for me, and I effortlessly made my way to the hotel with enough time to explore Istanbul before sundown.

That day, I was emancipated from my gendered fears. I experienced nothing but love from everyone I met, including the hotel concierge, the shuttle driver and the male wait staff at the restaurant where I had my first dinner alone.

Even the vagrants greeting me in foreign tongues on the street were kind and didn't try to kidnap me, even if they were yelling "Nice ass!"

I could neither understand nor care because I left my fear in the airport.

It wasn't mine to keep, anyway; it had been given to me by the news. It had been given to me by my family, peers, coworkers and even by my educators.

And it was given to them by those who wield political and monetary power, those who can only operate within a male-dominate hierarchy.

It was a gift I didn't want, and in that sweaty, cramped airport in Istanbul, I gave it back.

I met women along my travels who would say things like, "Oh, I could never do that."

My question to them was always "Why not? Do you not have legs to walk the world with?

Are you made of something different than the great leaders before you? Are you made of Jell-O? Do you have arms with hands and hands with fingers?"

Trace the origin of your fears like the lines on your palm. You will discover they started somewhere, and so they must stop somewhere.

Harness your energy, free your mind, attack the fears you have been given, make up your own fears and shatter those, too.

True freedom is the moment you feel equity and balance within the universe.

Now, get out there and kill it. Life is waiting, and it's hard to see behind a screen.

Author's Note: This article uses examples of heterogeneous relationships to accurately depict their function in a male-dominate ideological society, not with the intention to ignore LGBT communities.