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‘Safety Work’: the daily labor of taking safety precautions as a woman

Illustration of woman looking out the window at a nighttime sky at 2 a.m.
Illustration of woman looking out the window at a nighttime sky at 2 a.m.
Oivind Hovland/Getty Images/Ikon Images

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As a woman existing in a public space, you might walk to your car with your keys between your fingers, or choose to take a longer, more well-lit route home at night.

These might be ingrained habits or conscious choices, but either way they take extra time out of a woman’s day and headspace.

In a UK government report on sexual harassment released earlier this week, these type of precautions are referred to as “safety work.” Jackie Bischof’s recent piece for Quartz examines the different types of “safety work” women do to not be sexually assaulted: what they choose to wear, what times they choose to jog outside, traveling in groups, carrying pepper spray, not renting first floor apartments, etc. As a woman, what are the daily safety precautions you take to not be harassed or assaulted?

How do you negotiate paranoia with the true danger of a situation? Do you feel as though you’re expected to take these precautions and are you resentful of the extra work they present? Are the men in your lives surprised to learn about the precautions you take and the reasons you take them?

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Jackie Bischof, deputy news editor for Quartz; her most recent article is “If you’re a woman, “safety work” is a part of your daily existence;” she tweets @JaxBischof