Two weeks ago, 18 year old Samantha Koenig was kidnapped from her job at one of these coffee stands. She remains missing, and we hope that she will be found alive and safe very soon.
The kidnapping has raised conversation about the idea of women working at these types of locations - remote and alone. Given that this is Alaska we are talking out, one of the more popular cries (alongside "ban the coffee stands") is "arm the baristas." Julia O'Malley, who writes for the ADN, is of the opinion that Arming the Baristas Won't Fix Alaska's Problem with Violence Against Women. Of particular interest is her final sentence:
"Women may quit their coffee jobs, or take jujitsu or make trips to the gun range, but that won’t make the change we need. Of course women can reduce their vulnerability, but first shouldn’t we ask why we expect men to hurt them?"
This sentence really, really bothers me because it implies that if I carry a gun, I do so because I expect a man to hurt me. This could not be further from the truth, Julia. If I expected anyone to hurt me when I went to work, I would stay home and call the police. Additionally, she seems to think that by suggesting women learn to defend themselves, we are tacitly approving of men trying to hurt them in the first place, which just boggles my mind.
Now, let's talk about what the end result we are working towards is. I think the end result is "people not getting hurt by anyone." Julia seems to think that the end result is "men don't hurt women."
Even if you ignore the gender thing, which is a whole issue in and of itself that I do not wish to get into, the problem with Julia's line of thinking is that it assumes that the way to address the issue is by controlling other people's actions: make the men stop hurting the women. However, as we all know, controlling someone else's actions is never reliable and often results in wide-spread impacts on those not even involved (gun control, anyone?). There is no realistic way to achieve that end. Now, this is not to say that it should be entirely ignored - but it should hardly be the focus of the discussion because it is ineffective. While you sit there trying to convince the kind of person who thinks it's okay to kidnap/rape/murder a person not to, how many other people are getting hurt?
On the other hand, empowering the targets of violence is something that can be done. I cannot control whether someone chooses to attack me, but I certainly can control my reaction. This applies to all forms of violence, man, woman, whatever. The fact of life is that there will always be insane, crazy, and evil people out there. But what other people might do to you doesn't not control what your response to them can be.
So, Julia. Go ahead and have your discussion on why men hurt women and keep trying to change the world into the fluffy-unicorn-rainbow-sprinkle world you dream of - I'm going out to the range and bringing others with me.