Today modern society has advanced so much for women: as a whole we’re no longer considered a man’s property and we have independence as human being. However, that has come at a price despite the strides we’ve made.
Even during the most mundane activity, women know that there are always potential threats in a world where sexual harassment runs unchecked and survivors are shamed. A single experience with catcalling on the street is enough to inspire anyone to take self-defense lessons.
So, of course it makes sense that women would stick together and defend each other in uncomfortable and dangerous situations. I’ve personally been escorted by a group of girls I’ve never met to a Metro stop in DC when I was walking by myself and helped other women when they needed it.
In a now-viral Tumblr post shared by Refinery 29, a user by the screenname of Natnovna wrote about a particularly unsettling incident of harassment that happened when she was just 14. She was finishing a shift at Coldstone Creamery in a mall and was walking through the mall alone when a group of men began “whistling and meowing” at her.
The experience was terrifying, she told them she was 14 and “almost in unison they said, ‘We don’t care.'” She knew she couldn’t outrun them all alone in the mall, which is enough to make most women worry, whether they know self-defense or not.
It wasn’t until a female maintenance worker stepped in, cursing the men out and threatening to press a panic button that the men left her alone. The worker escorted Natnovna to the garage and waited with her until her mother came to pick her up – even though she didn’t have to.
Natnova says that was the moment she realized women were the most important beings on this planet and we have to protect each other because nobody else is going to. The maintenance worker could barely communicate with her, had nothing to gain from it, and could’ve lost her job; but what she did that night helped form and shape Natnova’s beliefs early on.
She was 14, not even at the age of consent in most of Europe. And the fact that something much worse than a scare could have happened to her is horrifying.
When I was growing up girl code meant something very different than it does now. Now? Girl code isn’t just between friends and about silly things. It’s a code that binds me to all other women to help and protect each other.
Even in a safe college town – where I’ve walked home by myself at 2 am for an hour and felt perfectly safe – I walked up to multiple girls and asked if they’re alright when they look like they’re not okay with a situation. I’ve been cursed out by guys for “cock-blocking” when I try to make sure a girl is safe by providing her with an excuse to leave when she looks uncomfortable.
Since Natnova’s post went viral, many other women Tumblr users have chimed in with their own accounts of women protecting each other in public and it’s no longer just incidents where a woman is alone or leaving a bar.
The threat of violence lurks everywhere, even when where some women wouldn’t expect it. From incidents on the subway to men making them feel uneasy in a grocery store that have resulted in spoken or unspoken buddying up to protect each other.
Another user who reblogged Natnova’s post, ActualGinnyWeasley, wrote of her experience in a grocery store where she and another woman were scared but stuck together until they were done putting their groceries in their cars.
She wrote “And that was the moment that I realized how much women need other women. That we can’t win this war without each other, and we have to be looking out for each other, every second.”
In an ideal world, men wouldn’t harass women and we wouldn’t consider this a war. We wouldn’t have to do these things to protect ourselves and each other. But at their least impactful, these stories are a powerful reminder that girl code prevails.