How to make women feel safer
Chris Messina should definitely not follow Mindy out of this elevator.
(Jordin Althaus/NBC/Getty Images)

Much like every other period of recorded history, 2019 is not an easy time to be a woman.

In a world where an estimated one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence, many women remain on guard against threats to their safety, especially in public, and — sorry guys — especially around men.

And while your typical well-meaning guy may have (hopefully) mastered the basics when it comes to acting appropriately around women, there are still a few behaviors even the most upstanding gentleman could stand to re-evaluate.

Last week, ESPN staffer Mina Kimes gave the world a lesson in 2019 etiquette when her tweet advising men to exit an elevator before a woman getting off on the same floor went viral.

“I realize this runs counter to norms of chivalry, and 99.9999% of people don’t have bad intentions,” Kimes continued in the thread. “But — as someone who has been followed, and has had to turn around, fake phone calls, etc. — it really helps.”

Kimes’ tweet was a wake up call for many men who dutifully abide by the traditional ‘ladies first’ dictate, illustrating an important shift in modern codes of etiquette. Chivalry may not be dead, but it could be unintentionally off-putting. While most women will ultimately appreciate a polite gesture, behaviors many men may think of as harmless or even courteous could actually be contributing to women’s already ingrained anxieties about safety.

Listen, we get it. As hard as it is to be a woman, we know it can be tough to navigate society’s changing norms of acceptable behavior as a guy. So, to help you help women everywhere, we’ve asked a few of them to weigh in on behaviors men may not realize are causing women to feel unsafe. Here are a few easy things you can do (and not do) to help the ladies in your life — including ones you don’t know personally — feel a little more comfortable existing in your presence.

Let us meet you there

“Offering to pick us up for a first date can feel like a red flag, especially if you met online. It’s a nice thought I guess, but now you’ll know where we live and it’s harder for us to leave the date if we are uncomfortable.” — Shealyn, costume design assistant

Pay attention

“I recently had a guy in my building not press his elevator button and then follow me out of the elevator all the way to the end of the hallway (I live in the last apartment) to my door. I was freaking out, ready to stab this guy with my keys, and it turns out he was just ‘zoned out’ and didn’t realize he had gotten out on the wrong floor. Stuff like this can be terrifying!” — Charlotte, Associate Director of Branded Entertainment at InsideHook

Hands to yourself, please

“I think that many, many guys — even dudes who don’t know they’re actually doing it / aren’t doing it to be total creeps — touch a woman’s lower back as they’re walking through a crowded area like a packed bar or concert. Don’t do this. There’s no reason for you to touch me. You’re not doing it to the other men you’re walking by, right? Right. So keep your hands to yourself and don’t make my entire body cringe in anticipation of some jackass copping a feel.” — Ariel, Senior Editor at InsideHook

While you’re at it, keep your unsolicited advice to yourself, too

“[Stop] suggesting self defense classes. Shit gets old. It is extremely unlikely any rudimentary self defense class will prevent violence / assault and having men suggest it over and over makes it clear they have no intention of holding other men accountable for their actions.” — Juliann

Be careful with small talk

“Sometimes male classmates will ask what dorm I live in or what floor I’m on when I’ve only just met them. It’s not ill-meant, but it makes me uncomfortable — especially because there was a guy who stalked a girl in the freshman dorm my first year.” — Delia, university student

No surprise visits, please

“Don’t memorize my schedule. Don’t show up somewhere I told you I was going to be, but weren’t invited.” — Otto, race car driver

Take the lead

If you’re walking behind a girl by herself, either speed up and pass at a distance or slow down so we don’t feel like you’re following us.” — Elizabeth, grad student

Plus, a bonus shout out to this guy:

“I was once walking home late at night from the subway and there were very few people out on the street. A guy who got off the train at the same stop maybe sensed that I was putting my keys in between my fingers to jab his eyes out just in case and actually crossed to the other side of the street, jogged up a bit so that he’d be ahead of me, and then crossed back over in front of me so that he could continue on his way without making me feel like I was being followed. Thank you, kind sir, wherever you are.” — Ariel