Ladies, ladies, ladies: we hear you like to travel. The Government of Canada knows this, too!
"Women travel for countless reasons, whether to discover new frontiers, pursue business opportunities, or simply to rest and relax – not unlike men."
"Not unlike men!" No, that's not a quote we just made up. That's a line from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada's travel guide for the fairer sex, entitled "Her own way – a woman’s safe-travel guide". (It's the companion piece to the ominously named "Bon Voyage, But... Essential Information for Canadian Travellers".)
One could be forgiven for mistaking this document for a 1960s dating manual. Alas, it was released in 2013 (and is making the rounds on Facebook this week).
For instance, it tells women to, “Know the risks of ending up alone with strange men.” Stranger danger: only something the women folk need to be warned about, as if we are characters in a Brothers Grimm tale.
This infantilizing continues with statements like, "If you feel threatened, don’t hesitate to draw attention to yourself by shouting and making a fuss."
Government, have a little faith: women already know what to do when they feel threatened.
This helpful guide also suggests that a lady traveller should wear a fake wedding ring to ward off men, never initiate handshakes, and avoid eye contact with men—all advice I feel like I've received in the past year.
The tone deafness of statements like, “Understand that, in many parts of the world, 'decent' women don’t go out alone after dark, and doing so could put you at risk", is striking, considering how often Canadian women are told the exact same thing. You know, like that time at UBC, where women were warned away from walking around after dark because a serial sexual offender was on the loose. (And hasn't been found, arrested, or charged yet.)
There is also a lot of hand wringing about Muslim societies, so that's totally not problematic or anything.
A few more choice tips to get you safely back to Canada after travelling abroad:
"Err on the side of modesty – or dress conservatively – if you want to blend in."
"Realize that, in many parts of the world, the main role of women is in the home, and the concept of a career woman is highly unusual."
"Consider taking a self-defence course for women."
Some of these travel tips admittedly are on point. In the heteronormative section entitled "The promises and perils of international romance", for example: "If you’re being pressured into marriage through kidnapping, harassment, emotional blackmail, or any other threat, understand that forced marriage constitutes a human-rights violation under international law."
That's good advice no matter where you happen to be.
One more piece of almost-sensible advice: "Proceed with caution if you’re going abroad to meet a suitor, especially if the relationship began in the ambiguous realm of cyberspace."
Fun fact: one-third of all marriages begin online these days. But obviously you should only be concerned about meeting people from the Internet if your online suitor is brown and/or doesn't speak your language well.
And remember: "Take time to get to know the man and his family. Don’t be rushed into marriage. Make your decision only after returning to Canada."
So ladies, go forth and explore bravely. Just not after dark. Or near men.
In the words of the Government of Canada, "May your path be safe, your burden light, and the benefits of your journey bountiful!"