I recently watched the movie Promising Young Woman, and what it communicated to me were thoughts that I have held for a long time. For those who haven’t seen the film- and viewer discretion is advised for triggering content- the film is about an aspiring doctor who has dropped out of med school to take care of a friend. This friend was the batch topper (something we all aspire to be) but dropped out after she was assaulted on campus, and after the student body, the faculty or the administration refused to take action against the abuser, who was a well-liked, friendly, Nice Guy.
The protagonist becomes so disillusioned, so disgusted with the state of affairs at a supposedly renowned university in a supposedly progressive country, that she decides to take matters into her own hands, abandoning her professional aspirations in the service of something far more important: justice.
This movie reminded me instantly, about all the Nice Guys I have seen around campus, including men I didn’t know personally, but knew about; they were all Good Men. Men who would never hurt a fly, men who were surrounded by women all the time so how could they commit a horrific act against one?
It was not until I saw women in my batch physically leaving campus to stay away from these men (whom the university took no action against) that I realized how crushing the silence is when it comes to believing women. The women- some of whom I know personally- felt so unsafe on campus, knowing their harassers were roaming free, that they decided to live outside of LUMS, in a world that is arguably less safe.
It takes a minute to absorb the gravity of their decision: single women would rather live alone, off campus, in shady neighborhoods than live someplace meant to be a “safe space” for everyone.
The worst part is, when I heard that these women were leaving campus, I too questioned their decision- surely staying on campus was safer, surely the outside world was worse. And that might yet be true for many of us, but for those who have felt betrayed by a space meant to be ‘home’, it is futile to argue. One must respect that different places mean different things for people, but it is heartbreaking to know the reasons behind their decision to leave.
There is no resolution I can pretend to offer, but the one thing I took away from the movie and before that, throughout my time at LUMS, is that educational achievement is dependent on too many precarious factors, many of which can go wrong in a second and, frankly, trivial when it comes to the grand scheme of things. I have also learned and have been reminded by the movie, that women support women. Not always, not all women (can’t believe I have to write that down) but there is an undeniable safety in being around women because the odds are that you are safer with them than you are with anyone else.