If you watch me walking down a road you might not be aware of the things I am doing, almost unconsciously. See that car that is parked with two wheels on the pavement? I won’t walk alongside the car, edging between it and the fence, I will step out into the road to walk around it, rejoining the pavement after I have gone past the car. I won’t take short cuts through woods, down alleyways, through fields or parks after dusk and will never go to the woods or into a graveyard by myself. And don’t get me started on underpasses to cross busy roads in major cities.
Because as a woman I am always going through scenarios in my head where I could be hurt by somebody lurking in the shadows and whilst I might take it to extremes I know the sentiment is shared by the majority of my female friends.
We are brought up, conditioned, to be careful. To “make sure we have enough money for a taxi home”. To never go to a party without knowing how we will get home. We won’t wing it and hope we get offered a lift, or assume we can share a ride to the night bus. We will know by 7pm how we will be getting home after dark.
As women it is what we do. Along with carrying our keys in our hands at night. It is almost a reflex, second nature, we just do it because we feel we have no choice but to be prepared.
Which is why I get spectacularly pissed off by headlines such as this:
“Women told be careful”.
Why? It is our default setting. We are always careful. Why are WE being told to be careful.
Sarah Everard was being careful. She was wearing brightly identifiable clothes. Walking along a well lit route. That had CCTV in a number of places. She was wearing trainers. On the phone to her boyfriend for much of the 45 minute walk. She couldn’t have been more careful on that walk.
And if at this point you are muttering “well why didn’t she just get a taxi”, THAT is my point. Why should she get a taxi? Why shouldn’t she be entitled to walk along a road, getting some exercise, maybe clearing her head after a stressful day, enjoying her own company after seeing a friend and getting home. Why shouldn’t she be able to walk that route?
Ask yourself that?
We HAVE to stop victim blaming. This wasn’t Sarah’s fault. She did NOTHING wrong. She just wanted to get home, and surely she is entitled to do that isnt she?
Look at this series of tweets I saw on Twitter today:
She must have been drunk. She was stupid to be wearing headphones. She should have called a cab.
All of those are victim blaming. They are all suggesting this was Sarah’s fault. Continuing the narrative of blaming the victim perpetuates the myth of women being responsible for their own downfall. That is hugely damaging to any society. There are numerous instances of women who have been raped who won’t report it to the authorities for exactly this reason. “I will be told I was drunk”. “They will blame me for wearing a short skirt”. “They will use the fact I have had a few one night stands against me”.
The narrative is ALWAYS the same, we are passing the blame to the individual, and not the offender.
Not one of the above Tweets mentions the perpetrator of this crime. Not one suggests the person responsible for her abduction and (at this time unconfirmed) murder is to blame.
It saddens me that on International Women’s Day this week we were fed the line that as women we can be anything, that we should be striving to smash the glass ceiling, to making the world a better place for our grandchildren, that we can rule the world, when the reality is we would just like to feel safe on the walk home.