Like many people today, I woke up to the horrific news of Sarah Everard’s potential remains found in a forest in southern England. I opened my Instagram to hundreds of posts, mostly from women, reposting ways of setting off an alarm so loud on your phone that it would alert people 50 metres away, or tips of how to make yourself seem visually less obvious as a woman on your walk home. What really didn’t surprise me, however, was the amount of women I saw saying they had the exact same fear that they wouldn’t make it home that night. That they too walked with their keys between their fists every time they walked home, that they had faked phone calls when walking by a group of men or put her hair underneath her hood so that she wouldn’t draw attention to herself.
I’m not surprised because this is the norm.
What upsets me so much about this issue is that it doesn’t feel like something social media and rallies will change. This is something so engrained in our culture, so normalised as something that just “unfortunately happens” that we are forced to accept it as a part of life. I was enraged and exhausted reading the narrative around the disappearance of Sarah; commentators saying that she shouldn’t have dressed in such a bright outfit, that she shouldn’t have been out at night anyway what with Covid and all, that men also too get kidnapped and murdered. “Show me the statistics that women are sexually assaulted and attacked more than men!” shouts one Instagram user. “I also don’t feel safe at night. Why do we have to make this a women’s issue?”.
I read these comments and it breaks me. You don’t need a scientific article telling you this is fact, because it is - just ask any woman in your life. I guarantee that every single woman you know has felt unsafe by herself at one point just because of her gender, that some have even been assaulted or abused.
I’m so tired of explaining to men why I feel unsafe at night, during the day, when I’m walking in the park with a podcast, while I’m walking my dog at night, when I’m cycling home from a friend’s, when I’m on a packed bus with a guy pressing himself against me, grinning. I’m so tired of justifying the fear that every woman feels, a feeling so normalised and expected.
I don’t know where this social media campaign will take us. I don’t expect any laws to be passed or many minds to be changed about the subject from it, and maybe I’m being too pessimistic. The only way people will grow out of this sexist, aggressive mindset towards women is by educating your sons from a young age, helping your daughter remove her internalised misogyny and LISTENING TO WOMEN. It starts from the womb. And yeah, I am saying educate your sons, because I am damn well sure I’ve never been scared of a woman before while I’m walking home from the pub at night.