TW: mention of murder, abduction, s*xual assault, death
I’m sure you guys have been following the news and have seen the fallout of Sarah Everard’s abduction and death in London. We, women and all survivors of gendered violence, are exhausted. I hope you never have to leave the house on high alert like we do, leave your hair in the back of cabs like we do, or text your friend to see if she got home okay after every single meeting like we do. I’ve seen so many of you hop online and express surprise at your own privilege, it seems to be shocking to you that we avoid going out on our own, especially at night. It’s incredibly frustrating to see that it took a highly publicized assault and murder for you to recognize what you have. Tens of thousands of women are killed a year, most often by people they know, and that doesn’t alarm you? Does the 97% of young women who have experienced sexual harassment in the UK not alarm you? We are not the problem, you are.
"Not all men”, some of you cry. I and many other misogyny-affected individuals will tell you that we do not care about your feelings, we are not willing to risk our lives and safety just to avoid offending you. Of course we know it’s not all men, but we don’t know which men we have to look out for. Danger lurks in the most unsuspecting places. Much of the Everard case harks back to the time of the Yorkshire Ripper, whose murder spree lead to women being told to stay inside after dark. Women protested to “reclaim the night”, arguing that men should instead be told to stay in because after all, it was a man committing the murders. I’ve seen men online call what happened then and what’s happening now an “anti-men panic”. I struggle to grasp how little empathy you must have to see us begging to be safe at home and on the streets and immediately write it off as shitting on men.
Speaking for myself, all I want in public is to be left alone. I’m sick of being whistled at, catcalled, followed, and harassed by men who feel entitled to my image and attention. I don’t wish to be approached for any reason, and I know many women who feel the same. Why do you guys insist on approaching strangers? I don’t care how pretty you think I look, I don’t need you to tell me that. Would you go up to a lone man and start chatting him up? Touch his waist and lower back to move around him? React angrily when he rejects you? I didn’t think so. We do not owe you a damn thing.
I have even seen some of you call bullshit on the 97% statistic, going as far as to say that most of us aren’t even “pretty enough” to get assaulted. Do you understand how sick that is? When you say that, you imply that sexual assault and harassment is some sort of compliment that we should be grateful to receive, that it’s a marker of our attractiveness. MAI have even confessed that they don’t feel pretty if they’re not harassed in public, a depressing reminder of the patriarchy’s chokehold on our lives and perceptions of ourselves. The male gaze is predatory and harmful, it is so pervasive that we feel it when there are no men in the room.
Sarah Everard’s killer is a police officer. We get told to go to the cops after we get assaulted, but how are we supposed to trust a profession with such a high domestic violence rate whose members are capable of perpetrating the exact crimes we’re reporting? Have you considered the relationship between women of color and the police? They’re more likely to be assaulted than their white counterparts, so imagine their situation when combined with their history of being violently policed or ignored by both the justice system and media altogether. That’s in addition to how few rapists go to prison and how assault cases are often reported and lead nowhere. We do not feel safe going to the police, and more police are not the answer to this problem. The answer is a shift in your attitude towards us. Call out your creepy male friends, call out your male friends who make misogynistic jokes. Call them out if they share a girl’s nudes without her consent, call them out for being predators and rapists. This will not change if you only put on the male feminist mask in front of an audience of MAI, you have to do it in front of an audience of men with none of us around to validate you. You shouldn’t even need our validation, you don’t get any brownie points for being a normal person.
You ask us what you can do to make us feel safer, and some of your suggestions are moronic. You can’t offer a lone stranger walking home a ride or your company on the walk, that’s terrifying and we will assume the worst of you because again, we have been taught that we have no other choice. Drop the savior complex, this is real life. Don’t run up behind us if you’re on a run, it’s incredibly frightening and we will think you’re going to grab us. Don’t follow too close behind, better yet, cross the street. If you’re getting off public transport with one of us, walk in front of us. Just leave us alone in public, quit approaching strangers. Weren’t you taught as a kid to not approach strangers? What happened to that?
Men, I know it’s hard and uncomfortable being called out like this. You may even realize that some of your past actions were scary or even predatory. If you’re going to do anything at this moment in time, suck it up. The world is made for you, you can handle crossing the street at night and leaving us alone. Yes, not all men are monsters, but we don’t know which of you are monsters until it’s too late. If you feel targeted by all of this, you are the type of man we’re afraid of. Take a long, hard look at your past actions. All we’re asking for is to be safe, all we want is to be able to walk and get to our destination alive and unharmed. It’s not that difficult to grasp.