She was walking home. A sentence you’ll have heard time and time again since Wayne Couzens was jailed for the murder of Sarah Everard.
If you’ve been paying close attention you’ll have seen it on placards too. Because this is a protest and this is political.
It never says she was “just” walking home.
Because no woman ever just walks home from a night out without thinking about her own safety. The height of the shoes she’s wearing and how far she can run, whether a path is lit, who to phone, who to pretend to phone if no one answers.
I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t gripped her house keys like a weapon in her pocket, just in case.
Take a taxi instead and you check the licence plate and you judge the chat. Familiar conversation, too familiar? Is the silence safe? You wouldn’t take this route…
It’s never ending.
It doesn’t even have to be a night out.
When I was studying at Aberdeen University in late 90s, I lived in Hillhead halls, a short walk home through Seaton Park.
By 4pm in the winter, it was a bus ride away, so notorious were the stories.
Female students were handed rape alarms and encouraged to drink from bottles that were harder to spike.
One night walking home with friends, a man flashed us at the Mounthooly roundabout.
Twenty-year old me screamed and laughed off the horror.
Forty-year-old me understands the evidenced link between flashers and their propensity for violent crime.
Wayne Couzens allegedly flashed a woman in McDonalds three weeks before he murdered Sarah Everard.
Wayne Couzens was a man, not a monster
The Home Secretary Priti Patel won’t say his name, but she did describe him as a monster and I’m not sure that is wise.
Is he a monster or just a regular guy who did a monstrous thing?
Does branding him a monster mark him out as particularly exceptional?
Monsters are mythical while violence against women is very real.
Unremarkable even because it is so, so very common.
Monsters are things of extraordinary or daunting size. Peter Sutcliffe was 5ft 8.
The reason women walk home in fear is because you don’t see the monsters coming.
Every man could be a threat.
It’s at this point you hear the cry “not all men.”
— Dionne Jones LRPS (@m0rrisj0nes) October 1, 2021
Well quite, thanks for mansplaining that one.
Want to help? Check your privilege and then check your mates.
Abuse of power is more than physical
All abuse is about the unequal exercise of power.
And for as long as men have more than a 50% share of it, women will suffer.
They’ll suffer physically, mentally and economically. From the knuckles of a violent partner to the notes in their pay packet.
Understand that for as long as women are unequal in society, they will fear violence and more likely than not experience harassment and misogyny.
So what are you going to do about it?
You’re the regular modern guy I hear?
You pride yourself on doing your share of the house work, the nappy changing and childcare.
We can never wear the right clothes, drink the right drink, walk the right streets, say the right things, call the right people, have the right relationships, trust the right people. The solution lies with men. https://t.co/hAgd2Tqflk
— Naomi McAuliffe (@NaomiMc) September 30, 2021
But what did you do the last time your mate letched on a woman in a bar or told a filthy joke at her expense in the changing room?
Did you slap him on the back when he told you what he did to his girlfriend last night or jeer when he told you what he’d like to do to her best friend?
Do you speak out? Because if you don’t, you are legitimising that behaviour.
You are giving women reason to fear, to feel vulnerable and unsafe.
Failure to speak out just creates the environment for your mate to be that bit braver, that bit bolder next time.
Women can’t fight this battle alone
There are women across Scotland just now having to live with their boss’s banter to make sure that they can get a fair share of shifts next week.
Women who are expecting a squeeze at the Christmas party because that is just what happens.
Women being ordered to wear a short skirt in their bar job because that is what the customers like and they have to do it or be marked down as difficult.
Women who’ll spend a chunk of the wage they’ve just earned on a taxi home because they don’t feel safe in their own town.
You have to speak up and out because this is only going to end when the joke is the thing that becomes uncomfortable, rather than the act of pointing it out.
We know Wayne Couzens had a vulgar and sexist Whatsapp group with his pals.
If you’re reading this and thinking it’s not on you, then whose job is it?
Because women have been fighting this battle for decades, even centuries.
They are tired, sore and angry.
Want to help end this? Then don’t stand by the next time there’s a wise crack or wolf whistle, a letch or a cheeky squeeze.
Because every bystander shares the guilt of the men who prey on your mothers, sisters and daughters.