On the evening of 3rd March, Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, disappeared as she walked home from her friend’s house. On the 12th March, Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer was charged with her kidnap and murder.
Since then, social media has wound itself into an angry, grief-ridden tsunami. An evolving narrative of life where all women live in perpetual fear of violence.
Before we get into how helpful this narrative is, I want to point out that Gender-Based Violence is serious and commonplace.
In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is a partner (or ex-partner).
Some sobering statistics:
- 1 in 3 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives
- 2 women per week (in the UK) are murdered by a partner or ex-partner
- In 90% of domestic abuse, where children are present, children will be in the same or the next room
- On average, a woman will be assaulted 35 times before reporting it to the police
- 30% of domestic abuse either starts or escalates during pregnancy
- Domestic abuse accounts for between 16 and 25% of all recorded crime
We know Domestic Violence is increasing, to the point where the UN has described the worldwide increase in domestic abuse as the ‘shadow pandemic’ alongside Covid 19.
From curfews to criminalising ejaculation. “It’s time to regulate men,” no, scrap that, “it’s time to HATE men,” has become the war cry.
Introducing a 6pm curfew for men would “make women a lot safer”, Baroness Jenny Jones argued in the House of Lords.
Given the stats on domestic abuse and lockdown, sounds like staying in the house hasn’t worked out well for lots of us.
She now says her remarks weren’t serious but in response to the London Police advising women “not to go out alone” after Sarah Everard’s disappearance.
Here’s my issue, Baroness Jenny.
Social media creates an appetite, a pressure, an expectation of outrage. It preys on the notion that speaking out is empowering. Acknowledge your shame and speak back to the indignity of it all. It gratifies a salacious hunger for stories of women’s abuse and humiliation at the hands of men. We’ve all suffered. We all suffer. Every day, we suffer. From leering, being told what to wear, how late to stay out, walking home with our keys weaponised in our knuckles.
C’mon girls, seriously? That’s what you want your daughters to learn? That’s the role you want women to have in the society you create?
The images we perpetuate are retrograde ones. We’re not vulnerable, wide-eyed and timorous. Nor are we passive recipients of life and lifes’ experiences – YES, including the bad sex, dodgy pub-chat-up lines and regretful morning-afters. What is youth for if not to be spent wantonly! We are responsible for our own destiny, the way we learn what we’re comfortable with, what we like and what we don’t, and the way we interact with others.
Gender-Based Violence is a wicked problem that’s psychological, societal, familial, environmental, financial and political. Sadly, men and women are a long way from having equality of power. Sadly men often treat women the way their father’s did.
Women everywhere, every day agree to sex because they feel they have no choice: because a man has them in his debt; because he has threatened them; because he can make them suffer by sacking them, demoting them, evicting them, reporting them. These aren’t issues of consent. They are issues of power. Women have agreed to sex they would rather not have out of a fear of the consequences.
We need sensible debate, collective solutions and commitment to action.
Solutions lie in equal pay, respect for the value women bring to senior management, the boardroom, politics. Respect for the love, care and single-minded commitment we have for giving our children the best start in life. Give dad’s decent paternity leave. Heck, we’re even allowed to enthusiastically embrace our sexuality.
Not all men are sexual predators. I like male company. I like female company. The joy is in the differences, similarities and humanity in both.
Please don’t lock either of us up after 6pm. Or segregate the pubs. Really, neither of us need chained up. Oh, and I’ll wear what I like. I’m rather fond of my push-up bra and big knickers combo.
Does that mean I’ve graduated from the school of dodgy pick-ups, bad relationships and morning-after-regrets? Wooooooo Hoooooooooo. I wear my feminism with pride. Now, when can I share MY stories on social media. Or you can just read my books. Perfect. Borderline Normality Trilogy. On this site. Read it now!