• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Not all men, but too many men

ByGeorgie McNamara

Oct 4, 2021

CW: Sexual Assault

Walk fast and keep your head down. Avoid making eye contact but stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Don’t wear anything that could draw attention to you. Always be ready to scream if you feel threatened. At night, never walk home alone.

Are you a woman? Do you tend to leave your house at least a couple of times a month? If you answered yes to both those questions, then you’ve probably already had some version of the above said to you before. If not after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, then certainly now, after the killing of Sabina Nessa.

For those of you unfamiliar with her story, Sabina was a 28-year old primary school teacher. On September 17th, during what should have been a five-minute walk from her home to the local pub, Sabina was killed as she walked through Cator Park in South-East London.

For me, it’s not the fact that a woman was killed that I find shocking. Currently in the UK, according to Femicide Census, one woman is killed by a man on average every three days. This, coupled with the still recent death of Sarah Everard in March, means I have long since lost the luxury of being surprised every time someone of my gender is either assaulted or killed.

Instead, it’s the circumstances surrounding Sabina’s death that illuminates a frightening truth. She was only steps away from her home and the safety of people in a nearby pub. It was barely 8:30pm, hardly what one would consider to be late at night. And though she was on her own, it was such a brief walk to where she was going that calling a taxi or a friend to take her there would have probably seemed too cumbersome to be worth the effort for such a short distance.
Sabina didn’t break any of the rules girls have drilled into them from the moment they start leaving the house without a parent to hold their hand. She did exactly as she was supposed to and yet, absolutely none of it proved capable of saving her. In other words, her death confirms that when a man is intent on harming a woman, there is very little they can do to keep themselves safe. This, more than anything, reveals that it’s high time we changed the conversation around this epidemic of gender-based violence.

At what point are we going to stop asking women to do more to stop men from attacking them? When will demanding that we cover up, only leave the house with an escort, not look men in the eyes, become too much to ask? Not only that, but what will come next? To the boy who groped at me during my first time clubbing, would you like me to apologise? Was the illicit combination of my t-shirt and jeans simply too much for you? Or to the man who leered at our Features Editor, Ellie, because she dared to go out for dinner with her parents: would it be easier for you if she simply stopped leaving the house at all? To the 50-year-old male who harassed every female co-worker he came into contact with at my job this summer, maybe we should stop women from working at all, if it’s proving too hard for you to handle?

Perhaps you consider my fears far-fetched. Certainly, barely two weeks ago I would have said it was ridiculous to spend money getting a taxi to a location I could walk to in five minutes. Yet evidently, it wasn’t ridiculous enough for the man who murdered Sabina.

The fact is, for too long, the onus has been on women to make ourselves less visible in the face of misogyny, rather than demand the respect we are owed, not just in public where people can see, but at all hours of the day. Perhaps if we did, Sabina’s killer would have seen something other than an opportunity on September 17th.

Predictably, the outrage Sabina’s death has triggered (though not nearing the coverage Sarah Everard received) has led to a plethora of tweets and Instagram posts. Yet in all honesty, we are long past the point where an Instagram story that alternates between statistics of the number of women killed in the last year and explaining the meaning of the word ‘misogyny’ to the masses can be helpful. We know the numbers. In twenty-first century Britain, men comprehend enough to realise that misogyny is bad. Or why else would the men who killed Sarah and Sabina have committed their crimes at night, with no one to bear witness.

Men don’t continue to perform these acts because women haven’t done enough to protect themselves or shared enough #sayhername posts to their Instagram feeds. These crimes are committed because there is simply not enough pressure placed on our male counterparts to accord us with the basic level of respect we deserve. If we want change, we need to start demanding more action from the men in our lives, rather than expecting ourselves and our fellow women to live in a constant state of defence.

So, to my male friends, acquaintances and allies, I have only one thing left to ask: What are you going to do next in order to make us feel safe?

Image: Tim Dennell

By Georgie McNamara

After being Opinion Editor from January-August of 2021, Georgie was appointed Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Student.