When I lived in London I would be out all hours of the night. Most of the time, I would leave in the evening and wouldn’t come home until morning or afternoon. I sat in parks with my mates, mostly females and gay men, getting up to whatever we were getting up to. We would get on the trains and buses that ran all night, just to keep out of the cold. We found light in the darkness. The one time I got really freaked out was just because a fox was near us on the heath. We would be shit faced and ecstasy laced and didn’t pay any mind to the terrors that can pervade the nighttime. We were only sixteen, seventeen, eighteen.
Some nights I would get off the last train that the overground offered, around 00:30, and practically run home, alone, just to avoid any trouble, even if I was the only one on the street. My heedlessness stopped being so accessible, I stopped feeling so fearless in the city. I realised a girl alone at that time was a walking target, yet nothing ever did happen. It may have been the fact that I wore clothes that hid my body, baggy tracksuit bottoms and huge coats that I could wrap round me to become a formless blob floating through Camden. It may have been that I always walk with my eyes on the pavement, avoiding eye contact and shielding my face. It may have been that I was simply one of the lucky ones.
Sarah Everard wasn’t one of those lucky ones.
You get it in your head that it’s going to be one of the shifty people wandering the streets at night that will grab you. That it’ll be the white van that will pull up next to you and chuck you in the back quicker than you can realise what’s going on. That it’ll be some pervy old sod in a trench coat. But Sarah Everard’s body was found in a woodland in Kent, with a serving, male police officer now in custody for it. The police, an institution that works under the guise of protection, keeps letting people down again, and again, and again.
Sarah Everard was walking back to hers from a friend’s home in South London at 9:30pm when she disappeared. 9:30pm, a time when some people clock off work. A time when some people finish their classes at university. A time when some people do their food shopping. A time when some people go out for their exercise. A time when some people are going out to the pubs and clubs or shows. A time that isn’t seen as the danger zone. Yet 9:30pm is the time a young woman was kidnapped and murdered off the streets of the metropolis.
Just because we can vote now, just because we can work and choose to not have kids and have freedom to wear what we want, just because we are allowed free speech, just because we are seen as liberated bodies, does not mean women’s place in society is as unfettered as some people try to convince us. We should not have to live in fear. We should not have to read stories of a 33 year old woman walking home from her friend’s in the evening being murdered. My heart is heavy for Sarah’s family, my heart aches that we have lost such a beautiful, innocent woman to such evil, my heart hurts that this won’t be the last time a female is brutally killed at the hands of the opposite sex. This is not just a murder, this is an example of the serious repercussions of just being a woman.
I was sitting at the bus stop a few months ago in the early evening, on my own, and I was catcalled three times, put on edge incase those shouts became a reality. I was walking to a friend’s in Southgate recently, at two in the afternoon, and a man in a car pulled up beside me, trying to usher me in, ignoring me as a shouted “fuck off” numerous times and only driving away when other cars started to pool behind him. I was at a course for work in January, all the other people there were males as the industry I work in is not female-heavy, and one of them flat out ignored me and only spoke to the other blokes, giving me a dirty look as I said hello to him. When I was sixteen I was kissed by an old man as I said goodbye to him at a family member’s birthday party, after he had eyed me up all night. I have been so obliterated by alcohol that I can’t even speak properly or remember the night come morning when boys have helped themselves to my body, and I’ve been too worried to say I felt uncomfortable with it because I was afraid they would say I was “up for it”, even though I was drunk and they were sober. I have overheard countless men calling women bitches, sluts, cunts, slags, whores, just because they didn’t agree or do what they were told by them. I have seen rape victims accused of bringing it on themselves because they dared wear a skirt higher than the ankles, or a shirt that wasn’t a turtleneck, or called unattractive and prudish because they did wear those things.
I am fucking angry.
I am angry that women are still being policed by men. I am angry that my opinions and intelligence doesn’t matter just because I am a woman. I am angry that women have to fit into so many boxes while men can succeed by doing the bare minimum. I am angry that female celebrities are ripped a new one by just existing while people like Chris Brown are given second chances. I am angry that transgender women are being killed at monumental rates. I am angry when men speak over me or think they know more than me for no other reason than that they are male. I am angry that men can go out and have fun whereas women have a fear of being raped or kidnapped or murdered. I am angry that 9:30pm is the time Sarah Everard was abducted off the streets of our capital city. I am angry.
I am angry that people think these conversations are radical and unnecessary, that females have it good nowadays and gender equality is totally achieved, when, as a woman, I can tell you that it is not. I am angry that women like Amber Heard have become a reason for men to argue that ‘ladies do it too’, while they put no effort into supporting the millions of women that go through domestic abuse. I am angry that what I’m talking about here will get me branded as a social justice warrior and an ultra-feminist, as if those things are bad. I am angry when relevant points are made about women’s struggle and people bring up men’s issues, because how dare we have a conversation that doesn’t include them for once, rather than being able to discuss all things in their own space.
The misogyny this world still exhibits is evident in the murder of Sarah Everard, and I am shattered that another woman has been lost to such cruelty.
Jyoti Singh was a 23 year old physiotherapy intern who went to the cinema with her male friend in Delhi on the 16th December 2012. On her way home she was raped and tortured by five males and the driver of the bus they were on, while they beat her friend into unconsciousness as he tried to protect her. They asked Jyoti and her friend why they were out at such a late hour before the brutal attack. This happened at 9:30pm, the same time Sarah Everard was abducted. This haunting event has never left my mind. A young woman who’s life was savagely destroyed by men and boys who thought they had the right to it, in a city, on public transport. The safety of girls and women is being violated in plain sight, yet people are too scared to talk about it in raw detail. I feel it is necessary, to show the terror some females have been subjected to, the terror some females are being subjected too. We must remember these women’s names, their stories. We must celebrate who they were, and never forget what happened to them. We must protect our girls, our ladies, remind them how important and strong they are, how they are just as special as men.
Jyoti’s father said: “It never entered our hearts to ever discriminate. How could I be happy if my son is happy and my daughter isn’t?”. We need to teach our boys that women are their counterpart, not their inferior. We need to be open and frank about gender violence, sexual assault, discrimination. Kids have access to the internet younger than ever nowadays, and as a child who was online before I reached the age of ten, I can guarantee you they are seeing things of this nature already. Please, please, please be an honest and caring voice to guide them into respect for women, into love for women. To show your children that what happened to Jyoti Singh and Sarah Everard is wrong and evil. It may be awkward to talk about, you may feel uncomfortable, but think how the parents of these two women, and millions of women who have been hurt by men, feel when they are told their children are dead for no other reason than depravity and misogyny.
We are watching porn with women being tied up, gagged, beaten, pissed on, spat on, gang raped, justifying it as simply a fetish, without realising it’s real women behind the screens, or really talking about how this effects the sex lives and fantasies of many young boys that find access to it. Sex trafficking is one of the biggest lucrative businesses, with babies so young that their umbilical cords are still attached being featured in pornographic videos with men old enough to be their granddads. Yes, it is fucking hard to hear. But we need to hear it. We cannot keep pushing these things into our mind’s corner and hoping that if we don’t bring it up that it will go away. It won’t. In fact, it will only boom the more we ignore it. These are harsh truths, but they are truths. They are our truths. We cannot keep lying in hopes that they disappear.
We understand things much more when we have been through similar experiences. When I heard bout Sarah’s murder, it made me consider all the times I had been out in London, alone, at night. It made me think about the fears I had. It made me think about all the women hearing about Sarah’s death and worrying that they will be next. It made me think about the next time I will be out, on my own, wandering around a city that hasn’t done me wrong, and realising that notion is a juvenile one. I have a rape alarm on my bag. Will I be able to pull its plug and set it off in time if a man attacks me? Will I be able to hit hard enough, run fast enough, to get away? Will I be wearing a dress or a tracksuit? A bare face or makeup? Will it matter?
Will I be able to defend myself if a man belittles me at work? Will I be able to pursue my dreams without having to fear a Harvey Weinstein type getting involved? Will I be allowed to speak my mind, or will men get angry that I’m sharing my female truth and try to banish me? Will I be able to stand up for myself and other women without getting the label of the ‘annoying feminist’ that doesn’t let anyone have fun anymore? Will women ever live in the society I dream they will, where they are seen as equal, and accepted for who they are, and won’t live in fear of being attacked just because of their gender?
The times are changing, yes. Minds are opening, morals are altering, old beliefs are shattering. But this month has shown us what can happen to women when a man is pervaded by evil. All the little instances of misogyny are brought to the surface when such horror occurs. Every time you let your mates slag off a girl for sleeping with multiple people, every time you laugh at a TV show that depicts women in a bad light, every time you shut your wife up and talk over her, every time you don’t let your girlfriend wear what she wants, every time your mum gets put down and insulted by your dad, every time you leave a female friend with no way of getting home, every time you join in on the shit-talking of a female celebrity for embracing herself, every time you don’t listen to your partner when she explains that you do something she doesn’t like in bed, every time you poke fun at a girl who enjoys traditional girly things or rejects them, every time you are offended by muliebrity, please keep in mind the real effects of what this does to women.
Sarah Everard and Jyoti Singh should never have had to face the violence they did, nor should any woman, simply because she is female. Listen to women when they say they are uncomfortable, or offended. Look online to read accounts of women who have been through misogynistic experiences. Read female literature, listen to female musicians, embrace female work. There is an abundance of beauty, insight and appreciation to be had from it.
Rest in peace Sarah. Rest in pease Jyoti. We will not forget you, and I will fight my whole life to have my voice heard and to support women like you two.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Just A Girl by No Doubt – Need I say more?
Book: Parable of The Sower + Parable of The Talents by Octavia E. Butler – Both of these books are incredible. Written amazingly, engaging, intelligent. They are dystopian novels, so not the happiest of books, but enjoyable nonetheless. They are set in the 2020/30s, written in the 90s. Octavia E. Butler won many awards for her writing, and was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Such an inspiration!