I am sick with rage. My throat is blistering with three decades of contained screams. A 33-year-old woman, dressed in brightly coloured walking clothes was going home in the evening, on the phone to her boyfriend. She was last seen alive at 9:30pm on March 3rd, five days before International Women’s Day.
After several days of police searching, human remains have been discovered in a wooded area in Kent, which the authorities are now in the process of identifying. A serving police officer has since been arrested on suspicion of her murder. A police officer, a man who pursued a career that would give him access to vulnerable women and afford him the status and authority of his profession. Police officers in England are permitted to carry tasers. Did you know that?
I cannot begin to imagine the horror of her last moments and the torture that her family and friends are now enduring. Sarah Everard was doing what all of us have done; walking home, wearing a rain coat, existing.
I am furious that Sarah Everard is another woman that we know the name of because of male violence. Every word I write fails and fails and fails to communicate how bone shatteringly full of rage I am. I want to hurt someone, to kill something. Is this how men feel about women?
I am really trying to understand this. We don’t mutilate the things we respect. Even when men don’t like the portraits hanging in the National Gallery, they don’t run around spitting on them, throwing acid on them, stabbing them, tearing the canvases into shreds using their erections. Do they respect the paintings? Or are they afraid of the consequences in the National Gallery? If this is the case, what do we need to do to make them afraid of the consequences in the street?
I cried hot tears of anger in the kitchen with my partner as I explained to him what had happened to Sarah. I buried my head in his enormous Eastern European chest and felt so safe, and then I felt so sad that the only place I feel safe from men is when I am being protected by one. I have *never* been cat called, approached, slapped, or assaulted when walking or dancing or eating with my partner. He is a British Olympic weightlifting coach and a trophied strongman.
In stark contrast, my aesthetic is that of an overcooked linguine crossed with that anthropology nerd from the Disney film Atlantis. I am acutely aware of how easy it would be for most men to overpower me. When I am in any public place, this fact is occupying a part of my consciousness.
I think of every man as a potential attacker because I do not have time to work out which men are probably ok and which are not. Given that 97% of women have been sexually assaulted, there is either a small cohort of very busy men running around the country brutalising women, or I am more or less right in my assumption.
As Call the Midwife actress Jennifer Kirby said: “The problem with telling us that most men aren’t dangerous, and don’t mean us harm, is that, while that’s true, we have no way of telling which ones do mean us harm. And it only takes one. Meaning it falls upon us to be on the lookout, every day, all the time.”
It is impossible to communicate to somebody who doesn’t know how the constant low-level threat of male-violence controls every day of our lives.
Every woman you know follows the same unwritten rules that Sarah Everard did to protect themselves from the omnipresent threat of male violence; taking longer but safer routes home, calling people to let them know where they are, wearing bright, covering clothing and being interminably, exhaustingly hyper-aware of where men are in relation to them in space at all times.
But it was not enough, because nothing that women do can protect them from male violence. Only men can protect women from male violence. By not being perpetrators.
If you are interested in being a good man, the team at The Egalitarian have issued some steps you can take to make the world a better place:
Labour MP Jessica Phillips reminds us that six women and a little girl have been killed by men in the UK since Sarah Everard was abducted.
This is a pandemic.
The murder of women does not occur in a vacuum. It is encouraged by a society which devalues the feminine, disbelieves women, and profits from depictions of passive sexualised women and belligerent aggressive masculinity. Sign this petition to ask your MP to get misogyny classified as a hate crime, like racism is, so that the government has to record data on crimes motivated by hatred of women. The vote takes place on the 15th of March so it is urgent you act now.