Red Alert…

The discourse around Sarah Everard’s disappearance has been horribly familiar. The tired victim blaming about where she shouldn’t have walked. The same sinking feeling as the days go by. Duplicate faux shock from men when we recount what life is like for women. The self-same chorus of ‘not all men’. Year after year. Case after case. Victim after victim. It is always the same. None of this is new or surprising. It’s just horribly sad & terribly frightening.

Women aren’t under any illusions about the world we inhabit. We know that we aren’t safe. We’re scared when we walk home alone from the train station. We calculate the threat of each interaction with a man we don’t know. Fashion make shift weapons from handbag contents. The rules are ingrained; no headphones at night, carry your keys, shout fire instead of rape, call me when you’re home! We have been absorbing the message that we are in danger since childhood.

There is no poor decision making. We are simply living our lives. Avoiding all risk isn’t possible. No matter what complex precautions we take, we are exposed. If the journey from my bus stop to my house is along dark, quiet streets then I have no option but to regularly walk alone on dark quiet streets. We don’t have personal escorts, we can’t control who will sit next to us on the train, taking taxis can be cost prohibitive & most cab drivers are men anyway.

Dark,  foggy residential street

We know that ‘not all men’ are dangerous, but we don’t know which ones are. From childhood girls are bombarded with harassment. It never stops. Teachers & drs & bus drivers & our friend’s dad & policemen & strangers on the street & priests & guys in bars & colleagues & friends & lovers. Lots of women aren’t even safe in their own homes. We all have stories of close calls and false alarms. Most is can tell you about the encounters we couldn’t escape too. It is not a revelation that most guys aren’t going to murder us. Knowing that doesn’t change our real fear because often it’s the one you trust who will. The worst case scenario is a reality and we’re reminded of that every single time a man stands too close or lingers too long. We are adding up where this is headed when a creep makes a crude comment or gets aggressive when told no. Here’s the thing that not many men will admit, you know it too. You all know men that you wouldn’t want alone with your sister/daughter/girlfriend. You see those scary men shouting at us on the street and grabbing us in bars. Every time you tell a woman you care about that you’ll see her home or to her car it’s because you are fully cognisant if the threat. The more insidious of you get a kick out knowing you can frighten us without losing plausible deniability. Not all, but definitely enough.

I read a story recently about a guy who got a big cash in hand payment & had to take public transport home with the money. He was on high alert for the whole journey. Everyone looked suspicious. He second guessed his every move. When he relayed how stressful the journey was to his wife, she replied ‘ now you know how I feel everyday’. The solution to this problem isn’t changing female behaviour. Our awareness is at code red. Let’s tackle the predators not prey.

Instead of rushing to shout ‘not me’ men need to listen. They must examine their own complicity & learn what would actually help others feel safer. Challenge your gross friend. Know when your voice is helpful and when it is silencing. Let’s begin to have real conversations about getting more women into key positions. Our criminal justice systems approach to violence against women still needs an overhaul. Perhaps most importantly we all need to think about how we raise our children. The cycle must be broken. Too many women have already been lost.

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This women’s world…

I hate the damn patriarchy. I hate the structures that allow it to continue to function, the men who deny its existence and those who just close their eyes to it. I am tired of rape culture and wage gaps and micro aggressions and attacks on reproductive rights. It all sickens me. However, what angers me most are the women who refuse to join the feminist ranks. The traitors in our midst are worse than the enemy at the gate.

The simple truth is that women must fight for each other. Allies are great, but we cannot rely on anyone else to secure our rights. Although men may care about the treatment of individual women, the have proven that they aren’t all that concerned with our fight for genuine equality. Even so-called decent men exhibit shock when women discuss the nitty gritty of our lives and how misogyny affects us. If almost every woman you know has been sexually assaulted or harassed, how is it possible that almost every man in your life has no idea that it was happening? How can women be cat called, groped and demeaned from the moment the grow boobs and no men ever participate or see it happening? It is isn’t possible. They know. Just like they know we’re side-lined in the work place. They same way they are completely aware that women still carry most of the burden of child rearing and home keeping. Not to mention the emotional labour of explaining this (& oh so many other things). Our patriarchal society is very comfortable for men. Hoping they will tear down their own kingdom is naïve. We have got to have each other’s back.

Shall we start with the basics?

Other women are not the competition. The pie is big enough for everyone to get a slice. You do not have to engage in that ‘I’m not like other girls’ bullshit. Women don’t create anymore drama than men. Female bosses aren’t inherently bitchy. Slut shaming isn’t cool. Trying to distinguish yourself at the expense of the entire sisterhood is a stupid move. Everyone knows what you’re up to and almost no one likes it. You think you’re winning cool girl points with the men folk, but they’ll stomp on you just as quickly as they do any other chick who gets in their way. In short, don’t be a desperate pick me. It’s just sad.

Offer genuine solidarity.

Support other women in all aspects of life. Vote for the women who deserve to hold office. Consume the art of talented women. Shout out your friend’s endeavours. Fight for representation with your voice and your purse. Don’t judge women for every little thing. Stay at home Mum’s aren’t better than those with careers outside the home. There is no perfect size. Trans women are women. We’re all real and we’re all just trying out best. If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s worthless.

Actions speak louder…

If there is any chance of breaking down the barriers that women face, we must be prepared to stand up for each other in practical ways. We must be willing to stand with our sisters even when it’s difficult. Don’t automatically dismiss reports of misconduct against men that you like. Abusers (of all types) often cultivate a nice guy persona precisely because it makes their predation easier to get away with. Listen and be prepared to question.

Back female colleagues. Shut down mansplaining and the co-opting of ideas. It is so easy for a third party to interject a simple ‘I think X already covered that’. Do not tolerate inappropriate talk. Don’t laugh or ignore sexist ‘banter’. Be clear that you are not amused, and you will not work in a toxic environment. If you witness discrimination, harassment, bullying approach the victim and offer your assistance. Not just a shoulder to cry on, but pragmatic help. Go on record with HR regarding what you’ve witnessed, testify at tribunals etc. This is even more important if the woman in question is also a member of another oppressed group. Use whatever power you hold to institute practices that make your workplace a place that women can thrive. Then fight to have to those polices enforced. Protect and encourage the warranted career progression of women who utilise maternity or family leave. We must be willing to stick our heads above the parapet. Even/especially when we may be the only female voice in a room.

Do not reward collaborators.

This is very simple. Women who purposely back the patriarchy do not deserve your support. If they are willing to inhibit the opportunities of other women for personal gain, they are not worthy of your backing. Don’t vote for, align yourself with or rely on them. A sisterhood of women is a very powerful thing. Devote your energy to building and sustaining your own.

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You know you want it…

I really want to write about the whole Kavanaugh debacle, but I find myself too filled with rage to be coherent. He is the perfect example of how deep misogyny runs. From the tired old ‘why did she wait so long’ & ‘boys will be boys’. To his openly disrespectful treatment of female senators and the hypocrisy surrounding how male displays of belligerence & tears are strong and riveting, whilst a women doing the same would be hysterical and unfit for the public office. It’s the patriarchal home run. The really horrifying thing is I’m not convinced any of it will stop his confirmation. We keep thinking we’ve made progress, but it’s lip service. Crumbs.

I am disgusted. And exhausted.

Someone else summed it better. I’m just going to leave this here.

For the avoidance of doubt, I Believe Her. Dr Blasey Ford is a hero.