Have you ever felt your heart beat so violently that a faint taste of blood fills your mouth, simply because you notice a stranger walking the same route?
Have you ever plugged your ears with headphones but felt too afraid to drown out your surrounding sounds because you might miss a noise that indicates your attacker?
Have you ever frozen up after an unknown hand skims your body as they move past you?
Well, I have. And as has every other woman I know.
On the 10th of March, 2021, an investigation by UN Women UK found that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed (and actually told someone about it — the real number is likely far higher, but relies on the stories of women and girls who are not in a position to safely step forward).
But there you have it. Every single woman. And yet, we only hear about the one or two that were brutally murdered — such as the tragic, world-rocking case of Sarah Everard. I think I can say, without a doubt, that if every horrific experience every one of us has ever faced were to be recounted on the news day after day, the words ‘Brexit’ or ‘Climate’ would have no more effect on us than the ringing of a bell coming from some house on a whole other street.
It’s the truth that we’re still so unwilling to overcome: women are not safe at the hands of men. Husbands are supposed to devote themselves to their wives, and still 96% of suspects for domestic homicides against women were male. Politicians are supposed to work for a better run society, and yet they still get away with objectifying every female presenting member of staff that surrounds them. Police are supposed to keep people safe, and yet they are the very ones to blame for the trauma and loss of life that so many suffer, with two fifths of police forces in England and Wales lacking rape units.
In fact, in our country, every three days a woman is murdered by a man.
And misogyny still isn’t considered to be a hate crime.
In case you live in a world of peace and love, where everyone sits in a circle on the fluffy clouds, awing at the rainbows and endlessly munching cookie dough, a hate crime is one that is motivated by some sort of prejudice against a minority, typically involving violence. And, while you might argue that, since women make up the majority of the world’s population so they can’t be seen as a minority, all I can explain to you — and the devil that you seem to love advocating for — is that the equality gap between men and other genders is so overwhelmingly massive (with barely anyone of power actually trying to do anything of importance about this) that, according to UN Women, at the current rate of work, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reach for another 130 years.
You have to understand that when a whole group of people is raised to live in fear of violence and bigotry, they’re not overreacting — they’re in danger. The only reason women haven’t been chained up or completely eradicated is simply because of their necessity in replenishing the world’s populations (as well as their hyper-sexualised desirable aspects, that many men believe were created for them). The mere fact that I have had to supply you, my reader, with so many statistics is because, otherwise, I am genuinely concerned that you won’t believe me and all the other women that are suffering silently from the criminal actions that we face daily, at the cold mercy of men.
Still, though, we blame women. As if, after everything we’ve asked, begged, taken to the streets for (even in a peaceful vigil, which resulted in multiple arrests, since wanting to show respect and solidarity is such a crime), we still don’t know how to get it right. I for one must have missed the lesson where we learnt that “no” means “assault me — if you think I’m asking for it, then I definitely am.”
It’s not difficult to promote mutual respect and kindness within our society, something I can gladly say I’m experiencing at Brampton, after spending so much time in an environment where, more than anything that could be done to me, I was worried about the dignity snatched from me in the traumatic process of “dealing with it” — even that sheer phrase that I’ve heard thrown around in the past just implies it’s solely my problem, which then becomes someone else’s burden the moment I share my truth. I feel safer now, and more considered by both staff and peers, even being encouraged to work closely with the school to ensure a change in mindsets of everyone in the community. We all need this change, and the funny thing is it’s so easy to do. We just haven’t tried yet.
All I can say now, trying to calm the rage within me that is ignited every time I think of the carelessness that so many men feel regarding a subject that dominates so much of my life, is that, at this point in time, if you are not with us, you most certainly are against us. The reason to deny women safety from misogyny under an umbrella of “hate crime” is non existent, and the longer we wait, the more we suffer, and the more we die.
This is not a little boy pulling a little girl’s pigtails so he can get to the swings first. Or maybe it is; maybe men are taught to grow up pushing down the women around them, hurting — scarring — them, just as long as they get what they want. But why not build a whole new swing set, something stable, with enough space for everyone? Nobody would ever have reason to hate a person with a faster pair of legs if they all ended up in the same place.
Just imagine that. Equality. With no bias, no hate, no violence.
Why does it still feel so far away?