"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." —Margaret Atwood
Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, left a friend’s house in south London at 9pm on March 3. She was on her way home to Brixton. It was a walk that should have taken less than an hour. Security camera footage shows her as she passed a residential street at 9.30pm. She was wearing bright colors and talking on the phone to her boyfriend, she stuck to main roads, seemingly following the rules all women know in order to stay safe.
Sarah never made it home. On Tuesday, a male London Metro Police officer was arrested in connection to her disappearance. A woman, the officer’s wife, was also arrested on suspicion of assisting him but soon released on bail. On Wednesday Sarah Everard was found dead in a wooded area not far from the suspect’s house, 55 miles from her own home.
Why has the heartbreaking and seemingly random murder of Sarah Everard sparked a worldwide call for justice? Because most women know there are very few random attacks on women. Victim and offender may not know each other, but the crime is not accidental. Crimes against women are anything but chance. How can it be chance when a great portion of the men in this world are taught to objectify women and rationalize their own baser wants? Violence against women is a consequence.
Nature and anatomy determine the physical difference between men and women. That men are often larger and stronger benefits them. Anatomy allows that men can hold power over women and control them. It is societal attitudes and norms that tell men whether they should or not.
An inability to move past outdated ways of thinking with regards to gender is one way in which society continues to fail women. A stubborn adherence to traditional gender roles, usually with women in positions of weakness, frees men to treat women with little thought or respect. Men are considered more aggressive, while women should be passive, and therefore a man who pressures a woman to have sex is acting as anticipated. When a man bullies, pushes or forces he is acting as expected. And because it has always been this way, men who sexually assault often believe they are entitled to behave this way. Perpetrators believe it is their right.
And what of women’s rights? Sarah’s murder has inspired women to share how far they have to go to protect themselves. These are depressing and exhausting lessons passed on from mothers and sisters. Don’t walk alone at night. Carry keys between your fingers, like a knife. Don’t dress too sexy. Don’t wear high heels. Don’t yell rape, yell fire.
It all becomes too much and often it seems best to stay inside where it’s safe. But the ugly truth is many women who are murdered are killed by husbands or partners. Domestic violence has worsened with the pandemic. In the first month after a lockdown was imposed in the UK murders related to domestic abuse tripled compared to 2019 figures, while calls to domestic abuse services jumped by 50 percent. It seems that even home isn’t safe.
|Tiffany Michelle Yellardy|
There are so many victims. On March 10, in my neighborhood, 37-year-old Tiffany Michelle Yellardy was found dead in her home. Her teenage daughter discovered her body. Tiffany was murdered by her husband.
On March 13, across town, home security footage picked up the images of a woman being assaulted and abducted in the street. You hear her screams for help and how she begs for the male attacker to leave her alone. She was later found alive and a man arrested for domestic assault.
Male entitlement, misogyny, and violence against women are all alive and well and walking the streets around us, raising ugly fists. There are so many pieces to this puzzle that at times it seems impossible to attempt, but we need to change. Too many women are dying.