The latest feminist protest experienced these days in the United Kingdom asks for something apparently simple: that women can walk the streets safely without the need to always be alert to a danger that lurks only for them. That it is not necessary to give up their freedom of movement to protect themselves, but rather that society, the police and men collectively are the ones who guarantee that walking alone at night does not become a risk and that the focus shifts to the aggressors and their behavior and not blame them for the time they left or how they were dressed.
The London assassination of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old executive, has mobilized thousands of fellow Londoners to shout “Let’s reclaim these streets.” The anger at her death and the arrest of a police officer as the alleged perpetrator was compounded by outrage after the first police response was to ask the women to stay home. And, later, the police charge and the arrests of protesters at the vigil to honor his memory.
“He had done all the right things. He called his partner before returning home and looked for the brightest part of the journey. It cannot be that we constantly live with this insecurity that men do not have ”, claimed this Tuesday Abi, 27, one of the participants in the demonstration called in front of the British Parliament. Everard was kidnapped and murdered two weeks ago. A police officer, Wayne Couzens, was arrested for the crime. And yes, he had done everything to protect himself. The response of the British Government has been to promise more police officers, more security cameras, higher penalties for attackers and 25 million pounds (just over 29 million euros) to improve the lighting of shady areas. But what about education and the role of men? How long will the message that they are the ones to protect themselves will last?
The protest in the United Kingdom is the latest mobilization of women of which some theorists consider the fourth feminist wave, which has had important episodes with the Ni Una Menos in Argentina in 2015, the United States MeToo of 2017 or the feminist strikes Spanish women that started in 2018. One of the characteristics of this latest feminist wave is “the exhaustion of violence against women and the demand that all means be used to prevent it,” says Beatriz Gimeno, general director of the Women’s Institute. . Gimeno deepens that in this debate their freedoms are considered expendable: they are asked to renounce their mobility, but it is considered nonsense, for example, to put a curfew on men, as suggested in the House of Lords Jenny Jones of the Green Party. “The citizenship of women is not full. Why do we have to be afraid? Why take care of where we go? Are they scared? We are not the same. Not all men are aggressors, obviously, but all women have felt at risk at some point, ”says Gimeno.
The message that the London Metropolitan Police (popularly known as Scotland Yard) launched when Everard disappeared was to restrict women’s freedoms, not to combat men’s violence. They are the ones who must make the right decisions to ensure their safety. “Girls are tamed so that they never hurt men. And women are called to order every time they break that rule, ”wrote novelist and director Virginie Despentes in her feminist essay. King Kong Theory, published in 2006, in the chapter entitled Impossible to rape such a vicious woman in which she addresses the rape she suffered at age 17, one night she hitchhiked with a friend.
In Spain, the list of cases that feed the message that it is women who make bad decisions that end with dire consequences has a lacerating example in the case of the Alcàsser girls: “We were just girls when Miriam García, Toñi Gómez and Desirée Hernández were kidnapped in Alcàsser in 1992, but collectively, the decision had been made that everyone, without exception, seven-year-old girls included, know every detail of the discovery of their bodies. And, of course, hitchhiking as an irreversible mistake “, picks up the foreword of the book Calm down. Stories to go alone at night, a compilation of stories by different authors published in 2019 by Lumen that addresses this issue: “In reality, the whole world is a threat with which we negotiate every night and every day, because we do not want to stop living intensely.”
More recent is the questioning suffered by the victim of La Manada – who was followed by a detective after the rape and who was objected to walking alone with five unknown boys. Or Diana Quer, about whom it was speculated what she was doing alone at dawn.
“As women, we grow up hearing: ‘Be careful how you leave the house.’ But I have never heard any family say to a child: ‘Do not attack when you go out’, because no one thinks that their son could rape or attack ”, explains Amanda Moñiz, a teacher at a Madrid high school. “Teenagers are not getting the message that they can’t do anything without the consent of a girl. They must be empowered and made to see that they are not to blame, but much more work would have to be done with them. And it is complicated because we do not have time to deal with it within the school, except for some tutorials or in the Values class [la asignatura Valores sociales y cívicos]”.
The psychologist Elena Hermo, from the Association for Assistance to Victims of Sexual Assaults and Gender Violence (ADAVAS), sums it up like this: “We must intervene in education and whatever is necessary to prevent this. As long as a single man considers that he can exercise that gratuitous and excessive violence because he wants to, it will be very difficult to protect ourselves on the streets.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.