How can men keep women safe?
Last week was a rollercoaster.
The positivity and strength emitted by women all over the world on International Women’s Day was palpable. Finally, our collective voice was gaining momentum and it felt like real progress was being made.
And then, we hear the devastating news about Sarah Everard. A lady not much younger than me, who vanished on her way home on 3 March.
The last few days have seen social media flooded with stories of women sharing their experiences of feeling unsafe walking home. Of worrying about their female friends and family walking home. And talking about the role men can play in making us feel safe.
I’ve never stopped to think about it before; the nervousness I feel when walking on my own in the dark is something I’ve become accustomed to, it’s just ‘normal’. It’s normal to text someone as soon as you get home, it’s normal to walk and talk to someone on the phone, it’s normal to hold your keys in your hand, and it’s normal for your heart rate to escalate every time a man comes within 5 metres of you.
The sad truth is, as women, we’re encouraged to feel anxious through the stories we’re told because, if we didn’t, we’d take risks and put ourselves in danger. But that makes it our problem. It’s our responsibility to keep ourselves safe. And that’s not right.
Men need to take an active role in any situation involving a woman who is uncomfortable, scared or at risk.
The last few days have firmly shifted responsibility to men, and rightly so. And what can men do? Well, there’s so many things, such as:
- Speaking out when they see a woman being treated inappropriately
- Calling out problematic behaviours in other men
- Walking female friends home
- Keeping their distance from women walking alone
Men need to take an active role in any situation involving a woman who is uncomfortable, scared or at risk. It’s not acceptable to brush it off as someone else’s problem, because it is your problem.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like confrontation; it doesn’t matter if you’re worried about picking a fight. I’m not saying those feelings aren’t valid, but they’re not an excuse for doing nothing.
What happened to Sarah was devastating, and we need to do more to ensure it doesn’t happen again.