if we’re serious about change, we need to keep going

We started the week with International Women’s Day and (in the UK anyway) end it with Mother’s Day.

What were you hoping for this week? Stories of empowerment? Change? Hoping, perhaps, for hope?

I’d like to say the same but as I sit here, I cannot help but think it has been a very dark and harrowing seven days.

We have seen disproportionate indignation added to already-polarised opinion on Megan Markle. Statistics show during the pandemic, women were more likely to be furloughed than men; they spent more time on unpaid household work and childcare and reported higher levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness than men.

As I write, headlines are dominated by the policing of a public gathering in London. A vigil was held in memory of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old who disappeared as she walked home. A serving police officer has been charged with kidnap and murder.

In Devon Lorraine Cox, 32, went missing in September last year. She was walking home too. Later, body parts were recovered from bins in Exeter city centre and in woodland on the outskirts. A man is on trial having pleaded not guilty to murder but admits a charge of preventing a lawful burial.

Lorraine’s case happened before Sarah’s. Both garnered media attention to a greater or lesser degree. Both are now going through the judicial process and we must allow that to take place.

But we know both young women were walking home. Both deserved to be safe. Both deserved the right to live. Both had that taken from them prematurely.

And please: don’t tell me incidents like this are ‘rare’ or ‘unusual’. Incidents of women being harassed or attacked or vilified or killed are nowhere near rare enough. I have heard it said so many times that it strikes me as not being infrequent at all.

As Labour MP Jess Phillips said this week in Parliament: “Killed women are not vanishingly rare. Killed women are common.”

New analysis published by the World Health Organisation shows one in three women globally, around 736 million, have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.

There are many, many stories of women who feel they have to self-police. Talk to friends and they will admit to carrying keys in their hand when walking in unfamiliar areas or sticking to well-lit roads and pavements at night.

Why is it with all that we know, what all this time and space, it feels like we are fighting still? Fighting to walk the streets, fighting for our wellbeing, fighting to stay vigilant, fighting to explain how we feel or explain our choices? Why does it feel we are fighting to be listened to? Is this going to be a never-ending battle for us? Why do we have to keep doing it?

It shouldn’t be this way. We should not have to reclaim the streets; they should be our space as equals. We shouldn’t have to carry keys or endure victim-blaming for speaking about experiences or feelings. We shouldn’t still be shouldering more health/childcare burdens on top of our own jobs and responsibilities.

I’m tired of feeling this way. I figured if I’m feeling this way, surely you do too. What happens next? Rather than ranting, what can I – we – do?

Here’s some thoughts:

Donate: to a national or local cause working to address female rights and protect us from harm.

Lobby your MP. Find their details and write to them. Inspect their voting record, ask them how they plan to vote on key legislation and hold them to account for the decisions they make on our behalf.

Educate: Read books, talk to your children, listen to podcasts, have tough conversations with family members or friends who share/repeat misinformation or perpetrate misogyny.

Sell stuff: If you sell things you no longer want through eBay, you can donate some or all the sale price to Refuge.

Fundraise: Complete a virtual (or real) event for charity.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Despite the fatigue, the noise, the horror, we still have the internal power to make a difference. The life we want for those who follow won’t happen unless we push past how we feel and carry on with positive action.

It’s what we do that counts. Let’s make it count today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

Please share with anyone you feel needs it today – why not add useful resources into the comments? Thank you for reading x

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I'm a writer, journalist and communications officer based in the South West of England. I write about wellbeing, the outdoors and life in a rural playground.

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