It's not all men, until you are a woman walking alone

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by Persephone Moir

14-03-2021

It is ALL women, and every act of violence and shaming, be it sexual, racial, domestic or public needs to be recognised.


I can’t not say anything after the unravelling that has happened this week.


Almost everything that has occurred this week has been a big old trigger, and I am pretty sure it is not just me.


First up we have had public shaming and denial of a woman’s lived experience. Now I have little time or interest in the Royal family, I really couldn’t give less of a shit about Harry and Megan as Royals/celebrities or whatever they are, I had no interest in watching the interview, yet was absolutely gobsmacked at the response it got. People literally tearing down a woman who was saying she had felt like ending her own life and that part of that was that she experienced racism and a lack of support.


When will people understand that when a Black person says that something said to them, or about them is racist, it is racist. Whether the intention or awareness of it being racist is the issue of the white person behind the words and actions, and as uncomfortable as that may be we need to recognise it and not once again jump to our own defence. Enquiring about how ‘dark’ your unborn baby’s skin will be, no matter if it comes from a place of ‘interest’ or ‘wonder’ is going to be immediately triggering, offensive, and yes, racist to a Black person who has lived with a lifetime of racial slurs, racial violence, racial conditioning at the hands of the white supremacy. Awareness people, have some awareness and just don’t do it, and perhaps question your need to ask, or even care in the first place.


And then, on top of that to outright accuse somebody of lying about how they felt is a complete travesty and harms every person, man, woman, Black, white who struggles with mental health issues. It is one of the hardest things to ask for help, and from personal experience I can tell you that one of the biggest blocks to this is to not be listened to or believed. This is a story/condition that many of us live with, so a public shaming of somebody in a vulnerable state is cruel and deeply harmful. Even if you think that they are telling big ol lies about the "monarchy and about the British press", a statement that begins “I feel” is true. Decent human beings do not shame people for sharing their feelings, particuarly feelings of vulnerability.


And then that leads us onto the murder of Sarah Everad by a Met police officer. My thoughts are with her family in this awful time.


Yet the response to this murder for some reason has left me with some mixed feelings. Why has the murder of this particular woman produced such a huge response? And why has there been such a huge defensive backlash to it? I don’t actually know how many women have been killed in the last year, but I am pretty sure that this has not been the only one, so why this one? Why now? And what message does that give to the people who have been killed in different circumstances and of different backgrounds? Does the murder of a woman by her spouse not deserve such passionate vitriol? How about a murdered prostritute? Or perhaps a Black woman, or a gay man? And why the huge defensiveness?


Did you know that ALL women fear for their safety when walking along the street, that we ALL instinctively stay in well lit busy areas, that we carry our keys in our hands as a defensive mechanism, that we ensure people know where we are at, who we are with and where we are expected to be at what time? That we ALL have automatic systems to keep ourselves as safe as possible, yet women still get murdered, raped, assaulted, abused when going about their daily business. Female joggers getting their bum pinched, school girls being held down being forced to kiss their peers, catcalling, suggestive comments, leering, inappropriate comments from shopkeepers, slut shaming, not to mention the behind doors domestic abuse and sex trafficking.  Ask yourself if you are ok with that? If you are ok with your mum, your best friend, your partner, your sister or your daughter feeling this way?


This is not ok. We do need to reclaim our streets our parks, our open spaces, and it needs to be a joining of men and women. This is not a woman’s fight, this should be a mans fight against toxic masculinity, and the society in which we live that tolerates this behaviour, the voices campaigning needs to be men, they are the ones who inhabit the same space, who perhaps understand better where the change needs to be made to stop men becoming rapists and murderers. Yes, I recognise that it is not all men, but please if you don’t like feeling accused of something that you don’t believe true just keep in mind that for a woman walking down the street it is ALL men, because the guy who is thinking about raping, murdering, harming, shaming a woman does not come with a sign around their neck. All men present a threat to a lone woman in her head, and as uncomfortable as that may be for a man to read, I promise you it is a whole heap more uncomfortable as a woman to live with this constant fear. Please, all the men who read this I implore you to take a moment to think about why you are uncomfortable with this fact and why you feel the need to defend yourself, I promise you it will feel better once you own it, and will hopefully enable you to be the change.


And this thought process then moves me right back to racism and to my shame, the fact that I did not even recognise the racist story that was hanging over it, and that it took a Black woman to point it out to me. So, as a woman I have had mixed feelings about the response to the Sarah Everard case, as I have explained, the lack of male voices in uproar about violence against women saddens me, so when it was pointed out that there is a public outcry at the murder of a white woman, yet no public outcry to the murders of two young Black women in London 9 months ago? What does this tell us? And how does this make every Black woman feel? Black women who I consider friends, Black women who I love and respect. I need to sit with my own discomfort that this does look like a very unequal society that we live in, and then think about what I need to do about this, and not immedietly make it about me, about my need to disassociate from deeply engrained racism that is witnessed silently without even realising it. Because just as I get frustrated by men being defensive when it is a mans problem to fix, I need to hold myself accountable that racism is a white persons problem to fix.


Do you know the names Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry? They were sisters, murdered by a stranger in a London park in June 2020. Bibaa was a mother and a social worker, helping others, loving and loved by others. Nicole was a photographer, she was loved, and brought joy into many peoples lives. Did their lives matter less than Sarah Everards? Ask yourself why you don’t know their names, and why there were no nationwide vigils for them, why their lives lost did not make us shout “reclaim the streets”? I don’t have the answers, but I will use my discomfort around this fact to make changes. Awareness. Accountability. Enquiry. Action.


Just like its not all men, its not all white people, but we need to recognise that we are part of the system where the problem exists. So, before you jump to your own defence, just sit for a minute, pour all of your attention on the person who this affects, look at the women in your life and just think for a minute how they feel, not how it makes you feel, and then take action. I am making this my practice to help me deal with racism, before I crumble into my own defence and distress at the awareness that the society I live in and benefit from is inherently racist I will take a moment to put 100% of my attention on the Black women who I love and feel how they feel, and then take action from that place.


We can join together and make necessary changes when we get out of our own heads and act from a place of love and respect of others. Our need to defend ourselves is a personal one, so perhaps look at where that is coming from before you build that wall in front of the victims of violence, inequality and hatred. Listen, learn, be a better person.


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