Why The Headlines About Women Need Changing

Women are not objects

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

It seems that every time a crime is committed against a woman or girl, they become the subject of a headline. I am tired of reading “Woman was raped…” or “Woman was murdered..”, as if that woman had wandered astray and was complicit in what happened to her.

I want to see “Man raped a woman…” or “Man murdered a woman…”. This is the truth. Just a simple trick of semantics changes the emphasis and is much more accurate.

Women sometimes break the heel of their shoe. This does not equal the trauma and life-changing crimes committed against them. Or their untimely deaths.

Successful women are built on the bricks thrown at them

You can be certain that on the much fewer occasions that women commit violence, the headline will begin with “Woman…” too.

We need society as a whole to recognise that we are not statistics, and nor are we hapless beings who wander into danger. Last year, Sarah Everard was deliberately walking home when an off-duty police officer abducted her, raped and murdered her. Yet the headlines included, among others, “She was only walking home”. The “only” implies that she should not have been walking home and somehow played a part in her terrible ordeal and death.

A serving police officer abducted, raped, and murdered Sarah while she was going about her legitimate business.

In the 1970s, in Britain, there was a serial murder known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Women were advised to stay at home. This made women seem to be the problem, rather than the murderer. It almost suggests that being raped or murdered is entirely the fault of women. Rape is never the fault of a woman. Even if she was unable to say “no”. There needs to be a “yes” for consensual sex.

Men were not asked to stay home in case they were the murderer.

I am not going to talk about how women dress here. It is a red herring and nothing to do with crimes against women. We all need to respect ourselves in how we dress.

A few years ago, a medical student, miles from her hometown, left a party in order to catch the last bus back to her accommodation. She was 20 pence short for the fare. She asked everyone in the line behind her if they could spare 20 pence (all one can buy with that is penny candy). No one gave her that tiny sum. As a result, a man saw her alone, dragged her into an alley and beat her and raped her. She was not found until morning. When her mother travelled to the city and the hospital, she did not recognise her daughter. The headlines? “Female doctor raped and beaten after not enough fare for bus”. That was a lie and, again, implicitly blamed her.

I cannot fathom how that bus driver refused her, or how the other people waiting did not manage to provide 20 pence between them.

Until headlines change, and it is mostly men who write them, women will have an unconscious bias against them. When will enough of us get fed up with this narrative and demand that articles and headlines stop making women the subject?

We are not objects to which crimes are done. Men commit crimes against us.

It is long overdue that we stand up to this. Sadly, there are women who write as if women are passively partaking in the violence against them. Until we, as one, insist on making men responsible, we will continue to be seen as a lesser sex, a subject, or object.

We still do not have equality. We may not be chattel anymore, but the way language is used, the way we allow other women to be treated without speaking up, all goes to make our journey longer than necessary.

We need to end the narrative that depicts us as being passively complicit.