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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.

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International Women’s Day…

We need to celebrate women everywhere, in whatever role they have. So much falls on women simply because they are women. Childbirth, caring, providing meals, being the parent who wakes in the night for her children, nurturing, the list goes on.

We need more women in leadership roles. They create spaces that men don’t think about. I am not going to be negative about men here, I just want to highlight what women bring to our communities.

Compassion – look at Jacinda Ahearne in New Zealand, and Angela Merkel in Germany. They bring an empathy and softness that few men can achieve.

Creativity – women bring their sense of colours, homemaking, recipes, and all sorts of things that are original and beautiful.

Fairness – women, having been subjugated for so long, are aware of inequalities that are not only explicit but hidden. The extra cost involved for certain needs, the subtle discriminations, the complexity of being a woman in this world where a patriarchy is still at work.

Women have so much to offer the world and already have. They are often not recognised, or are noticed after they are deceased. History is not kind to women because they were seen as inferior and hysterical, not credible, and mostly, not men.

Feminism is a dangerous word. Say it in the wrong place and sparks fly. I have never quantified my feminism. I sit easily in traditional roles if I have a role where I am heard and can contribute to the greater good of a school, a hospital, a town

. I have taken the opportunities to do this and am confident that I have made positive contributions. I still do, despite my health problems, because it matters to me.

Women everywhere need these opportunities. We must encourage it and foster them in any way we can.

I support women in my roles, I also support men. There is no conflict in doing that. I like men, but now and then they need some self-awareness courses, even if it’s a short conversation.

I have self-awareness, but lack a criminal mind. I have had neighbours who caused me physical pain with high pitched wind chimes, and refused any request to move them away from my windows. They abused a frail, elderly woman when she asked that they stop cutting back bird cover in the nesting season, and for some inexplicable reason pinned their gates open illegally, and hammered nails around the drop bolt in an attempt to stop me closing their gate so that I could access mine.

If people behave so selfishly and stupidly, they will get unwanted attention. If that attention makes them decide to move, it is entirely their fault.

I write this because, as women, we need to not indulge in petty behaviour but nurture friendly communities, closer connections, and be good neighbours. Women are mainly peacemakers, and bring harmony to places they are in. Of course, there are exceptions…

I believe that if more women were involved we could end the carbon footprints on this planet much sooner. We would end wars more quickly, we would not waste money on nuclear arms, we would nurture human rights all over the world. We would not hoard vaccines but share them out, we would not make knee jerk reactions but see a bigger picture.

Women can make this world a far better place. I know it, I believe it.

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