Reclaim the Night.

I used to enjoy the phrase ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’, that was until I looked up its origins for this post. ‘Woman scorned’ is apparently in relation to a man having rejecting a woman’s advances – Google suggests the proverb reads ‘a woman who has been rejected by a man can be ferociously angry and vindictive’ – this does not reflect the narrative I live in. ‘Ferocious’ and ‘angry’ over being rejected by a man? The only people I see being ‘ferocious’ and ‘angry’ are the men who prey women in darkness, the men who make women feel the need to reclaim the night.

Reclaim the Night

Before the events of recent days, (the incessant bullying of Meghan Markle, International Women’s Day 2021 and the tragic disappearance and now confirmed murder of Sarah Everard), I had only heard of the ‘Reclaim the Night’ movement briefly in passing. I watch many true crime programmes, partly out of curiosity, partly out of respect for the victims and their stories, and sadly, if I’m truly honest in case they can offer advice on how I myself can avoid becoming another statistic. Since recent events have unfolded I have researched the movement, and it’s abhorrent to see that on this issue (as well as others as seen by the BLM protests last June), we have not progressed as a society in over 40 years. A woman goes missing while walking home, and women are told how to make themselves safer from men. Where are the recommendations that men stay home after sundown so women are safe?

In the past week the same old conversations have cropped up amongst friends: ‘how do you keep yourself safe when walking alone?’ We all know the drill, make sure someone knows where you are and where you’re going, keys between your knuckles, just in case, and no headphones after dark – just to mention a few. Alongside the advice are thousands of women sharing their stories of harassment and assault, my Twitter feed shows little else, and that’s not a surprise considering that 97% of women have been subjected to it. To put that into perspective – though not that I should need to – 97% is 32,737,500 women in the UK, that is over 363x the capacity of Wembley Stadium, around the population of Peru. Yes, these are people’s mothers, sisters, daughters, but do you know what else they are, we are? Human beings. And that should be enough.

As women we all know too many women with stories to share, realisations that surface years later, and too many men who are seemingly shocked by the 97%, who apparently don’t know a perpetrator. News flash. You do. And for all of you who claim that if they knew a man capable of this you would ‘batter them’, few of you actually would. Not that I am condoning violence, just that I am suggesting that actions speak louder than words. Be the one who shuts down misogynistic jokes, be the one who confronts ‘the boys’ and their questionable actions, be the one who makes it uncomfortable, be the one who stops your female friends becoming the next in a long line to deal with this. Do it so your female friends’ rape isn’t on your conscience. We don’t care that you feel uncomfortable, I would much rather afforded the opportunity to be uncomfortable than to be scared in and around my home.

Please don’t ask me to tell you, as a man, how to make me feel safer. While I understand the threads currently circulating, it isn’t a woman’s job to tell you how not to make our lives hell. In the same way as white people, we must educate ourselves on racism, men you need to educate yourselves on women’s safety. We spend an exhausting amount of time keeping ourselves safe. A friend informed me yesterday of something she does when out walking which I will now do: if someone is scaring me or making me feel uncomfortable, I should say hello to them. I should say hello as it signifies that I am likely to be vocal, but also because it could shock them into replying and then I would be able to pick them out of a lineup. How fucked up is that? But I will do it, because it could save me.

I want to reclaim the night for women, but the title suggests we laid claim to the night in the first place, and I don’t think we ever have. Jack the Ripper, the Yorkshire Ripper, John Christie, John Worboys, are just a few reasons we as women haven’t ever owned the night, and there are many more throughout history. We are angry and we are tired, it is 2021 and we are still dealing with the same issues. Stop telling your daughters how to protect themselves and start educating your sons that women are equals, human beings with as much right to life as they have. We will only be able to reclaim the night when men are educated, so please, for fucks sake get educated, and do not be the reason another 118 women die in the next 365 days.

Beth x

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