CW: discussions of rape, abuse, misogyny, hate crime against trans women, and misogynoir
When you hear about a woman who has been raped, stop making comments about her appearance.
I have heard too many times, men sighing and saying “oh, she was so pretty”, in response to hearing about a woman who has been raped and/or killed. This is damaging in two ways: firstly, it implies that the situation is somehow made more tragic by the victim being pretty, suggesting that, if she was unattractive (according to you), then this wouldn’t have been such a loss. And in so doing, you are treating her just as society did her whole life – reducing her to her looks. Secondly, it perpetuates the untrue and toxic narrative that rape has anything to do with attraction, when in reality, it has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with power and woman-hating. Women are not raped because they are attractive, and men are hyper-sexual uncontrollable machines. They are raped because these types of men desire power, and so they calculatingly play out that power fantasy by violating women, regardless of looks.
Stop playing ‘devil’s advocate’ when taking part in feminist discussions with your women friends.
Women are tired. We are tired of living on edge, not knowing if instead of making it home safely tonight, we will end up plastered across the front page of the next morning’s papers. We are tired of waking up to read about our sisters and mothers and daughters being raped, tortured, and killed. So although this instance of ‘devil’s advocate’ may be a fun thought exercise to you – just a means to practice your debating skills – in reality, what you’re playing around with is women’s lives. Women’s right to live peacefully should not be under debate, and all these kinds of conversations do, is exhaust women who are already tired of wasting their energy explaining to you why what you just said made their heart drop and their head explode. All it does is use up the energy that could be spent on having real discussions that need to be had – because there are many discussions that need to be had. So next time you want to expand your intellectual mind and explore the drivel of “oh you have to consider she might be lying” or “maybe men are just built this way” or “maybe this is just how the world is”, consider the hurt you are causing just for the sake of shallow conversation.
Call out rape culture.
This can be done in many ways, because unfortunately rape culture is our culture – it is woven into every part of society from the ground up. So, call it out when you see it. That can be calling out a friend making a sexist comment about a woman, or calling out people in authority, like teachers or parents, for policing a girl’s outfit. If we’re going to reduce crime against women, we need to un-normalise and unlearn the idea that women’s safety is their responsibility, and not the responsibility of those who hurt them.
Be intersectional in your feminism.
Misogyny does not just affect cisgender, white, straight women. Instead, the reverse is true because the more a woman deviates from this profile, the more added prejudice she falls victim to. For example, hate crime against trans women is only increasing: from 2018 to 2019, gender identity-motivated hate crime increased by 20%. Additionally, law enforcement agencies are failing to take these crimes seriously. For example, since 2018, agencies reporting hate crime data decreased by 451, despite cases increasing (Avery, 2018). Furthermore, misogynoir, coined by Moya Bailey, is a term used to describe “the specific hatred, dislike, distrust, and prejudice directed toward Black women”. This can be illustrated by the all too common instance of Black women being scrutinised and disbelieved when coming forward concerning their experiences of abuse. For example, when singer and rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, became public regarding her experience of being shot in the foot by rapper Tory Lanez, she was met with overwhelming criticism over social media, with some even calling her a “snitch” (Asare, 2020). This particular example shows that, not even women privileged with fame and wealth, can escape the suffocating confines of misogynoir.
Stop saying “not all men”.
Because although this is true – not all men are rapists, well done – what it actually does is tell women that you care more about your own pride, than the lives of women. Not all men are sexists, rapists, and murderers – but all women have experienced trauma at the hands of living in a world constantly reminding them that they are not valued, respected, or safe. So instead of invalidating women’s experiences, put in the work to make them feel safer.
Believe women when they tell you they have been assaulted.
97% of women between the ages of 18-24, and 80% of women across all ages, have been sexually harassed. Additionally, women in the UK are losing faith in the authorities, regarding both their interest and capacity to help and protect them. This is demonstrated by the fact that 96% of women stated they refused to report experiences of abuse, and 45% stated it was pointless to do so (Topping, 2021). Therefore, the damning fact that almost all women will experience abuse in their lifetime, compounded by the lack of reported cases, should say to you that when a woman comes forward with an instance of abuse – she means it. In the face of scrutiny, shame, further abuse, as well as a lack of protection from authorities, it is remarkable that any woman would ever come forward with her experiences. So believe her when she does. It would not have been a decision she took lightly, so don’t treat it as such.
Sarah Everard went missing on the 3rd March 2021, and yesterday, on the 11th March, human remains were found amidst the search for her. This is not a women’s issue. This is a society issue. Until men start caring about our safety, this crisis will not go away. The war on women goes back deep within our culture – from the moment baby girls are born, they are told to cover up, don’t go out after dark, have your keys in hand, and that’s because the world thinks our murders are on us. Society perpetually shifts the blame to us. How long will it take, and how many more women have to die, before we start realising the blame lies with men and the world they created?
Image courtesy of Michelle Ding