Friday, October 05, 2012

To walk home alone at night

The rape and murder of ABC Journalist Jill Meagher has resurfaced old feelings of anger and frustration in me about violence against women.

Many of the news articles about the incident mention that she walked home alone. There's an implied sense of blame there, and a warning to other women. So often it is suggested that the best way to avoid rape and other acts of violence is for women to take precautions; learn self defense, dress sensibly, and of course -  avoid walking home alone at night.

And now we hear that the greatest danger is not actually from strangers in the street, but from people we already know. So, again, women are advised to avoid friendly banter in the workplace, dress sensibly on dates, and try not to antagonise our fathers and husbands at home.

I would not call myself a high risk taker. Yet, if I took all the precautions suggested by those who believe it's women who have to change their behaviour, I would not be walking down the main street of Honiara even in the middle of the day, I would go back to wearing clothes that are drab and grey, I would only interact socially with women, family get togethers would be out of the question, and I would have to ask a friend to walk me home every single night that I'm returning after dark. Of course, it gets really complicated, because if I'm avoiding contact with men, who is going to walk me home?

But I'm sure we all agree that women are not actually the problem and we are entitled to live rich and fulfilling lives free of fear, just as men are. I like the poster above (from lipstick feminists) because it changes the dynamic of the debate. You realise that the advice is for men rather than women, for offenders rather than victims. Instead of  spending so much energy advising young women how to be afraid, we should be advising young men how to be respectful.

So, I'll be at the Reclaim the Night rally this year (28th October) with bell's on. I think we should reclaim the night, and the day and the workplace and the home. Who will join me?

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