A Woman is Dead
A woman is dead.
The woman, this time, is most likely Sarah Everard: a thirty-three-year-old marketing executive who was last seen earlier this month travelling to her home in Brixton. A man has been arrested in connection with her disappearance; human remains have been found in the search for her. They’ve not been confirmed as hers yet, but it seems pretty likely.
Whether it’s her or not, a woman is dead somewhere. Maybe she’s one of the two women killed every week in England and Wales by her domestic partner; maybe she’s one of the women who died following female genital mutilation, either due to infection or due to the increased risk of HIV/AIDS following the act. Maybe she’s one of them women shot dead for disclosing their trans identity. Maybe she’s one of the missing and murdered indigenous women lost on the Highways of Tears. Maybe she’s the woman murdered by her own family for bringing “dishonour” to their name. I don’t know who she is today, but I know she’s out there – she always is. I know she’s another woman who lost her life because of violence, entitlement, and cruelty driven by profound misogyny.
A woman is dead, again, and we’re still talking about men. Because social media has been alight since the Sarah Everard case gained traction in the media (and make no mistake, her identity as a white, attractive woman made all the difference in the attention her vanishing has been given) with, what else, but Not All Fucking Men.
And look, I’ve written about the Not All Men stuff before. I believe it. I don’t have to tell you that. You already know that speaking on issues of misogynist violence is not to declare all men complicit in it. But I am actively and actually fucking sick of this absurd notion that, as women, we need to couch every single protest against our own fucking murders in the egos of men who need to be told that they’re not like the other boys.
I want to address this to you, specifically, the well-meaning men who get on social media or cut into conversations protesting that not all men would commit an act as heinous as whatever misogynist violence is making the rounds in the media this week. What right do you have to include yourself in that? You’ve not raped, murdered a woman? Well done. Great fucking job. You’ve done the abject bare minimum in not being a misogynist. What else have you been doing for us lately? What else have you been doing for us that I should take time out of mourning the loss of another woman to this particular brand of violence to coddle your ego and rub your back and tell you that you’re one of the good ones?
Show me what you’ve been doing to make our lives safer. Show me what changes you’ve been making to address the constant tidal wave of misogynist violence against women. Show me how you’ve been calling out your friends when they say shitty stuff, even when it’s awkward. Show me the difficult conversations you’ve been having with yourself and the people around you to question your complicity in those things. Show me that you’re willing to sit down and actually listen to what women have to say about their experiences, without having to dive in and bluster loudly over us and demand that we put your comfort first.
Show me that, and I might start to believe that you mean it in good faith – that you aren’t just elbowing your way into the conversation to make sure that your comfort comes first, that your lack of having murdered anyone is acknowledged whenever we dare bring this shit up in a public forum. I might believe that this is about helping women, not just finding another way to shut us up. When women talk amongst ourselves, we don’t feel the need to have to disclaim with constant promises about how we know not all men are like that. Because we already know it to be true. It’s only with the spectre of you, dangling over our shoulders, that we have to couch our conversations in such petty, ridiculous, pointless bullshit, a constant reminder that, even when we’re talking about the things that kill us, men still come first. A distraction and a diffusion of what we actually need to address.
I have no doubt that it might be uncomfortable for you to ask these questions of yourself. Admitting that you may have been complicit in upholding a system of oppression is never a pleasant experience. But if you’re really, truly interested in making us believe not all men, then you have to start by letting us talk without the need to shove your way in and make us qualify everything with the promise that we know you’re not like that. Act like it, and we will believe you. And you will not need to barge into our mourning of another loss at the hands of the misogynist culture we have all endured, and make it about you once more.
A woman is dead, and I don’t want to talk about you.
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