It’s unacceptable that women are forced to police their own behaviour because men can’t police theirs
My suggestion for a 6pm curfew for men incensed people far more than the police telling women not to go out alone. It speaks volumes of our victim blaming culture.
It would be nice to think that everyone who has got worked up about my suggestion that we put a 6pm curfew on men was even more incensed by the police actually going round to people’s houses in the days after Sarah Everard’s abduction and advising women not to go out alone in the evening. Judging from some comments in my inbox that is not the reality.
There is little understanding amongst a lot of men about the victim blaming culture where women are constantly being told where not to walk, what not to wear and what not to do.
One of the scariest things about the murder of Sarah (and I really feel for her family) is that she was doing all of that. Walking along a busy road, staying connected with her phone, sensible shoes, bright clothes, heading straight home. None of it stopped her being killed. By raising the idea of a male curfew in the Lords I wanted to draw attention to the police advice and turn it on its head. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of men out there who can’t cope with this upside-down world, where the starting point of a conversation about women’s safety is the problem of violent and misogynistic men.
This is not to say that all men are monsters, but women understand that some men are capable of rape, sexual assault and violence. As of Thursday lunchtime, six women and a little girl had been killed since Sarah Everard disappeared. A survey out this week found that among women aged 18-24 97% said they had been sexually harassed, while 80% of all women had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. Now either there is a small minority of men who are busy intimidating women 24/7, or this is way more widespread than men like to own up to.
We need to make misogyny a hate crime and start to change the culture that seeks to keep women ‘in their place’ with abuse and intimidation
The problem is that women can rarely tell which man is a good guy and which isn’t, so women have become wary and self-protective. Women police their own actions because men can’t police theirs. That is no longer an acceptable way of doing things. My suggestion for a male curfew (not a Green Party policy by the way) as a better alternative than women being told not to go out alone was ironic, but I’m sure there are much more positive ideas out there and I would love to hear them. Only I want to hear men discussing them, rather than women only. This is, after all, a problem of male culture.
Educating our young to respect women is a good start at school and at home, but it isn’t enough. We need to deal with Domestic Abuse and what children experience in their home environments, which is what the Lords has been discussing productively for the last few weeks. We need to deal with the entire failure of the police and criminal justice system in dealing with rape – a 1% success rate for any other crime would have been dealt with years ago. Above all we need to make misogyny a hate crime and start to change the culture that seeks to keep women ‘in their place’ with abuse and intimidation.
Finally, can I say big thank you for all the positive feedback I’ve had from both women and men. The debate is changing and it’s great to see people coming together to organise the Reclaim the Streets protest at Clapham Common. I hope they win the legal battle against the police trying to stop them.
In a week when the names of all the women killed by men was again read out in Parliament these are sad and worrying times, but I hope this will be a turning point and the list of the dead will get shorter each year.
Baroness Jones is a Green Party member of the House of Lords.