The Irish Times view on women’s safety: a surge of anger and frustration

How seriously and how often do good men take their own responsibility to call out their peers for their behaviour?

A number of arrests were made after clashes broke out between mourners and London police on Saturday evening during a memorial in Clapham Common for murdered woman Sarah Everard. Video: Reuters

 

If the manner of Sarah Everard’s abduction and murder was rare, the circumstances were not. The 33-year-old Londoner was Everywoman, walking home at 9pm after dinner with a friend. Her remains were identified by her dental records. It was a rare woman who did not think, there but for the grace of God.

In a surge of anger and frustration, stories of sexual harassment, aggressive gendered insults and personal taunts have poured out of every generation. Women described incidents that had caused them to become hyperaware and fearful, rendering their lives smaller, narrower, more confined. Meanwhile police aggression against women at a peaceful London vigil for Sarah Everard – whose alleged murderer is a serving police officer – has been contrasted with a remarkably more patient approach towards celebrating, massed Glasgow Rangers football fans.

Some men are listening, openly acknowledging that there is privilege in their enjoyment of near-empty streets on a late run, the same streets from which women are mysteriously absent. We should ask why. This is the point missed by those anxious to point out that the abduction and murder of women by strangers is vanishingly rare and that women are “hysterical”.

Abduction and murder of women lie at the extreme end of a continuum. At the other end, as women have argued incessantly, is unchallenged everyday sexism, harassment, misogynistic behaviour and the routine excuses that trip off the tongue, “You can’t take a joke . . . the lads are just being friendly”.

When 21-year-old Martin Gallagher from Hartstown in Dublin violently bundled a 69-year-old woman into a car boot at 7.30 on a January morning in Dublin’s north inner city in 2020, smashing her head against a wall, he claimed it was “a joke that went wrong”. The situation by which more than half the population cedes the streets after dark to harassers and “joke” merchants has been exposed again by the repetition of that age-old question in Sarah Everard’s case: what did she think she was doing walking alone after dark? The more pertinent question is how a society with aspirations to equality casually assumes that a person’s gender should define and constrain them in this way.

It is 40 years since the Reclaim the Night marches. Much has improved since then but not enough. The continued prevalence of gender-based violence is being highlighted by the Citizens’ Assembly. Where to start?

Of course not all men are responsible for violence and harassment against women. But it is usually a man. This is the elephant in the room. How seriously and how often do the good ones take their own responsibility to call out their peers for their behaviour? This might be a good place to begin.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.