In Rage Over Sarah Everard Killing, ‘Women’s Bargain’ Is Put on Notice
Perhaps it was because pandemic lockdowns have left women clinging to whatever is left of their access to public space. Perhaps it was because after more than three years of the #MeToo movement, the police and society are still telling women to sacrifice their liberties to purchase a little temporary safety.
It all came to the surface when 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who disappeared as she walked home in London on March 3, was found dead a week later, after doing everything she was supposed to do. She took a longer route that was well-lit and populated. She wore bright clothes and shoes she could run in. She checked in with her boyfriend to let him know when she was leaving. But that was not enough to save her life.
So the response from British women to reports that the police were going door to door telling women in the South London neighborhood where she disappeared to stay inside for their own safety became an outpouring of rage and frustration.
It has set off a social movement that feels somehow different from those that have come before: women from all walks of life demanding safety from male violence — and demanding that the police, the government and men collectively be the ones to bear the burden of ensuring it.
‘Arrest Your Own’
“Hey, mister, get your hands off my sister!” the crowd chanted as police grabbed women while trying to disperse the vigil Saturday night for Everard, a marketing executive, in a park in Clapham, South London.
“Arrest your own!” hundreds shouted, a reference to the police officer who has been charged with Everard’s killing. “Police, go home!”
As officers trampled the flowers laid on a makeshift memorial to Everard and wrestled shocked young women to the ground, London’s Metropolitan Police could scarcely have provided a better example of what women were protesting if they had set out intentionally to do so.
In the days after Everard’s disappearance, a group calling itself Reclaim These Streets announced that a vigil would be held Saturday night in a South London park. The event would be partly to mourn and partly to protest the police instructions to women to stay home for their own security and to demand safer streets instead.
在埃弗拉德失踪后的几天里，一个自称“收复这些街道”(Reclaim These Streets)的组织宣布，将于周六晚在伦敦南部一个公园举行守夜活动。活动的一部分是哀悼，另一部分是要求改善街道安全，抗议警方指示女性为了自身安全待在家里。
But “the Met,” as London’s police are known, once again told women to stay home. Citing lockdown restrictions, the police threatened steep fines if the vigil was not canceled.
Eventually the organizers capitulated and called off the event, in part because they could not bear the thought of their fines going to subsidize the very police force they were protesting, said Mary Morgan, a writer and scholar focused on body politics who was one of the event’s original organizers. “It makes my stomach rot,” she said in an interview.
Whatever the Met’s internal reasoning, the message it sent to women across the country was that the police were doubling down on restricting women’s freedom instead of men’s violence.
“@metpoliceuk really do want women off the streets don’t they?” Anne Lawtey, 64, wrote on Twitter after organizers announced the cancellation of the gathering. She was shocked, she said in a telephone interview, that it had been shut down. “We can’t have a vigil? People standing still, in a park, wearing masks?”
A huge crowd turned out anyway, carrying candles and bouquets, crocus bulbs in glass jars and flats of pansy seedlings to add to the pile of blooms.
With no audio equipment, women climbed on the Victorian bandstand that had become a makeshift memorial and used an Occupy Wall Street-style human microphone: The crowd repeated what was said so it could be heard at the back.
“The police are trying to silence us. The police are trying to repress us,” hundreds repeated in unison. “The police said we can’t have a vigil to remember Sarah Everard. The police have the nerve to threaten us. The police have the nerve to intimidate us.”
Then, louder: “WE. SAY. NO.”
A Bad Bargain
To be a woman is to be “in a constant state of bargaining,” author and columnist Nesrine Malik wrote in her book, “We Need New Stories.”
作家兼专栏作家内斯琳·马利克(Nesrine Malik)在新书《我们需要新的故事》(We Need New Stories)中写道，作为一名女性，就意味着“始终处于一种做交易的状态”。
Everard’s disappearance called attention to the terms of a safety bargain so ubiquitous that many women might never have considered it in such terms: that in order to buy their own safety from male violence, they must make the “right” choices. And that if a woman fails to do so, her fate is her own fault.
Online, women shared the details of their side of that bargain: what they wore; where they walked; whom they checked in with before they left and after they got home; when they would go out alone, or with other women or men.
Some reflected on their own close calls. Nosisa Majuqwana, 26, an advertising producer who lives in East London, said she told her friends, “Thank God I was wearing trainers, thank God I was carrying a rucksack” on the night a strange man approached her on a deserted path, pulled out a knife and told her to be quiet. “You would never walk home in London wearing heels.”
But Everard’s death has led Majuqwana and many others to reject the bargain outright.
“It doesn’t matter what women do,” Morgan said. “We can be hypervigilant. We can follow all the precautions that have been taught to us since we were children.”
The killing has “shocked people out of accepting that it’s normal” to make those trade-offs, said Anna Birley, an economic policy researcher and local politician in South London who also worked to organize the Reclaim These Streets event. “Every woman can see themselves in that situation.”
Who Should Sacrifice?
Why does the burden of women’s safety fall on women rather than on the men who are the source of most of the violence against them?
“Women’s freedoms are seen as dispensable, as disposable — very much like, sometimes, tragically, women ourselves,” Kate Manne, a professor of philosophy at Cornell University and author of two books on the ways sexism shapes society, said in an interview. “There is just an immediate assumption that men’s lives won’t be significantly affected by this,” so they cannot be asked to make sacrifices to change it.
As women’s role in public life has grown, the differences have become plain and painful. The #MeToo movement revealed that many women left their jobs or entire industries to avoid predators like Harvey Weinstein — with the result that their abusers were able to continue harming other women for decades.
Women in abusive relationships are often told to just leave their violent partners but in fact often face the worst violence when they try to do so.
Sometimes the calculus is more subtle, but the collective impact is still significant.
A working paper from Girija Borker, a researcher at the World Bank, found that women in India were willing to go to far worse colleges and pay more tuition in order to avoid harassment or abuse on their daily commutes to classes. The impact of that “choice” on one woman can be hard to measure — but among the thousands she documented in her research, it can be expected to have an effect on earnings, economic power and sociallity.
世界银行(World Bank)研究员吉里贾·博克(Girija Borker)的一份工作报告发现，印度女性为了避免在每天上下学路上受到骚扰或虐待，宁愿支付更多学费，去条件差得多的大学。这种“选择”对一名女性的影响很难衡量——但在博克的研究中所记录的数千名女性中，可以预期这会对收入、经济实力和社会流动性产生影响。
But British women’s anger is beginning to shift assumptions about who should make sacrifices for safety.
Jenny Jones, a baroness and Green Party peer, suggested in the House of Lords last week that there should be a 6 p.m. curfew for men in the wake of Everard’s disappearance. She later clarified that it was not an entirely serious suggestion, telling Britain’s Sky News, “Nobody makes a fuss when, for example, the police suggest women stay home. But when I suggest it, men are up in arms.”
绿党成员詹妮·琼斯(Jenny Jones)女爵上周在上议院提议，埃弗拉德失踪后，应该从下午6点开始对男性实行宵禁。她后来澄清说，这并不是一个完全严肃的建议，她告诉英国天空新闻(Sky News)：“比如说，当警察建议女性待在家里，没有人会大惊小怪。但我一提出这个建议，男人们就会大吵大闹起来。”