Richard Towers

A dark week for international women’s day

This Monday was international women’s day. The theme this year was “choose to challenge”, asking us all “How will you help forge a gender equal world?”

The rest of the week’s news has put this question in horribly sharp focus.

Sarah Everard was the same age as me. She grew up in the same town as me. She studied at the same university as me. She lived in the same part of South London as me. And yet while I have never felt unsafe walking on the streets where I live, she was killed just walking home.

How will you help forge a gender equal world?

Plenty of people have pointed out that expecting women to change their behaviour cannot be the answer. A world where women cannot safely walk home is not a gender equal world. Somehow, we have to address the problem of male violence against women.

I like to think I’m a decent guy, that I’m not part of the problem. I don’t make catcalls. I try to avoid walking behind people at a creepy distance. But even if I’m not directly part of the problem, that doesn’t mean I can’t be part of the solution.

So, I’ll choose to challenge bad behaviour from other men when I see it. I won’t fix society’s problems on my own. But if enough men commit to being better, perhaps we can gradually tip the balance. One day, violent men will no longer be able to hide within a male culture that accepts bad behaviour.

There was a vigil for Sarah last night. We observed it by candlelight on our doorstep with our neighbours.

On Clapham Common the Met Police somehow ended up in a situation where they demonstrated more male violence against women. I can’t understand how this was allowed to happen. It points again to a society wide problem - from the police on the ground and their senior leaders, all the way up to the courts and politicians who chose not to intercede and allow an organised event. Somehow a peaceful vigil was allowed to be criminalised and turned violent, all in the name of public safety.

A sad week, and another wake up call.