We Can’t Walk Home

cover art by Nina Aragon

Hey guys this is Margaret again from the future with a disclaimer. I apologize there was no episode last week. As you can tell by the sound of my voice, I have not been feeling well. Fortunately, it’s just a sinus infection and not Covid-19 or the flu.

During allergy season, I get very congested and have tons of drainage because I am allergic to grass. It’s unpleasant, and I just haven’t felt like doing much, so I thank you for your patience in waiting for this episode to come out. Once I am better, episodes will definitely be more consistent. 

Please note, I recorded this before I got sick as an emotional response to some news I heard. I had originally planned to re-record everything with more research and better pacing because my first take was very off the cuff. However, I have not felt well enough to do that, so I’ve released the raw version instead with a disclaimer. 

I’m issuing a content warning now because the episode mentions sexual assault, racism, and sexism. If that is not something you want to listen to, please click off now. I do not mind at all; I want you to prioritize your health foremost.

Also, if you disagree with me, please do so respectfully. We all have different opinions, and that is fine. I love debating with people who can present their arguments without attacking me.

In no way am I claiming to be highly knowledgeable on these topics. I still have a lot of learning to do, so if you notice any errors in my podcast, I encourage you to correct and inform me. I can always make a future episode with more research if there is interest.

Also, if you’d prefer to read this podcast, you can find the full transcript on my blog: mapofmargaret.com. Click on the podcast transcripts link, and the latest two episodes should be there. And don’t forget to check out the Instagram: @get_unbothered! You can see tons of cute pics of Evie there and see some other helpful information pertaining to all sorts of topics.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get into it!

Hello, hello lovely friends. Welcome back to “Get Unbothered.” Today’s episode is going to be heavy and hard to talk about. But I think it is important, and it needs to be said. 

What inspired me to record tonight as opposed to a few weeks down the line when I had originally planned to make this episode was the kidnapping and murder of a British woman, Sarah Everard. I hope I am saying her name right. I haven’t watched any videos detailing what happened to her because, quite frankly, it is too painful. If I am mispronouncing her name, I apologize. Please correct me if I am saying it wrong.

If you don’t know, the UK government has charged a London metropolitan police officer with her kidnapping and murder. She disappeared while walking home, and her remains were found days later.

This entire incident has brought back into light issues regarding the safety of women and sexual assault. Although this case occurred in the UK, here in the U.S, we have many of the same issues. In the last few years, we’ve witnessed the “Me Too” movement, “Black Lives Matter” and others.

Protestors, educators, activists, and others have desperately tried to expose the systemic police brutality happening against minority groups, people of color, and black Americans. In the past year, the police have murdered so many people. Some names that you’re probably familiar with are George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

I won’t pretend to be well-versed in what’s going on overseas, but at least in the US, we’ve witnessed an increasing amount of rightful, just outrage toward the corruption of police officers, particularly with their treatment of minority groups.

Women of color are especially marginalized, and trans women are more likely to be murdered than cisgender women. Furthermore, transgender people and other members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be victims of violent crimes. Women, those who present as female, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, are all at an increased risk. 

So it really does not surprise me that a police officer kidnapped and murdered Sarah as she was walking home. It’s every woman’s worst nightmare.

Her experience is identical to the stories our mothers, fathers, and caretakers told us as children—if you are a girl, you are vulnerable and more susceptible to danger; it is up to you to protect yourself, to be alert, and to have a weapon. 

Whether it’s a concealed weapon in your purse or your keys clenched between your fingers as a makeshift knife, you must have something. We are told to keep pepper spray to unleash into our attacker’s eyes to bide enough time for an escape. We are taught not to listen to music while walking because it makes us less aware of our surroundings. We’re instructed not to go anywhere alone, even a public restroom. I’ve even been told not to wear a ponytail while exercising outside because a perpetrator could grab it and subdue me more easily. 

In reality, existing as a female or anywhere that isn’t specifically cis-gendered male on the gender spectrum, is dangerous. if you aren’t the typical white, cisgender, straight male, you are at risk for violence. The more minority boxes you add to your identity, the greater the risk you seem to have. 

For example, I am at less risk for violence than a woman of color, but I am more at risk than a white guy walking alone at night. We all have different amounts of privilege and risk factors to consider, but, overall, it seems to be a woman is to live as a constant target, and it’s exhausting. 

I am tired, as you can probably tell by my tone. I’m not upbeat and happy like I usually am. When I see any sort of violence based on gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc., my heart feels so heavy. No one should have to endure that pain, no one’s family should have to receive that phone call. And no one should have to teach their children how to defend themselves while walking home at the age of 10. 

I remember when I first became aware of the male gaze as a young girl when I tried to hide my figure and keep attention away from my body because I was so scared someone would grab me and throw me in the back of a creepy white van. My developing, underaged body was ogled by strange men old enough to be my father. It made me feel dirty and unsafe. {Oddly enough, on the same token, I was taught these creepy advances were also validating because a woman should be happy to receive a man’s attention, even if it is unwanted.}

Whenever those tragic reports were filed, the stereotypical image of the ‘rape van,’ as we call it where I am from, always came to mind. The fact it even has a name just exemplifies how prevalent this issue is in our society. Not just in the West but all over the world. No matter what country you’re in, violence against women is happening and it’s rampant. 

The habitual precautions women have to take to stay safe are just insane. It makes no sense to me. Whether we are pretending to be on the phone with someone, using an app to monitor our location, not wearing headphones, carrying pepper spray, enrolling in self-defense classes, having a large dog with us for protection. There are so many ways women are taught to keep themselves safe, and the emphasis should be on teaching other members of society to not be violent and not desire to rape, murder, and kidnap innocent people off the streets.

You would think the emphasis would be on keeping criminals at bay, but no, instead we have created a society that instills fear in women and places that burden on them. 

When women experience being stalked, followed, or even attacked, others often blame us for what we didn’t do. We’re questioned about what we were wearing or accused of being too friendly or nice. If a woman says “I was simply minding my business, and this person attacked me or made me feel uncomfortable” then she will probably face harsh criticisms. “Why didn’t you just do x instead?” We shift all the blame on her instead of her assailant.

There’s too much victim blaming and not enough criminal shaming. It’s no wonder we don’t report these violent crimes and stay silent. It’s almost safer that way. We don’t share our stories because we know we don’t want to experience harsh accusations and ridicule for what someone did to us. 

In reality, we deserve support and solidarity. Society should try to figure out the best way to keep everyone safe while validating the stories of women and other victims of violence. How can we accommodate them and make their lives easier? Trauma is difficult to navigate and survivors have so many obstacles ahead of them and people who haven’t experienced this can’t comprehend. 

And facing that awful trauma is for the lucky ones because so many people like Sarah will never heal and work through what happened. All because their lives were taken from them much too soon.

Knowing that in the US, UK, and around the world, people love and respect police officers despite their blatant and obvious corruption is the icing on the shit cake. 

How can we have so many examples of police brutality and violence and still it takes so long to do anything about it that prompts meaningful change? Not just a few protests or riots, but getting in there and changing laws, making legislation, changing police academies, overhauling the entire system. 

Why can’t we seem to get that point? How many dead bodies will it take to improve our criminal justice system? Both in the way it’s enforced and in the way it’s carried out. 

Prisons are a whole different issue. We have a situation where we we are essentially promoting slavery in the US behind bars. Disproportionate amounts of people of color are convicted of crimes and harshly sentenced to prisons where they are forced into performing very low-paid labor. Prisons and police forces alike have quotas to keep people behind bars making money for the system. Many police officers do not receive proper training, and the job attracts power-hungry creeps who weren’t able to gain meaningful employment elsewhere. (Of course, this isn’t true for every individual in law enforcement.)

You might say “not all cops.” But that’s not the point. Logically, we know it’s not all cops.

I am so tired of hearing that expression. 

I’m tired of hearing ‘not all cops’, ‘not all men’, and ‘not all white people’. 

Let me explain. I’m a white person, and I take no offense when others say “white people are racist.” Because, historically, we are. 

Racism is still alive and well in our society; we cannot deny it.  {Look up the recent attacks on our Asian communities.}

When nonwhite or non-male people make those polarizing statements, they aren’t truly saying all people in this category are racist or sexist or bad. 

But it is a way to wake up the people within that category so they can evaluate their behaviors, recognize their privilege, and act to make a difference. 

When I hear white people are racist, it reminds me to get off my ass and do the educational work I need to do to be the best ally I can. 

{When we don’t face the inherent struggles of another group, it’s easy to become complacent in our comfort and indifference. We fall into the trap of being the bystander who unwittingly helps uphold the status quo. Sure, we may not be actively racist, sexist, or homophobic, but do our actions help people in our group who continue oppressing others?}

When guys hear someone say men are sexist or violent or whatever, instead of throwing a fit about defending their egos, maybe they should focus on their own actions, behaviors, and internalized ideas about women and what’s going on in society. As a man, ask yourself, how can I prove to the women in my life that I’m better than that. How can I get the men around me to also be aware of these issues, be an ally, and be a feminist? How can I be the best feminist I can be? {How can I unlearn all the things I’ve been taught to think about women?}

Sadly, guys have a tendency to listen to the other men in their lives. Women can talk all we want, but our words often go unheard because men don’t respect our opinions as much as those of their male peers.

If you want to prove not all men are misogynistic, get off your ass and be the man the women in your life deserve. They deserve high-quality men, so be that. Don’t forget to look out for the women who are strangers. If you’re at the bar and see someone harassing a group of ladies, intervene.

The bystander effect is real, and in most cases we think we should mind our own business. If safety is a legitimate concern, don’t insert yourself into a potentially dangerous situation no matter what your gender is, but everyone needs to collectively be aware of this evilness.

Guys out there, do what you can to protect women. Women, do what you can do to protect each other. We need to have each other’s backs. But it still makes me so sad that walking home at night can place you in such great danger.

Every woman deserves the right to get home safely regardless of their level of intoxication or the clothing they’re wearing. It doesn’t matter. No one should look at a woman’s outfit and think they deserve the rights to her body. That’s a poor thought process to have, and we need to stop normalizing it. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. You could be in a full-coverage outfit, and someone could still decide to assault you. 

Please stay safe and alert out there. We really don’t know who is watching us or following us from the shadows. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but harassment is a very real threat. Unfortunately, for now, we must do what we can to keep ourselves safe.

We should not have to live in fear or change our behaviors to protect ourselves. It’s unfair. We need to work on doing better as a community because the responsibility for safety in public should not fall solely on a woman’s shoulders. It’s absurd. 

One article I read suggested men have a curfew because they are more likely to be the perpetrators of violent crimes. It argued a curfew would make more sense than expecting every woman to carry pepper spray and learn self-defense. Maybe men should just be home by 9 p.m. so the women of the world can get home safely. It’s an interesting perspective, and I don’t entirely disagree.

{This curfew would be especially beneficial to women who have even less means of defending themselves.} Did you know that in Canada, the UK, and other parts of the world, it is illegal to carry or use mace? Even in self-defense. Crazy right?

This is ridiculous because pepper spray is safer and easier to carry and use than a gun or other weapon. Anyone can easily purchase, store, and learn to use it properly in a situation that calls for it.

The fact that a woman exercising her right to practice self-defense in some parts of the world can land her a 10-year prison sentence just further demonstrates how society truly values men’s autonomy over women’s.

A man can very easily overpower a woman. Using a gun, knife, or any other lethal weapon carries greater risks because if your attacker overpowers you and takes your weapon, they now have another way to potentially cause you lethal harm. {At least mace doesn’t kill you.}

The fact women aren’t even allowed to carry pepper spray speaks volumes and is a major indicator of society’s disregard toward women. We must deserve to be assaulted, attacked, raped, and murdered. After all, the courts seldom punish our attackers, and those who are convicted often get very little jail-time or are released early.

We’ve seen judges reluctant to pass fair sentences for horrendous crimes because entering the justice system would crush the “bright” and “promising” futures of rapists like Brock Turner.

Society doesn’t want white male criminals who specifically target the vulnerable to do their time. But women who are trying to protect themselves will ultimately be charged and convicted of carrying and using an illegal weapon.

It makes zero sense. This cruel reality is just a testament to why feminism is still important, and why we need to protest and spread awareness to start conversations that ignite change.

I realize this episode has been very sad and serious, but I do appreciate you listening and I hope that you stay safe out there. If you’re a guy who is listening, don’t be an asshole. This isn’t a personal attack on you. Thank you. I’ll see you next time. 

Further reading:

“London Police Under Fire For Treatment Of Women At Sarah Everard Vigil”

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/15/977486666/london-police-under-fire-for-treatment-of-women-at-sarah-everard-vigil

“The Uncounted Workforce”

https://www.npr.org/transcripts/884989263

“SPRAY SAFE Is pepper spray legal in the UK? Laws on carrying mace spray and other self defence tools revealed”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5568336/pepper-spray-mace-legal-carry-uk-laws-self-defence/

Published by magdelion1996

Hi, I'm just trying to adult while living abroad.

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