I'm one of those people who sometimes writes articles for super cool online magazines, but really has secret unfulfilled aspirations to become a bestselling novelist (I think you know the kind). Recently I thought my dream was about to come true. I've been working on this dark, dystopian novel about a parallel universe where gender equality is cancelled and where every time a woman is the victim of a crime, all the women around her are punished. The government says it's for the women's own good, to discourage them from putting themselves in harm's way, but really its an oppression technique to rival the imagination of Orwell and all I had to do to secure a publishing deal was add in an S&M relationship between a vampire and an emotionally stunted billionaire. Or so I thought.
Then, a FB friend announced on Facebook that she had been mugged, with a picture of her black eye and a caption that read 'GIRLS: don't walk home at night alone!' And I realised I'm not the genius I thought I was.
Ok, so the novel thing is a lie. But the Facebook status is true and it’s pretty fucking scary. Scary because its a message that women get given a lot and scary because there are so many people telling us that we should be scared, because we're women and therefore weak and vulnerable. In fact, we should be so scared that we should voluntarily decide not to exercise some of the freedoms that all grown-ups are supposed to have. Like being outside by ourselves.
Now, I don't want to frighten any guys out there, but they too can be the victims of crime. Anyone can get mugged, but not everyone is going to be told they need a chaperone because of it.
And no, I haven't forgotten about that one crime that tends to be committed by men against women: rape. We've all heard the magic guidelines that, if followed, will stop it from happening to us. Stuff like not walking home alone, not drinking and not having our tits/legs/midriffs on display. Weirdly, these guidelines all involve limiting women's freedoms in some way and are all based on bullshit assumptions about why rapists rape. They also imply that if you don't follow the guidelines and you do get raped, it’s kinda your fault. I mean, the patriarchy did its best to warn you babe. Eamonn Holmes demonstrated this a while ago when he ended an interview with a rape victim with the immortal words 'I hope you take taxis now'. Wtf, Eamonn. Wtf.
And, all the time we're spending energy on telling women not to get raped, we're not spending energy on telling rapists that they will be punished for raping. You couldn't make it up.