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Mayor’s Column 18th March

Howdy! Andy here, I’ve jumped into the hot seat again this week and what an eventful time it’s been with International Women’s day, the controversial Prince Harry and Meghan Markle interview stateside, and of course the tragic story of Sarah Everard. This has rightly sent shockwaves throughout the police nationwide and caused righteous outcry from the general public, and so it should.

Conversations have been sparked across all platforms including social media around women’s safety and for lack of a better phrase the ‘The Female Experience’ and although I like to think I’m a fairly progressive, modern man who is open to learning and evolving where needed, I have learnt a lot recently by listening to the stories and experiences shared by women.

It has opened my eyes hearing that among women aged 18-24, 97% said they had been sexually harassed, while 80% of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. This is a shocking revelation and tells us that this is an unacceptable issue and it’s a male issue. It is unacceptable in a modern society that a vast amount of women have been taught to get home before it’s dark, to stick to well-lit main roads, tell friends/family where they are going, make fake phone calls if they feel they’re being followed and in many cases I’ve heard putting keys between your fingers in a fist kept in your pocket as an improvised weapon is a very common tactic. Is this the world we want our mothers, sisters, nieces, granddaughters, partners to have to navigate? It should be a fundamental human right to feel safe walking your own streets. Some of you may say “But this happened in London, it’s very rare for things like this to happen in our fairly quiet market town?” I think the statistics and anecdotal evidence from locals speak for themselves.

The other argument I’m seeing online is the rebuttal that it’s ‘not all men’ who are guilty of such things, popular musician and host of the ‘Distraction Pieces’ podcast Scroobius Pip took to Twitter to address this, tweeting: “Anyone who’s reaction to the threat women feel is to say #NotAllMen is the problem here. This isn’t about making YOU feel okay about yourself. This is about the continued & terrifying threat women are made to feel in what is meant to be a modern society. #AllMen need to help that”.

I personally don’t know a single male I could confidently tell you hasn’t been guilty of some form of sexism or misogyny in the past and I’ll include myself in that.

We need to do better, clearly, no dispute.

Let’s try and have conversations with our friends if we hear them or see them acting inappropriately, if we are out at night and we are taking the same route as a lone female, we can cross the street or keep a less threatening distance, pull our hoods down etc and generally think about the inherent ‘intimidation factor’. It’s shocking to read this as genuine advice that’s relevant in today’s world isn’t it? I think social media at the moment is rife with empty gestures, performative activism, men virtue signalling who will not commit to the promises they have made to be more mindful, vigilant and “Do better” and it’s quite frankly frustrating, BUT if you look through the noise and listen to the first-hand accounts being made by a lot of women in the spirit of spurring a cultural shift you will see for yourself that this is endemic. While many are reeling from recent events let’s educate our sons and empower our daughters and not let Sarah Everard’s passing be in vain.

18 March 2021
Last Updated
19 March 2021
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