Sarah Everard was a 33-year-old female Londoner whose life was taken mercilessly less than three weeks ago. She was kidnapped while walking home in the mid-evening. Nine days later, on March 12, remains of her body were found and a local male police officer was arrested for her murder.
Nearly all of the news coverage following Everard’s death stressed her adherence to safety protocols for women in public spaces. "She did everything right" was a haunting refrain.
Like so many unnecessary and cruel events which have ignited fires of frustration over the last year, Everard’s death opened an overdue discussion. Voices raised to question the very existence of the precautionary measures asked of women in particular. People spoke up to reflect on procedures ingrained in them from a young age, from calling someone while uncomfortable and/or alone, to wearing bright colors at night. Both of these were strategies that Everard used on the night of her capture.
These measures, then, cannot guarantee anyone’s safety. What they can do is make the lives of young women unnecessarily stressful. In the weeks that have passed since Everard’s death, people have angrily suggested that the reinforcement of tactics like those referenced above has been treated as an inevitable obstacle of the female experience for far too long.
Some attribute the lack of safety for women to the misogyny of 21st-century society, in which the whims of males often seem to mould the structure of life for everyone. Many celebrities took to their platforms in line with this mode of thought in order to express solidarity with women. Among them was Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page, who posted a sober three-part Instagram story in which he asked:
If we can (and we do) openly acknowledge that women, specifically, live their lives in danger, and are at more risk of assault, specifically because they are women—then rather than having the gall to tell them to ‘stay indoors’—why on Earth can’t we acknowledge, specifically, WHY their lives are in danger when they do dare to step out of doors? Who are we not mentioning in this equation? It’s us. It’s men.
Kristina Mairone, a YouTuber known for her social and political commentary, posted a video with a powerful analogy qualifying the implications of this accusation towards men. Mairone cites the original source of the comparison as philosopher Dr. Arianne Shahvisi.
With Shavisi’s words in mind, then, Mairone said:
As humans, we generalize things. For example, we say, ‘Be careful of ticks, they carry Lyme disease.’ But no one says, ‘Actually, not all ticks carry Lyme disease,’ because logically we know that enough ticks carry Lyme disease to put you at risk of being infected. When we speak up about women’s oppression and abuse, obviously we know it’s not all men. But when 1 in 3 women are assaulted by a man in their lifetime, it’s enough men to make all women afraid. It’s enough men that when I’m walking home alone at night, I have to assume it’s all men to keep myself safe. Just like I have to act as though all ticks have Lyme disease.
College students are infamous for feeling (and sometimes even acting) invincible. It is easy to be overly trusting of one’s surroundings, especially when living in an area full of young people. In reality, female college students, aged 18 to 24 years old, are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. Although Boston College cannot necessarily be considered an urban campus, the student body spends a substantial amount of time in the city, particularly in the evening. The streets of Boston lack the same sense of security that campus holds. Additionally, even close to BC grounds, many of Chestnut Hill and Brighton’s side streets are dark and looming. Those students who live off-campus cannot rely on BC’s blue light system and lantern-lit walkways to illuminate the road home. Dark roads make for many a late-night trip back to apartments and dorms, where friends bid each other goodbye at the door and ask them to be careful on the walk back.
Women are no strangers to sexual assault or harassment in its many unfortunate forms—from jeers and catcalling to whistles and physical confrontation—and tactics have been developed to support them in avoiding these situations. In November 2020, Good Morning America compiled several popular TikTok videos, designed to protect anyone feeling apprehensive while walking alone at night (or being followed, or riding in an unsettling Uber). Nicknamed “safety calls,” the producers of these videos follow a set script that a user can play aloud to mimic the security of an actual phone call with a friend or relative. Similarly, a Twitter thread posted by user @xossmemoir on March 13, the day after Everard’s death, received over 180,000 likes for highlighting six cell phone applications which women can use to maximize their safety while walking alone at night. This user did make a disclaimer that anyone can and should make note of these apps as a potential methodology for staying safe—they aren’t just for women.
At the core of the uproar surrounding Everard’s death is not the idea that women deserve more protection than men, nor that all men are evil (a conclusion that some jump to as soon as the word “misogyny” appears anywhere). Simply put, women need more protection. Time and time again, the fact has been proven that women are more susceptible to sexual violence than most other individuals. But rather than arming them with techniques to protect themselves, the discussion following Everard’s death finds people finally ready to realize a future where no such precautions are necessary in the first place.