North Carolina. Jenna Franks, a 34-year-old white trans person, was found dead in Jacksonville, North Carolina on February 24, making her at least the tenth trans homicide victim so far this year. A hate crime against a person who identifies as female.
Atlanta. Six women of Asian descent were killed by a man who claims it was their fault. Why? Because he is a sex addict and the women work at a massage parlour. His claim? They were luring him into temptation.The article further states that the police claim the parlour could be a front for prostitution. Excuse me, were they not called to investigate six murders? How did focus shift to the professions of the six dead women? My question is, does all this really matter? Six women left their homes to go to work and were shot dead because a man somewhere can’t keep it in his pants? Please. Make it make sense.
The UK. Sarah Everard. 33 years old. Sara went missing on her walk home. Mind you, she was in a very populated, well-lit, public space, all the places women are advised to walk so that they are safe. The irony! The prime suspect, who was eventually charged with murder was a police officer. An officer of the law!! A person who gets paid to protect people like her. Wtaf! She was just trying to get home.
Kenya. Velvine Nungari Kinyanjui. 24 years old. Living. Existing. Reportedly assaulted by her date, raped and finally succumbed to fatal injuries as a result of the attack. Even the normalization of the act of asking your friends to check in and make sure you get home was not enough to save her life. I say normalization because as a woman you have to have a check in system with your friends just in case. This should not be normal and yet, here we are.
March is supposed to be the month we celebrate women. March is when countries that experience winter start to see the beginnings of spring. Warmer weather, warmer climate, happier people. It signifies a fresh start. March is when we have the first round of celebrations for Mothers’ Day. World over, we acknowledge that March is for the women. For goodness’ sake, we celebrate International Women’s Day in March!
This March, however, gave me very little to celebrate. At a personal level this month has been heavy. The number of women who have been killed in this month at the hands of men is disheartening. According to the Twitter handle @CountingDeadWomen, at least 35 women in the UK have been killed at the hands of men since the year began. In a recent article by World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, across their lifetime, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner – a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. And the violence starts early. By the time a woman is in her mid twenties, there is a 1 in 4 chance that she will have experienced intimate partner violence.
“Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture, causing harm to millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “But unlike COVID-19, violence against women cannot be stopped with a vaccine. We can only fight it with deep-rooted and sustained efforts – by governments, communities and individuals – to change harmful attitudes, improve access to opportunities and services for women and girls, and foster healthy and mutually respectful relationships.”
The thing about all the acts of violence illustrated above, is that these women were not to blame. These women were out here busy living their lives, doing things that every person is entitled to do, when they met death in the most brutal, most violent of ways. At the hands of men who felt entitled. To men who felt that the women were to blame. To men who probably did not view them as human anymore, because how else do you explain such levels of violence?
The other thing that irks me in all these situations is the amount of victim-blaming that followed once these deaths went public. In true fashion, everyone starts to question. Who were these women? How were they affiliated to the men a.k.a what was the nature of the relationship? What time of day was it? What were their articles of clothing? All the questions being asked had nothing to do with the crime but what the woman did that warranted their murder.
No woman leaves the house thinking, “You know what, maybe today is a good day to end up dead, let me go wear a provocative outfit.” Or “Hmmmmmm, perfect weather for an assault let me grab my jacket.” So before you go off investigating their fashion choices take a pause. Perhaps they ended up dead because the person who killed them is a murder. Perhaps they got raped because the perpetrator is a rapist. Or they went missing because a kidnapper kidnapped them! It definitely has got nothing to do with her shade of lipstick.
I watched a Trevor Noah video about all the acts of violence meted out toward women. I won’t repeat in detail what he said – you may have to just go watch it, it is probably is still up on his Instagram. The essence of his message was that men could do better at protecting women. He was very clear about men calling out other men over their bad behavior. He also spoke about how unsafe it is to be a woman in this world. That last statement hit home.
You text your female friends to check if the they got home safe. Men don’t do this because it is assumed they will get home safe. Women don’t have the same privilege.
You reconsider your outfits before you leave the house because you don’t know if it will be considered too provocative by a random stranger on the street.
You catch your breath or lose your step or look for the nearest shop to duck into if you are walking down the street and there’s a bunch of men walking in your direction. What if they start catcalling? Should you respond? Will that be considered an invitation? Should you ignore it? Will they consider it rude? Will it spark anger in the catcalling men that would potentially lead to some form of attack?
It is exhausting. The amount of self-policing a woman has to do just in the hope that she will be safe is exhausting! The odds are stacked against you. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. It gets me so angry and frustrated but most of all it scares me. It is terrifying to think of the number of ways you can end up dead for nothing of your own doing.
It is exhausting having to prove your worth as a woman, everywhere. At the workplace, you have to break the glass ceiling but not be a bitch while at it. It is exhausting having womb watchers who worry about the children you have chosen not to have. It is exhausting dealing with the self-righteous indignation from the moral police who think that two women can’t love each other. It is exhausting having to witness your own family decide that your brothers are the only ones worthy of inheriting family property. It is exhausting quickening your pace when a man is walking behind you, even in a public crowded space because should he attack you, it will still be your fault. It is exhausting trying to board any means of public transport and you are not sure which seat is safe enough to provide a quick exit should you need it. It is exhausting sharing your location when you hail a cab just in case the cab driver gets predatory. It is exhausting locking your door when you go to sleep because you can’t trust your male relative sleeping in the other room.
It is exhausting wondering if you have drunk too much or too little because should anything happen to you after you have had a drink, you are to blame. After all, proper women should not drink alcohol/ or maybe they should just stick to wine. but not more than one glass. If they must have a stiff drink, then it can’t be anything stronger than a cider.
The worst of it is, despite all a woman does to stay safe, she will be to blame before she is even considered a victim.
March. March was a heavy one.