We need men’s help to ‘Reclaim These Streets’

April 27, 2021

Still from Exposure’s film Behind Closed Doors

Rosie Pundick reports on new female movement demanding the right to feel safe in public

From a young age, women are taught to be afraid of men. I was taught to cross the road when I saw a man, and I was on my own; taught to wear baggy clothes so I won’t “tempt” them. I was taught to always be on high alert. Share your location. Stay in at night unless you are with a boy. Move carriages on the train. Cross the road. Text your friends.

Yet regardless of these so-called safety measures, women are continually harassed. I am continually harassed.

Most of my friends have been sexually assaulted in some way. Whether it’s being catcalled or groped on the bus, we all have a story. I have been catcalled countless times, regardless of my outfit, regardless of who I’m with. For me, the ‘Reclaim These Streets’ movement is important because it’s challenging the idea of blaming women. Rather than being told what not to wear so as not to attract attention, we are teaching men how to treat women. The movement is bringing women together rather than blaming them.

A few days ago I was travelling to a friend’s house on the bus. As I got to the bus stop I noticed an older man staring at me weirdly. This I was used to, and thought it nothing. I moved away from him, he followed me. A bus arrived and he stood there, staring at me as he waited. Every story I’ve heard from women cropped up in my mind and I was overcome with fear to such an extent that I turned around and walked to another bus stop.

It’s devastating that yet another death has had to occur for people to start taking notice. But it’s time.

It was the middle of the day. When I told my male friends about this, they said it was “disgusting”. Some were shocked. Unsurprisingly, my female friends rolled their eyes, asked if I was okay and shared similar stories.

The tragic death of Sarah Everard has sparked the ‘Reclaim These Streets’ movement. Women are speaking out about sexual harassment and assault. Social media has been flooded with stories of women speaking up.

Vigils under this movement took place. Vigils that brought women together but were broken up by the people we are taught to trust: the police; one of whom is being charged for murdering Sarah.

It’s devastating that yet another death has had to occur for people to start taking notice. But it’s time.

The movement is so important because finally the conversation is gearing towards men. It’s not about what Sarah was wearing, or why she was out at night. It’s not about sheltering women even more. It’s about men’s behaviour towards women, about changing the way that men see women.

On social media, the posts that stuck out the most to me were titled ‘what men can do’. It listed actions men can take to make women feel more safe: crossing the road, walking in front of a women not behind.

Slowly we are being taught not to feel ashamed or guilty for something out of our control

It explained the importance of talking to your female friends, listening to their stories and most importantly, believing them.

Whether or not the movement is effective, it’s bringing women together. Women are speaking up about previous stories. This is particularly important as it removes the shame factor. Slowly we are being taught not to feel ashamed or guilty for something out of our control.

As part of being encouraged to share your story, @everyonesinvited on Instagram is a page where you can anonymously publish your story. .

It can be a relief to share something you once thought you never would.

At the last count 14,545 testimonies, 14,545 heart-breaking yet, for other women at least, expected stories.

Sign the petition to make public sexual harassment illegal in the UK and help to reclaim the streets, revealing sexual harassment in its true evil, rather than something that all women go through inevitable.

At Woodhouse College, Feminist Society has been raising money for ‘End Violence Against Women’. Any donations would be appreciated to help all women feel safer on the streets, and to help all women feel safe to share their stories.

Rosie is a student, studying English literature, philosophy and history. Her passions lie in reading, writing, music and dance. Her goal is to become a foreign correspondent and report events all over the world, after studying English literature at university.

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