Text me when you’re home.
How many times have you said that to a friend? If I had a dollar or a pound for every time I have either heard it or said it, I wouldn’t need to work.
When I was younger and had enough of being out, I would say my goodbyes and walk home. My parents didn’t live far from the town, I was a strong, independent woman, I was fine. Text me when you get home my friends would say. I would brush off their concerns and for anyone offering to cut their night short to walk me home, would politely say no. I was fine.
Until one night I was followed home by a man in a hoody and hid in the park near my parent’s house behind a tree for two hours, terrified. I took off my heels and ran home when I thought it was safe. I was in my early twenties at the time. Since then I never cut through the park in the dark. Friendly trees in the day seemed menacing at night. Since then, I always got a taxi. And my keys have always been in my pocket, easily accessible. I didn’t realise it then but safety unconsciously became part of my everyday behaviour.
The absolute tragic murder of Sarah Everard is unspeakable. Because she was just walking home – and the offender was a person who is meant to protect us. As anger unfolded about what happened to her, women started to speak out, sharing their stories of their experiences. Things that had made them scared. Sharing actions we take now just to keep us safe. It’s all these small things we do, that we have normalised – simply because we don’t feel safe. Sarah’s murder is all the more poignant because it’s so relatable and hits home – because she was just walking home.
How many men consider their safety before going for a run alone in the evening when it’s dark? Does it cross your mind?
Before I leave my home, I always make sure my keys are in my pocket. When it gets dark and I am on my own, I find myself putting my hands in my pockets, feeling for my keys and my phone. It makes me feel safe, comforted. Before I get to the front door I have my keys ready. The other week I was just going out to the shops and my best pal facetimed me. When I told her where I was going her face was etched in concern. Why? Because it was dark. It was only 7pm.
If I was a man, she wouldn’t have had the same reaction. She wouldn’t have been worried about his safety.
Is it right for us to ultimately feel unsafe? No. Yet society has almost normalised it. I have been reading many Twitter and LinkedIn conversations over the past few days, with many debating whether it is all their problem, or just the problem of those who cause it. Some saying men must take responsibility because it’s all their problem. Others saying no it is not.
It’s not all men.. but it’s always a man.
The one that hit home for me was a simple image on Instagram – two lines of text.
‘Protect your daughter’ crossed out at the top.
‘Educate your son’ written underneath.
But this is the basic problem of all the issues we face isn’t it? Is it my problem, is it your problem… or is it our problem? When something happens, how often do people actually want to listen, with open ears not closed ones?
I was having this exact discussion with a colleague recently when I was interviewing some really incredible women in our business for our international women’s day campaign. We were chatting around diversity and this concept of “its not my problem” was a really key one. This idea that a problem should only be those of the community affected just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s not how change happens.
But nor does being insincere with how you deal with something. If I look back in 30, 40 years time, I won’t remember this time as just when the pandemic hit. No. It’s also a time when people are really speaking out. We are living in this cancel culture world – which also doesn’t help things. People so desperate to be morally right, instead of accepting someone else’s opinion, they cancel them. At that moment, you lose the whole point of what you are trying to achieve – because you aren’t respecting anyone for their differences either. If someone has a point of view that you, in your opinion, is wrong… they are cancelled.
Is that inclusive? Is that right? Is that respect?
Society is changing and growing – and we should grow with it. But the way to do that is to listen. Listen and learn, accept and respect. Now is the time to take action, accountability and ownership. If for example as a company you stand up and say we aren’t perfect, but then you airbrush your own content – that isn’t real. People will call you out on that, and rightly so. Today, integrity and authenticity carry far more weight then they did even two years ago.
Now is the time to listen and to learn. Action speaks louder than words, but the first step to taking that action is to hear, really hear, what people are saying. We can only do that if we listen with open ears. Not closed ones. Only then can real change happen.