By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Since the first International Women’s Day was observed in the early 1900’s there has been a great deal of progress in regards to gender equality, but a century on there’s still a shameful amount yet to be achieved.
Cultures around the world will come together today to celebrate the achievements of women, this year’s theme ‘Make it Happen’ draws clear references to equality in the workplace where research has found a stark imbalance in the gender pay gap. In the UK, women on average earn £5,000 less a year than their male colleagues and globally only 24 per cent of senior management roles are now filled by women. There has been some progress in this area, but it’s tepid at best.
We must also be careful not to dismiss other long-standing issues that don’t fall under this theme. Statistics show that 44 per cent of all UK women have experienced either physical or sexual violence since they were 15-years-old. Britain, shamefully, ranks among the worst countries in Europe when it comes to women being violently abused.
Below are some words by Jan Millington that potently demonstrate the vulnerabilities women face in the 21st century. My thanks to her for sharing.
We choose….to remain indoors, hidden, anxious to go out in the dark. Or we walk out, reclaiming the streets, and meet friends, and socialise, and even, have a few beers.
And travel home alone, because all our friends live on the other side of town.
We intend to take taxis; because taxis are safe, aren’t they? No woman ever got killed or raped by a taxi driver….did they?
So we get to the taxi rank…and it’s the early hours….and the queue is down the street….and sudd…enly, up Westgate, I’m aware of being a woman on my own. The pulsing music; the police presence; the massive queue, and I’m alone; wanting to just get home. And I’m a bit pissed. I feel vulnerable. I feel wary. I feel I have to be assertive, and make an instant decision about how I’m gonna get home.
So; I make the decision….rightly or not, that I’m gonna walk. Because to queue, is to be alone; and to show my vulnerability to everyone. To be at risk. So, I walk.
And yes, I get home fine. I always have; I always do. For 30 years I’ve been walking home, often alone. And have arrived in safe harbour.
I walk along dark streets, where there are no people. I walk along suburban streets, where all the lights are off in the houses. And at every step, I’m calculating just how safe I am. I see the middle-aged man out walking his dog, and work out just how close I am to home, to be able to run away. Sometimes I deliberately put on a smile and say ‘Good night!’ to allay my fears, and to reassure him.
I have to walk along with all my senses heightened; I can’t let my guard down. I might be a bit pissed, but I have to cultivate an assertive walk, don’t wobble; don’t appear vulnerable. Stride, Jan, stride!
I don’t wear provocative clothes. Never have; aware of consequences. I am a woman in the twenty first century, and I am walking home alone, and I’m a bit pissed, and my awareness of my vulnerability is as strong now as it was when I was in my twenties. I know the facts; I am a feminist, and I know the figures about women’s safety. Do I stay home; or do I reclaim the streets?
I walk. Feeling unsafe; unsure; and knowing that if (god forbid) anything were to happen to me, I would be the one blamed. This is some of the psychology women live with…now….in the twenty-first century. Let’s make the streets safe; it’s your partners, your mothers, your sisters.