In the week that marked International Women’s Day, women across the UK are coming together to recognise how little, in years worth of feminist waves, has actually changed. So, what does it actually mean to be a woman in the twenty-first century? We consume content like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and feel grateful that that isn’t our lived reality. But we shouldn’t be turning to speculative fiction to feel grateful for the here and now. Just because things could be worse doesn’t mean we should accept this warped sense of the norm. We bring up girls to protect themselves. We forget to remind them that it’s not their fault if they get hurt.
Sarah Everard was a young woman who did everything we were told to do growing up. She avoided the dark streets, taking the safer route home. She wore sensible shoes. She avoided wearing revealing clothes. She rang somebody and stuck to the CCTV roads. And still, she wasn’t safe. She wasn’t safe because women never are.
In 2020, I became hyper-aware of how much of a threat Femicide actually was. Being half Turkish, and reading articles and social media campaigns about the high Femicide rates in the country, I found myself feeling conflicted. A part of me was relieved that my parents had chosen to bring me up in the safety of the UK. But now, as I find myself reading the statistics that hit closer to home, I no longer feel the same.
In truth, I’m not sure society will ever change the way we need it to. Sometimes, things feel too ingrained – too deep rooted into generations past and present – that such a shift feels the equivalent of a fever dream. But in all of my cynicism lies a hopefulness too. For as long as we continue to share our lived experiences, and demand justice for the victims who are so often blamed, the society we exist in will always be complicit. And we need to recognise this complicity. It’s not enough to burden young girls with fear and hope this will keep them safe. Words have power. Casual sexist remarks lead to a rhetoric that cannot be easily undone. And we wonder why girls are forced to grow up at such a young age.