by Raquel Rosario Sánchez
Wednesday, 13
October 2021
Reaction
14:05

Stop exploiting women’s fears

There's a whole industry around keeping us 'safe'
by Raquel Rosario Sánchez

Earlier this week, Downing Street signalled support for a mobile app that would track women’s journeys and summon the police if they feel under threat. The initiative came from BT, following public outrage over the murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard at the hands of a police officer, in March.

The emergency app, potentially under the number 888, has already won the support of home secretary Priti Patel and the Prime Minister’s office, which “welcomed this sort of innovation”. It’s understandable the Home Office would be eager to do something — anything — to reassure a distrustful public that it takes male violence against women seriously. But at a time when so many specialised domestic abuse shelters and rape crisis centre are facing cuts, threats to funding and closure, it is jarring to see politicians eager to throw £50 million at an app that has been condemned as a “sticking plaster solution”.

This app is just another example of a culture that puts the onus of staying safe on women (as opposed to the male attackers who prey on them), and therefore reinforces victim-blaming. There’s a whole industry marketing all sorts of devices designed to “keep women safe”, from jewellery that sends an SOS message, unnoticeable keychainsanti-rape underwear and even a hairbrush that it’s actually a dagger. For $139 (£109), you can buy a hair accessory that, when activated, calls for help. US brand Invisawear describes their blue scrunchie as:

This Scrunchie Could Save Your Life. If you push the button two times, it immediately texts up-to five friends/family members to let them know that you need help. The text message sends them a link to your exact GPS location. You can also set your phone to play an alarm to deter the attacker or attract other people nearby.
- Invisawear

Women’s legitimate fears of male violence have thus become an industry. Instead of dealing with the root causes, our fears are marketed back to us so that when abuse does happen, we’re blamed for not protecting ourselves enough. Like all women I know, I still deploy endless strategies and devices to try to stay safe. From birth, girls and women are socialised to be on constant alert for a potential assault by a strange man, even though we know we’re more likely to be attacked by our partners and family members.

The only transformative development we’ve witnessed following the high-profile murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa has required no technology. Across the UK, there’s been an increased and sustained interest from men organising and joining groups to tackle the violence their peers commit. But male violence will only end when men, collectively, share the brunt of changing attitudes and behaviour. There’s no app for that.

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Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
11 months ago

“But male violence will only end when men, collectively, share the brunt of changing attitudes and behaviour.”

If that were true then violence would have disappeared from human civilisation thousands of years ago, since all cultures have moral codes which prohibit violence. All the evidence points to actual declines in violence being strongly correlated with increases in prosperity and better deterrents through enforcement and detection.

The idea that men commit crimes because of their culture is not only wrong but is also sexist and ignorant. It adds nothing to the debate but fuels a narrative of fear and division, pushed largely for the personal and political gain of privileged groups, who make a tidy profit from todays grievance industry.

If feminists really want to reduce violence in society, which affects men to a far greater degree than women, I would suggest they study economics, rather then gender studies, and apply the lessons they learn to make an actual difference to the world.

Last edited 11 months ago by Matthew Powell
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
11 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

When Trump referred to Mexican rapists he was rightly condemned as supporting a racist trope. Why are statements about “male violence” not regarded in the same way as a sexist trope. Is “female violence” OK simply because there is less of it? Of course not, it is violence that both men and women are against irrespective of the sex of the attacker.
It is true that a subset of men are responsible for most of the violence perpetrated mostly against men but also women and that violence already receives condemnation by both men and women. The idea that there is any great enthusiasm among men for violence is a myth. As a man I do what I can to avoid violence by not venturing out late into dubious areas where men and women are tanked up with alcohol. I don’t winge that my freedom has been infringed. I simply take sensible precautions. Of course, it would be better if I didn’t have to give it a thought.
What can men and women do together to reduce violence beyond taking sensible precautions? Increased prosperity and civility will improve things in due course, but in the meantime more police on the beat and longer sentences for perpetrators of violence seem to be the answer – but one that the left is usually averse to, particularly if it impacts some sectors of society more than others.

Last edited 11 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

“What can men and women do together to reduce violence beyond taking sensible precautions?”

Lock criminals up and throw away the key. Instead the criminals walk free with rap sheets pages long. Almost all crimes are committed by repeat offenders.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
11 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

There’s no government money even for recruiting more police. What you’re suggesting is vastly more expensive.

Saul D
Saul D
11 months ago

Men are at more risk of violence than women, so if there was a simple ‘do-as-you’re-told’ answer to eradicate violence, men would welcome it. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t like that.
That’s why you get young men carrying knives ‘for protection’, men learning martial arts to be able to defend themselves, men avoiding bad pubs or neighbourhoods and known thugs, men expecting police to prevent violence. It’s is not a gender thing. Men would love it if there was a solution beyond just handwaving ‘something must be done’.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
11 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

CCW is a great option. Open carry even better for the deterrent effect. Would you try to rob a person you knew was armed? There’s a reason police are not frequent targets for muggings. And it isn’t the snappy uniform.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
11 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

Bit of a big blind spot for this writer that she fails to reference how all boys learn too about dangerous situations and how to avoid them, or get out of them. Maybe she doesn’t know – she could have asked any male relative, for a wee bit of balance.
Excluding domestic abuse within ‘relationships’, there are far more deaths and serious injuries due to male on male violence compared to male on women violence.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
11 months ago

there seems to be a current feminist belief that ‘men’ are some sort of harmonious collective, with its own autonomous agency. All the separate parts of this hydrozoan entity form a closely inter-connected colony which acts as one body, so that no individual man is ever unaware of what another man is doing.
Next time I bump into a ‘man’ on the street, I’m going to simply tell him not to be a murderer

Pierre Lefevre
Pierre Lefevre
11 months ago

>the onus of staying safe on women (as opposed to the male attackers who prey on them)
I get a little annoyed at this framing – there will always be people who break laws and attack others. I don’t think a campaign to teach them the error of their ways will stop them. There are some at the edge who can be reached as they got their world view from a warped position, but you cannot tell me Sarah Everard’s killer could be taught not to kill – he knew it was wrong and did it anyway. You cannot just teach this away. We have locks on our cars, front doors, we have security on our phones, and we never hear about putting the onus on the thieves not to steal. We assume they know it is wrong and take precautions.
Is it terrible that women have to do this around men who may hurt them? Yes. But putting the onus on those men not to will not change that. Most of them are beyond reach.
There is a weaker version of this I can see – some men can be entitled and think they have the “right” to a woman. They may be swayed by social pressure and environment. But the killers? Do we really think they will be swayed by social pressure?
We need to understand that precautions do not make some morally liable – that likes with the attacker. But given they are out there, it is still wise.
I know why it is done, because people used to (maybe still do) blame women for being in short skirts etc. But it is irresponsible not to offer precautions and safety measures because of this.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago

What a terrible thing it is to be a woman in this time and age. Perhaps things were better when they were chaperoned and parents chose husbands for them.

Last edited 11 months ago by Julian Farrows
Warren T
Warren T
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

…or for the eons when women were mere possessions and part of the spoils for a successful war or conquest.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Well, that’s going a bit too far for me. It’s been at least twenty years since I last fought for a woman.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
11 months ago

When male violence ends, we can also abolish the Army, Navy and Air Force.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
11 months ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

There is an interesting question that this raises. I have seen here and elsewhere the oft cited identity politics claim that wars are started by men. I think this is a puerile point – focusing on the gender that engages in this behaviour – because it fails to mention or hypothesise what the reasons may be for such conflict, and the complex behaviours around that. Centring men – note, not some men – has the advantage of suggesting the conflict is only the result of masculinity, thereby ignoring a multivariate analysis that focuses the complex causes of such conflict.