When I first saw Sarah Everard’s ‘missing person’ poster, I saw my sister, I saw my best friend, I saw every woman I know. I saw myself. She represented every woman’s fear. Every woman I know has feared for their life to some degree while walking home. We’ve been taught a multitude of ways to ‘prevent’ male violence or ‘protect ourselves’ from male violence. From holding your keys between your fingers to pretending to be on the phone, to not leaving the house alone when it’s dark. Don’t talk back to men harassing you, tell a boy you have a boyfriend rather than outright rejecting him to avoid him getting violent or aggressive. Even being told to scream ‘fire’ if you’re being raped because you’re more likely to be helped by the public. Where’s the same energy with telling men not to rape, harass, intimidate and abuse women? I’m fed up with being scared of men and of the victim-blaming I see on the daily.
It is ‘all men’, because all men have a part to play if we’re going to change the way things are. This should not be about male pride and the fact that ‘some men would never rape a woman’. Have you inappropriately groped a woman or watched a mate do that and not said anything? Have you been aggressive when a woman rejected you? Have you laughed while your mate verbally harassed a woman and made her uncomfortable? Do you walk your girl mates home after a party at night? Do you keep your distance from women when they’re waking alone? Have you been a bystander or an ally? Do you see male violence targeted at women and actively try to stop it and protect women? These things are all men’s responsibility.
I’ve been in scenarios with men that I consider to be my friends, who have been inappropriate and touched me when it was not warranted. It’s sad that when I’ve felt I was in a safe space with male friends they have abused that. But often for women it’s easier to shut up and forget than it is to confront the problem, because trying to justify to everyone over and over again why what happened was inappropriate is exhausting.
Ellie Mercer / @elliemercer97
'The Virtual Vigil' is a series of perspectives, emotions and poems written in response to the current political climate. As a feminist art collective we want to use our space to empower the voices of those affected by gender based violence. In doing so, we hope to challenge existing narratives and teach men that they have a collective responsibility to speak up and call out inappropriate and violent behaviours. If you would like to take part in our virtual vigil, please feel welcome to email us at email@example.com.
Images by Emily Mort.