There was righteous anger recently at the suggestion from the Met Police that women ‘need’ to keep themselves safe on the streets from those they had been brought up to trust; by hailing buses whilst whipping up a souffle and touching up their lippy. To be honest, nobody ‘needs’ to hear my take on it, but I wanted to chuck in my ha’porth, partly because I discovered in a drawer a list I’d written in my twenties.
I like a list. And in particularly old fashioned style, one written down, so that items can be ticked off. I have to-do lists, shopping lists and packing lists. This last has been greeted with much derision by people I travelled with, from friends to lovers. Until they shamefacedly asked if they could borrow my toothpaste or something, because they’d forgotten to pack it.
The picture enclosed is from one of these lists. There’s many giveaways that it’s the mid-90s: cheque book, maps. Or even ‘alarm’. This from a time when the iPhone, with an alarm as one of its many splendours, was a mere twinkle in the respective Steves’ (plus the other one) eyes. But that’s the minor alarm. There it is, ‘rape alarm’, a necessary item for when I went out and about at night in London.
How was this normal?
I vaguely recall getting the alarm. An employment scheme project I was on, when I was about 25, procured a job lot of them and we were each handed one. I remember being pleased about this. It was red and yellow, I think. I discarded it at some point in my thirties. Probably once I had children and it was more difficult to go out at night.
Thankfully, and I wish all women were this lucky, I never had reason to employ it. I remember carrying it in my hand a few times, but more often than not it was at the bottom of my bag, or forgotten, or I’d be too drunk to be able to employ it anyway.
Oh yes, drunk. That’s when we women are asking for it, isn’t it? When we’re a bit loud and lairy and our skirts are a bit too short or our heels are a bit too high. I remember scuttling home on occasions, cold sweat on back, darting fearful looks behind, seeing dangers in shadows. As I saw written elsewhere recently, all women have experienced this.
How was this normal?
What tiny mind could conceive that what a woman wants is to be violently assaulted, or worse, when she is out and about? Not even on a night out clubbing, but just going to visit a friend, or returning home from work?
How is ANY of this fucking normal?
Yet, we obviously thought it was and that’s why we were thankful to have been given these rape alarms. It’s only now, looking at those words, I can see how appalling it is.
Times have changed somewhat. I thought that, watching the title sequence to ‘No Time to Die’ without the once ubiquitous scantily clad female silhouettes. And yet, nothing’s changed at all. Just when we think that the public outcry over the untimely murders of so many women might be bringing about a sea change in language, mentality and policy; women discover, yet again, that keeping themselves from being attacked is their responsibility. Nothing to see here chaps. Keep on, keeping on.