Against the backdrop of these horrific headlines, I have been having more and more conversations with women about how they feel unsafe in the streets. We’ve exchanged stories of being followed and catcalled, of sharing Uber rides with each other and making sure we text when we’re home safe.
But in my recent conversations with some women about their feelings of safety, I have noticed underlying coded messages. They say things like “it’s a dodgy area”; that they “wouldn’t want to be alone around there”. They say they are scared of men in hoodies.
Who wouldn't be?
Some forego any pretence. One woman said to me: “I probably do find Black men in hoodies more scary.” Others admit they quicken their pace when they see a Black man walking down the street.
Well, yes. It's got nothing to do with 'media imagery' and everything to do with actual reality. As Chris Rock's memorable monologue goes, "When I go to the money machine tonight, alright, I ain't looking over my back for the media..."
When I’ve challenged these women...
Woah, hold up! It's OK to challenge women? I thought the lefty world view was that a woman's experience was never to be questioned? What she feels is real, right?
....they protest: “It’s just the crime statistics!”, without acknowledging that behind these statistics lie stories of police harassment, ethnic profiling and racial criminalisation.
There they go, ruining your explanation with those wretched facts, Jinan...
A study last year examined views of Australian women on street harassment and spoke of “some participants saying they felt unsafe or perceived behaviour as threatening because the person was ‘not like them’.”
Seems very widespread to me. Maybe because there's some truth to it?
There’s a sense of outrage that anyone would question a woman who says she feels unsafe. Yet I am not challenging the fact women feel unsafe in the streets.
Yes, you are. That's the entire point of this article.
This is not a zero-sum problem: we can fight for women’s safety in the streets and avoid playing into racial stereotypes.
Good luck squaring that circle!