Sarah Everard – a time for women to speak and men to listen

The tragic murder of Sarah Everard has shocked the nation. Over the last week the national conversation has been consumed by the horror of the events and an outpouring of grief for a young woman who was simply walking home. But Sarah’s murder has also led to a national reflection on what this means more widely for us as a society.

In the last 10 years 1,425 women have been murdered in the UK, that’s roughly one every three days. I believe Sarah’s death could prove to be a seminal moment in our country as we look to challenge the plague of violence against women and girls. Yet, the discourse that has already begun has the danger of veering away from the crux of the issue – change must come from the actions and attitudes of men, not women.

The fact is that women do not need to change. Women constantly get given advice on how to stay safe: making sure we don’t go out alone in the dark and if we do we stick to well-lit streets; to text when we leave and arrive safely; to wear bright clothing. All of this sort of advice is given with the aim of protecting women, but it most often comes from men and leads to a society that lays blame for many incidents at the door of women too, which does the very opposite of keeping us safe.

The “advice” above also suggests that women are safe at home – but many are not. We know that since the Covid-19 lockdown a year ago, domestic abuse homicides have doubled. It was almost a year ago to the day that I stood in the London Assembly chamber shortly before the national lockdown was announced warning that such a rise in domestic violence would occur and emphasising that for many home was a place of danger, rather than a place of safety. But with the discourse dominated by men, much of this was likely to be lost.

How can it be the woman’s fault if she is attacked because “she was wearing a short skirt”, “she’d flirted with him” or “she didn’t text a friend to let them know where she had gone”? This language implicates the woman in the actions against her; this is not only wrong, but dangerous.

What has come from Sarah’s tragic murder is a bubbling over of anger and resentment from women to a society that perpetuates violence against them and a desire to take hold of the discourse on this issue from men so we can see real change.

We all have stories of that man who followed us home from the station; stared at us on the bus; commented on the clothes we were wearing or put his hand uncomfortably around our shoulders at a social event. The issue with all of these types of incidents is not that women “let it happen” but that men felt comfortable, and in many cases, even entitled to do this.

We do not need men to keep us safe or protect us – we need men to stop being violent. Women are rallying around the powerful campaign to Reclaim the Streets, which is essentially about getting our liberty back. In a society dogged with an unchallenged and largely ignored acceptance that women are not safe, women are not truly free.

As for the harrowing, heavy-handed and wholly unacceptable handling of the vigil at Clapham Common, Luisa Porritt and I wrote to the Met Commissioner on 12 March asking her to reconsider the Met’s position which banned the vigils, given the public outpouring of support for such vigils and their importance for women across London who need our message to be heard loud and clear.

The Met did not listen. What happened on Saturday night was completely avoidable and risks distracting from the very reason those women were there.

It is essential that women set the agenda on tackling violence against women and girls moving forward and that we are heard at this pivotal moment. What will be telling is who, in the days and weeks ahead, will listen to us and grasp the opportunity for systemic change.

At what is a seminal moment we need to ensure the discourse does not stray, again, into one about how a woman can keep herself safe, but instead what actions men need to take. It is time for the women to give the advice and for the men to listen

Women will not be silenced.

* Caroline Pidgeon is the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee

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49 Comments

  • I’m a man, and I’m listening but does that men I can ask questions ? Ok. You say “men need to stop being violent”. Agree, 150%. Are you aware that at the age of 4 most of the violent behaviour exhibited by children is done so by boys. Do you believe that that male violence is a result of nurture or nature ? What happens if a few, just a few men at the extreme end of the distribution of violent and anti social tendencies can’t be taught to be better people ? What’s the strategy then ?

  • I agree with Chris Cory, I think there are a small number of highly dangerous individuals in society, always have been and probably always will be. Unfortunately I don’t think it is ever going to be possible to have a murder rate of 0.

    The approach of framing this as an issue where men need to listen to women is misguided in my view because it doesn’t recognise that we are dealing with a small number of very disordered individuals.

  • Jayne mansfield 15th Mar '21 - 9:12am

    The argument about nature/ nurture is a distraction. We have control over the nurturing of children.

    As someone who has been married to a caring man for over half a century and the mother of sons, and grandparent to boys as well as girls, if men had an irredeemable propensity for sexual and physical violence against women, I think I would have spotted it.

    I hope finally, that there will be an examination of the culture and politics that perpetuates this violence against women, and yes, it is women who should set the agenda.

    ,

  • Brad Barrows 15th Mar '21 - 9:27am

    Sorry, but to blame all men for the actions of some men is sexism.

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '21 - 9:28am

    I’m not in any way excusing the appalling behaviour shown against women, usually by men, since time immemorial. I used to play rugby, as I have mentioned more than once, I fear, and some of the goings on in the Club House back in the amateur days would be considered primeval today.

    However, as the song goes, “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself”. Some of the worst fights we used to have to break up in the West Yorkshire comprehensive I taught at in the mid 1970s usually involved a couple of girls scrapping over a young man. Now I suppose it would all be conducted over some media platform!

    I used to have a theory that single sex education, especially if it was conducted in boarding schools had a lot to do with how its products, boys in particular, treated the opposite sex. Once most schools were mixed at secondary level, I used to argue, boys and girls would learn to treat each other with respect. Well, it would appear that that theory went out of the window many years ago!

    I’m sure than anthropologists might argue that the kind of approach shown by men is typical of the male of most species. However, I would like to have thought that we humans had evolved above this. Peer group pressure and an abundance of testosterone have a lot to do with it; but as for an answer, well I suppose the only one I can come up with is self restraint.

    One thing that really does get my goat about some men is this. How many times do you see women and their offspring in poverty, struggling to make a life for themselves with no man in sight? Now the question of absentee fathers is as big a problem in my opinion as some men’s attitude to women.

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson 15th Mar '21 - 10:01am

    By the age of 4 many boys will already have been “nurtured” to be bold, and entitled, and violent. Because they are brought up, in the main, by parents who have subconsciously accepted the societal norms that say it’s fine for them to be that – boys will be boys.
    Girls on the other hand are praised for being quiet, nice, caring, kind.

    And that lasts through life. It doesn’t have to be that way – I actively brought my kids up to not conform to those gender roles – it was tough, because societal pressures are huge, but I now have an assertive, confident 18 year old girl who is studying engineering at imperial and will be going into the navy, and a 16 year old boy who is much quieter and far more caring and empathetic than his sister

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blank-Slate-Modern-Penguin-Science/dp/014027605X

    “By the age of 4 many boys will already have been “nurtured” to be bold, and entitled, and violent.”

    That is an extraordinary claim, I assume you have the required extraordinary evidence to support it? Samples of two, especially where you were trying to create a different outcome to the ones you believed were expected, will not help explain much. Child Psychological development is a complex and interesting field and “society did it” does not do it justice especially when talking about children aged 4.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Mar '21 - 10:41am

    Richard Kemp has an interesting blog posting on this at
    https://richardkemp.wordpress.com/2021/03/14/womens-safety-is-a-male-issue/

  • Laurence Cox 15th Mar '21 - 11:10am

    We do need to address murders of women by men, but in reality women are almost always murdered by someone they know: a partner or ex-partner. Tom Chivers, one of the few reasonable voices on Unherd wrote this article two days ago:

    https://unherd.com/2021/03/why-women-dont-feel-safe/

    and pointed out that “Of the 695 people murdered in England and Wales in the year to March 2020, 506 of them were men. And for the specific issue of murders on the street, by strangers — the fear we’re dealing with — the disparity is greater still: 154 men were murdered by strangers, and just 23 women.”

    Don’t let this rare crime divert us from addressing domestic violence, the real threat to women in this country. It is the police’s failure to take it seriously enough that is killing women in this country.

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson 15th Mar '21 - 11:16am

    It’s remarkably dispiriting (but unfortunately not at all unexpected) to see the comments from men who have decided that women’s analysis of the problems we face is wrong…

    97% of women have suffered some form of sexual harrasment or assault. That’s not the actions of a few bad men. Own this shit.

    There are many peer reviewed articles supporting the nurture theory, especially for gender roles. It’s not my job to educate you FS, and a single book on Amazon is not overwhelming evidence that you are correct .

  • Lynne featherstone 15th Mar '21 - 11:19am

    When I campaigned against Female Genital Mutilation – men emailed me and said what about circumcision?
    when I campaigned against violence against women – men said #not all men
    and on and on
    The stats don’t lie. I’m with Caroline!

  • Antony Watts 15th Mar '21 - 11:38am

    Ask yourself why “men” have behaved like this. Why? And what could be done to surpress such behaviour?

    We have little social engagement in UK today. Youth clubs shut, pubs closed, virtually no activities for men (specifically) organised. It is a lack of social provision that has engendered this behaviour. And if I may say so it will continue as we cut off spending on social cohesion in our country. Tories take note.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Mar '21 - 11:48am

    @Antony Watts
    “Youth clubs shut, pubs closed, virtually no activities for men (specifically) organised. It is a lack of social provision that has engendered this behaviour. And if I may say so it will continue as we cut off spending on social cohesion in our country. “!
    But didn’t some of these – perhaps ‘lads culture’ issues arisen in pubs in the first place? Crowd of blokes propping up the bar, maybe drinking more that would be sensible, no women around?

    I ask because these problems didn’t just start when loads of pubs closed. These problems existed before that.

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson

    “a single book on Amazon is not overwhelming evidence that you are correct”

    Interesting response. It is a book that is known for explaining the topic very easily to the casual reader, not purporting it to be the total explanation of topic. It is interesting you paint in such black and white terms. The book was criticised at the time of publishing from a number of quarters, not for a fundamental error in concept, but for redundancy. People pointing out that the idea of pure social constructionism was such old hat it was pointless to address it, 18 years later lots people are proving the need. A more recent description is that a lot of psychology is “pre-drafted” in that we have natural tendencies but they are effected by environment and can change, but the underlying elasticity of our minds is there. Non-ideological people find seeing that very easy, it is always the ideological who seem to tend to the extremes.

    When you refer to “nurture theory” do you know what you are referring too? Do you have any view on where the balance of inherent characteristics interact with environment? Or are people pure clay? Is anything about your children something of their own or did your pure force of personality make them who they are?

    I think you aren’t interested in evidence or discussion of nuance, due to your lack of citation of anything. I’ll leave you with your absolute certainly and hope the world doesn’t become too distressing when shades of grey and many colours are visible to others.

    But in the hope you may think about something that differs from your preset world view, do you know the source of the 97% figure? Can you locate it (hint: I have helped out elsewhere)? You will note that it is not linked from other coverage of this, that tends to be a giveaway to dig a bit.

  • James Belchamber 15th Mar '21 - 12:36pm

    With the quality of discourse in these comments, who would want to be a woman in the Lib Dems?

    (Why anonymous people are allowed to push right-wing talking points on this platform is beyond me anyway – at best they’re not even members, at worst they are members and we can’t hold them accountable for what they say)

  • Ruth Bright 15th Mar '21 - 1:03pm

    Thank you for this Caroline. The 97% figure certainly rings true.

  • Brad Barrows 15th Mar '21 - 1:21pm

    @Lynne featherstone

    Indeed, stats don’t lie: men are far more likely to murdered by men than woman are. (Woman account for between a quarter and a third of all murder victims in the UK in any given year.) So the big issue is not ‘male violence against women’ but ‘violence by some men against both men and women’.

  • Shane Conner 15th Mar '21 - 1:35pm

    I see we get a number of the expected responses on here from my fellow men.

    How many of these crimes of male violence come from men as their first foray from an inert starting position?

    Tell me that you haven’t let a comment slide because it’s one of your mates. Tell me you have always stepped in when you see a woman feeling uncomfortable, regardless of how imposing the man or men appear to be.

    I’m flawed and I have not done everything I can do, all the time. Often yes, but not completely consistently. I need to be stronger of character and a little bit braver. For the rest of you, please listen and look inside yourself.

  • @ Lynne. I remember reading an article by a couple whose main job was running a charity for male victims of violence. A subject they frequently spoke about on their social media and in the press.

    One day, they spoke out about violence against women, and were swamped by messages demanding to know what they were doing about violence towards men. They said that in all of their years of talking about violence towards men, they never had women insisting that it wasn’t all women, or wanting to know why they weren’t talking about violence towards women.

    The reaction to this post depresses me. Given that virtually every woman has been subject to some kind of sexual harassment, usually multiple times in her lifetime, and very often in public spaces where other men are present – I find it hard to believe that all of these men have genuinely never seen or heard anything themselves. I suspect it’s more a case that many men didn’t notice because it didn’t bother them and even if they weren’t directly involved, they saw it as normal.

  • I don’t want to pass comment on an article titled ‘a time for women to speak and men to listen’. So I won’t, other than to say thank you for sharing it Caroline.

    The only thing I would like to point out is a factual thing about the survey concluding that 97% of women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment – only as it has been mentioned. The survey includes ‘staring’ and the vaguely defined ‘jokes or comments’ as sexual harassment. The nearly 40% of women in the survey claiming to have suffered ‘unwelcome touching, body rubbing, or groping’ or ‘being physically followed’ should have been striking enough on its own.

    https://www.unwomenuk.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/APPG-UN-Women_Sexual-Harassment-Report_2021.pdf

  • Helen Dudden 15th Mar '21 - 2:05pm

    I think the subject of domestic violence is another reason. Being written about now, as a by product of the many months at home.
    When I used to write about International Child Abduction, within relationship breakdowns, children would often get caught up in violent situations. Several year’s ago, a male partner jumped from a balcony with his two young children in his arms. This is not the only case. It came under domestic violence.
    My concerns with aggressive policing is, that we showing those vulnerable, it’s acceptable. It’s not acceptable, that a police officer is being aggressive and pining a woman to the ground. He is physically stronger.
    I know this government didn’t like Contact Centres, a way for difficult relationships, to not use children as an in between. Yet this government, spends so much on Track and Trace, yet little on prevention of domestic violence.

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '21 - 2:13pm

    I’m dipping my toe into these muddied waters again, with some trepidation, mainly in response to Mr Radical’s comment “no women around”. I’m assuming that there were plenty around. When I was a councillor I accompanied police officers and street wardens when on duty late at night and was amazed at how many mainly young people were out and about at what was normally way past my bedtime. I recall one particular late midweek rainy February evening in Lincoln accompanying a team of ‘Street Pastors’, armed with water bottles and flip flops, which we offered to grossly inebriated young and occasionally not so young girls, unable any more to negotiate their way on ridiculously high heels, as well as warm coverings to protect the skimpily clad from hypothermia.

    Call me naive if you wish, but seeing the kind of down town behaviour that was typical in most city centres pre lockdown and, I assume, will resume post lockdown, the only words that came into my mind were ‘cattle market’. I mentioned anthropologists in my previous post. It’s pretty clear that the human race hasn’t moved on that much since it started its journey towards what we still like to call civilisation.

    By the way, chaps, nothing that I have written can in any way exonerate those of you, who will undoubtedly think, if not actually say out loud, that those sort of girls by their behaviour were “asking for it”. As I have written in other circumstances before, it takes two to tango!

  • Shane Conner 15th Mar '21 - 2:27pm

    I’m a little dismayed by the commentary of some of my fellow men in response to this post.

    At its heart this is about violence and intimidation by men, specifically in this case towards women. Nothing should distract from that.

    I am flawed and though often I have done the right thing when confronted by a situation, i haven’t done it with complete consistency. Have I called it out when a mate has made inappropriate comments? Mostly. Have I intervened when I’ve noticed a woman appearing uncomfortable with attention? Yes, well being completely honest, sometimes.

    The violence of a man does not go from non existent to murder in a single bound.

    Please listen and look inside yourself and ask w whether you have always done everything you can. I will try to be braver. How about you?

  • Miranda Roberts 15th Mar '21 - 3:17pm

    What a depressing set of comments after a really good article. This discussion is about male to female behaviour and how to improve it. 97% of women have experienced harassment as Mary said. To help you believe it, here is the source for that figure, though really you could also just believe the vast number of women posting their own experiences on social media too. https://tinyurl.com/2ybuwv6k

    The problem isn’t just the number of women being murdered, or beaten, or raped, or robbed or any other awful thing. It’s the whole awful total of it all that is carried by women every day. This is *not* about a lack of youth clubs, the pubs being shut or a handful of people being psychopaths. This is about the behaviour that men have perpetrated on women for centuries and it just is not acceptable now.

    And yeah, sure, women can be violent too. That doesn’t change the fact that male to female violence and harassment is so common that almost every woman has experienced it, and that we all take extraordinary measures to avoid it every day. If you really cannot see that this is a problem, then you are part of the problem.

    Some men are great, and get this. They want to help address how we are bringing up both boys and girls to address this, and see their own role in changing behaviour. Not every guy is at fault- but the truth is that a huge number, probably the majority are. Too many guys have pinched some girl’s bum or rubbed too close against her as you pass, or stared at her boobs, or followed a woman, or talked about her clothes to her in a weird way, kissed her without checking if she wanted a kiss, repeatedly asked her out without realising she’s feeling unhappy, pressed her to stay when she wanted to leave, sent explicit pics she didn’t ask for – so many more low-grade things that sometimes then lead to far worse. If you haven’t ever done anything like that, great. But someone you know has, because this behaviour is everywhere. That’s the issue, and that is what Caroline (and Mary, Lynne and others) are talking about. Please try harder to see the point we are all making here.

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson 15th Mar '21 - 4:09pm

    Thank you Miranda. I sometimes wish LDV had like buttons when I see posts like yours.

    FS. Again – not my responsibility to take part in a debate you want to have, especially when you seem determined to ignore the subject of the initial post. I find it interesting though that instead of attempting to actually debate the issue with me or provide alternative arguments, you simply attack my basis of knowledge, insult my intelligence and demand I prove my right to take part in the debate. Is this how you deal with every woman who puts forward a point of view?

  • David Evans 15th Mar '21 - 5:43pm

    While acknowledging that this is a thread that should be dominated by women’s views, I would just like to point out one thing. When Caroline says ‘We do not need men to keep us safe or protect us – we need men to stop being violent.” I fear she is in danger of creating a fundamental obstacle to solving the problem.

    We have a good idea how, both in principle and to a significant extent in practice, how to encourage and enable men to help protect and keep women safe. It is based on us all having a clear view on how important it is to protect all those is our community (particularly the weak, both men and women), which is a foundation of liberalism. Saying we don’t want men to protect women actually weakens that foundation.

    On the other side, we really have next to no idea in theory and definitely not in proven practice, how to stop men who have a tendency to resort to violence from doing so.

    Ultimately going for that solution is very, very long term and if you willingly sacrifice what can be done in the short term, I fear you will be just setting yourself up to fail and fail totally.

    I don’t think any of us want that.

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '21 - 5:54pm

    @Mary Regnier-Wilson
    I’ve just reread your comment from this morning. I’m sorry if I am also one of those ‘men’ to whom you refer. Actually, I’m quite an old man now, whose attitude hails from an age when things happened, which I was naively of the opinion, had to a great extent ceased to happen. Clearly I was wrong and, despite all the pastoral care in our state schools, male attitudes appear still to be residing largely in the dark ages.

    What I would like to get back to you about is the delightful picture of family life you paint in your phrase “brought up…..by parents”. In many cases that plural noun should be singular and in fact, to be more precise, the phrase should be “by women”. I was brought up by my father from the age of twelve, not because my mum did a runner, but because she sadly passed away. Now I freely admit that not having a female influence in those adolescent years made me a less than perfect individual. I thank my wife of 52 years (and counting) for trying to instil in me a modicum of what I can only describe as common sense. I’m still after all this time a work in progress. Conversely, so many women are left to bring up their sons and daughters alone because their partner has done a runner. They do a fantastic job in most cases; but many boys do need a male rôle model and this absence contributes massively to the way many view the opposite sex as they grow.

    One might have hoped that this influence would be rectified when boys go to school; but, certainly at primary level, there is a massive shortage of male teachers. Please don’t think, ladies, that I am belittling the contribution you make and continue to make; but there are occasions which are the opposite of what I personally experienced.

  • We shouldn’t have to take massive precautions to stay safe, because men shouldn’t see a woman on her own as fair game. If a woman is attacked, it’s the fault of the attacker. Not hers for dressing a certain way, or walking somewhere by herself.
    Women are theoretically free in this country, in a way women in other countries are not. But we aren’t. I’ve been harassed, put in fear, walking the dog in the park. On a train. On a normally busy path in the middle of the day. I limit my life: where I go, when I go, how I go.
    Streets should be safe regardless of what we wear, where we live or what time of day or night it is. And even if a woman in a short skirt gets drunk, loses her friends, walks home late at night, and is attacked, she was not ‘asking for it’. No one ever ASKS to be assaulted. It’s the fault of the man who saw her and didn’t walk on by.
    No, I don’t have solutions. Just depressed by some of the tired-old responses above.

  • @ James Belchamber

    I find your comments quite sinister and very illiberal but the difference between us is that I wouldn’t try to censor your views.

    There are no right-wing comments on here because the discussion is outside of the left-right divide.

    Having said that, when I say that I believe that ordinary people rarely if ever commit murder and that the only people who do so have extremely serious psychological disorders (there is evidence that a large number of people in prison for serious violent crimes have received a serious head trauma) I would expect such views to be dismissed as lily-livered liberalism by the right wing tabloids but not received with hostility here.

    What does “hold them accountable for what they say” mean?

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '21 - 7:43pm

    “We do not need men to keep us safe or protect us – we need men to stop being violent”.

    Ideally, yes but on more than one occasion in my lifetime I’ve intervened to protect women from my abusive fellow males. And I’m really sorry that was necessary but it was. If you’re of a religious persuasion you might want to ask God why he made men larger and physically stronger than women.

    That’s the cause of the imbalance. Even smaller built men can have a bigger problem being bullied. I’m lucky enough to be well built and 6ft tall, so when I have to intervene I’ve never felt in any particular danger to myself. The kind of man who is happy to physically mistreat women will nearly always back down when confronted by someone of my size. I was once cautioned by the police for giving a good thumping to a flasher, who was definitely a threat to the female population, when I was a student. He somehow knew who I was and and had the nerve to complain when he was later arrested!

    So, yes, we are listening but I’m not sure what else we can in general do.

    I’ve often said that Lib Dems tend to have a misplaced faith in the inate goodness of people so that if , for example, you hand out a UBI you’ll be be able to rely on them to do the right thing. Well, I’m sorry but there are a percentage of scumbags around who won’t. Some, but not all are male. But, on average they do have that extra physical capacity which causes problems.

  • James Belchamber 15th Mar '21 - 8:14pm

    @John Marriott see, the thing is, just don’t rape (or, given recent context, kill) them. If they’re “grossly inebriated young and occasionally not so young girls”, and nobody rapes them, then they’re not at risk. It doesn’t take two to “tango”, if by tango you mean “rape” – it takes one, the rapist.

    Do you see the logic? We’re not dealing with loose wolves here. What a woman was doing (or what state she was in) when she was attacked should be given no thought and be of no consequence. Your thoughts on the Lincoln “cattle market” (wow, you really wrote that, huh) have no place under an article about a woman’s murder and the wider oppression of women in our society.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Mar '21 - 9:39pm

    @John Marriott
    “Mr Radical”
    How very interesting, given the context of this discussion – you assume I’m male.

    ” “no women around”. ”
    I used that in referring to blokes (lads) propping up a bar without any women being involved in the group – and therefore without a possibility of being influenced by any women.

    I have this very vague memory of something I read a very long time ago about the Rumours lineup of Fleetwood Mac. Bearing in mind some rock bands’ reputations for mayhem (destroying hotel rooms etc) ,one of the male members – might have been Lindsey Buckingham but not sure – made some comment about how having 2 ladies on the plane made a difference to the male members’ behaviour. Can’t vouch for it – can’t recall where I read it.

    “grossly inebriated young and occasionally not so young girls, unable any more to negotiate their way on ridiculously high heels, as well as warm coverings to protect the skimpily clad from hypothermia.”
    Drinking more than one can safely carry is stupid and potentially dangerous behaviour. Irrespective of gender. But it doesn’t mean that some bloke is entitled on account of it to abuse any grossly inebriated female (or any female to abuse a grossly inebriated male for that matter).

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '21 - 10:48pm

    My most recent comments that have drawn the ire of Mr Belchamber in particular were based on a misinterpretation of what ‘Radical’ wrote. My point is that there are often two sides to any argument.

    I don’t know whether the former has ever been out on the town. I must say that, when I went out ‘on patrol’ I was quite shocked to see how many people were crowding into the town centre, often what I believe is called ‘preloading’ so that they could hit the ground running. My idea of a good night out in my youth was a sober bus trip to the town centre, with a ten bob note, meeting up in some hostelry, a steady consumption of alcohol possibly ending with a bag of chips before making my way home. Pretty tame stuff by today’s standards and never a woman in sight, as girls’ nights out seemed to be a rarity back then.

    I’m sorry that Mr Belchamber would rather stay on his high horse than ask himself awkward questions as to why we appear to have made so little progress in addressing what is something for which so far we have found no answers. Getting drunk as quickly as possible, unlike the gradual process in my youth, seems to be the prerequisite of having a good time these days. The irony is that booze is legal; but is probably as dangerous any of the illegal stuff you can pick up these days.

    My comments are not, course, based an any empirical information. I’m sure the better informed amongst us could find statistics to prove their point and probably prove me wrong. I am merely passing on my observations, because we have clearly not got very far in my lifetime in the way many of us view what we consider to be acceptable behaviour. In conclusion could not find anything with which to disagree in what ‘Radical’ has written in their last paragraph.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Mar '21 - 11:19pm

    I don’t know how many of the men rushing to comment on here are members of the Liberal Democrats though I know some are. Ed Davey is very right on this issue and I suggest some people here just start listening a bit.

  • James Belchamber 16th Mar '21 - 12:14am

    @John Marriott you have women, in this article and in this thread, telling you what their experiences are and telling you what we need to do. You have decided that you know better, for some inane reason, even though – by your own admission – you haven’t put any effort into validating your claims (and also acknowledge you’re probably wrong?! Yet still you continue). You are now peddling the theory that, far from following the direction of these (in some cases, very accomplished) women (ON AN ISSUE THAT AFFECTS WOMEN), we should.. try to stop women from drinking so much so that they don’t put themselves in a position to be assaulted? Which you are apparently doing with no self-awareness or consideration that you are literally perpetuating the narrative that women have been identifying as harmful, in lots of places but also IN THE ARTICLE YOU’RE COMMENTING UNDER!

    Do you have no capacity for introspection? Even at a time like this, could you not consider that you may be contributing to the problem – even if you are not yourself an offender?

  • @John, this is not about whether or not some people get too drunk when they are on a night out. While you might find it shocking, and it’s something you think deserves further discussion – it’s not actually relevant to this conversation, and to raise it in a discussion on violence towards women suggests you either don’t understand the subject (in which case please do accept the recommendation to listen) or you don’t care about the subject (in which case it would be better to say nothing than to clumsily steer a serious subject onto something of more interest to you).

  • John Marriott 16th Mar '21 - 8:19am

    @Fiona
    You are perfectly correct. I did say that I entered this debate “with some trepidation” as I do have views on the sexes (however many there are at the last count – there I go again!). I really do believe that the waters, as I first wrote, are muddied already. Yes, I have alas not unwittingly fallen into the trap of ‘going off at a tangent’, which is, whether you like it or not, a regular feature of LDV threads.

    I contrast your considered comments with those from Mr Belchamber, who, judging by his photo, is of a different generation to myself and, dare I even write it, a man. I wrote earlier about my long suffering wife trying to teach me some common sense. I hope you don’t think I’m being patronising when I cite your reaction as being one of the reasons why many, but not all men have so much to learn from your many if not all of your sex.

    I shall take your advice and will steer clear of the subject, in this thread at least and thank you for it.

  • Cassie 15th Mar ’21 – 6:03pm………..We shouldn’t have to take massive precautions to stay safe, because men shouldn’t see a woman on her own as fair game. If a woman is attacked, it’s the fault of the attacker. Not hers for dressing a certain way, or walking somewhere by herself…………No, I don’t have solutions. Just depressed by some of the tired-old responses above………

    Of course you shouldn’t but, in the ‘real’ world, housebreakers don’t wear striped jumpers, carry bags labelled ‘swag’ and rapists look just like the rest of the male population..
    I am 77 and was brought up to respect women as were most of that post war generation. Most women didn’t get drunk and wear ‘provocative clothing but there were still rapes and physical/sexual assaults with a police force far less ready to intervene in ‘domestics’; therefore, trying to excuse sexual assault by blaming womens’ behavior is not the answer.

    Like you I don’t have solutions and I’m ashamed at some of the tired-old responses above………

  • Mary Regnier-Wilson

    Interesting interpretation. What is notable here is that you chose to personalise a disagreement with your argument with an attack on you.

    “demand I prove my right to take part in the debate” No, I asked if you had the evidence for a specific claim you made. You don’t ask for more evidence from those who don’t have the right to be in a debate.
    “insult my intelligence” – no, what has occurred is I have challenged some beliefs. Knowledge of something specific is not the same as intelligence, a theoretical physicist may no nothing about Art History that doesn’t make them unintelligent.
    In addition, I asked if you know the source of a single statistic you were quoting, again this is normal particularly if you think someone would benefit from seeing the source/accuracy of the stat.

    You (and the above piece along with much other coverage of this) are combining two separate points:
    1) How women feel about certain experiences (again the sources linked elsewhere illustrate that is not uniform);
    2) What the cause of certain activity and what is an effective way to address that.

    Disputing your (and Caroline Pigeon’s) framework for understanding the causes of criminal activity is normal in discussion. If you are just talking about 1 then the argument of unique insight of each individual is valid, you however responded to someone addressing 2.

    The idea that a man who has reached the point of being able to murder someone would be stopped by someone else telling him a joke was inappropriate should be clear to all. However, there are a number of these silly ideas floating around. People have a complex interaction of nature and environment and to fail to recognise the importance of nature aspect to ensure the environment causes a positive outcome is risky. Just as there are environments which if applied are likely to produce a number of dangerous people designing bad environments for different underlying natures is going to also going to generate negative outcomes. Boys are at a population level different from girls and the outliers are more extreme in that, blaming that on socialisation does nothing to ensure that the environment boys have growing up ensures the best outcome in terms of pro-social behaviour. Blank Slateism is counter productive if the intention is less dangerous adults.

  • Antony Watts 16th Mar '21 - 11:10am

    No. Time for men to speak and tell us what the problems are! What is a man’s motivation, what brings him to this?
    – Lack of social interaction, clubs, sports, activities
    – Onslaught of sexy advertising focusing on women
    – Moral compass

    What?

  • @Mary Regnier-Wilson – “By the age of 4 many boys will already have been “nurtured””
    Yes, a big part of our problem is the early years “nurture” of both boys and girls. It is our choice as parents whether we go with the norm and reinforce stereotypes or do different. Personally, (I believe) my children – now teenagers have benefited from us deciding to do different.

    So you are right to draw attention to the need for better informed early years provision and schooling, which given all the research that has gone on since I went to University shouldn’t be too difficult.

    @FSPeople – There was a study a few years back that explored the ‘nurture’ effects of dressing babies in blue or pink – they found that adults responded to and communicated with the baby differently depending on the clothes colour regardless or
    whether the baby was a boy or girl. Sorry, not got a reference to hand but should be readily discoverable via a web search.

  • @Jayne mansfield. 9.12, 15/3/21.
    My apologies, but having lectured in social sciences and deviance for 25 years I feel I can’t let that one pass. The nature/nurture debate is not a distraction. If deviant male behaviour is a result of social conditioning then it can, as you imply, be rectified by parents or schools. If however, it is a result of evolution then we will have to look elsewhere for our answers. Human beings are highly evolved animals. For hundreds of years life was shorty, nasty and brutish. “Successful” men were those who could use violence on behalf of themselves and their families and obviously women would have preferred such men is such a brutal environment. No prizes for writing poetry and pressing flowers !
    The fact that your family had no violent men is not really relevant. Aggression in both men and women is normally distributed (bell curve), but the male distribution sits slightly further towards the “violent” end of the axis. It follows that the AVERAGE mall will show SLIGHTLY more aggressive traits than the AVERAGE woman, but well within the limits of normative behaviour. The problem lies ay the extreme end of the male curve where there are a few individuals who are exceptionally disagreeable, sociopathic, possibly psychopathic and this is where we find our rapists and our murderers.
    Can their dysfunctional traits be removed by corrective socialisation ? Potentially, but the critical years are 3-5 and if they come from dysfunctional homes it may be too late by the time their traits are recognised by schools (assuming the school has the resources). There is also the possibility that more extreme cases may not respond.
    In no way do I deny the experience of women and it may be that 97% of them have suffered some form of sexual harassment, although you will understand that as a social scientist I would be very “picky” about how terms such as “harassment” are defined. Forgive me, it’s the way I was trained !

  • @Roland @Mary Regnier Wilson.
    This question of socialising very young boys, I think there are some crossed wires here. If we are talking about changing normative behaviour, that can be done during primary and secondary socialisation. It is possible to teach young people, and even older people (but not too old, perhaps) to treat women with more respect, to disapprove of certain behaviours. So we can make day to day interactions between men and women more agreeable, and we should do that.
    However, what is more difficult is to reprogram individuals who have significant personality disorders or an inbuilt propensity for extreme violence (almost exclusively men), and these are the people, I assume, who make women feel unsafe on the street.
    This distinction matters, and is why I am critical of those who conflate all obnoxious behaviours with rape and murder.

  • Jayne mansfield 16th Mar '21 - 6:24pm

    @ FS People,
    What I find interesting is that the source you give is a popular science book written in 2002. I would argue that often scientific fact and argument has moved on before a book is published, and that I would not be relying on a book published in 2002.

    I am trying to find in what way Mary Regnier- Wilson used a reductionist argument. At no time did she claim that babies are born Tabula Rasa. One can have a belief that there is an interaction between genes and nurture , ( and evolutionary psychologists, behavioural psychologists and all branches of psychologists including newly developing ones have a different view on the contribution made by genetics and environment , there are still, and probably always will be, academic arguments as to the relative contribution or otherwise leading to behavioural outcomes.

    What is needed is real world practical solutions, and the reality is that the one aspect we can control ( unless one is a eugenicist) is the environment and it’s effect on behavioural outcomes). There is for example an increasing body of knowledge on the damaging effect on children who have a home where there is domestic abuse.

    Maybe a reading of some of the critiques of Professor Pinker’s arguments because cognitive psychologists, even ones as esteemed as Professor Pinker can be shown to have flaws in their argument’s,. These can be found in respected journals such as Nature Nature Magazine, or for example, easily accessible, Open Democracy.

    In my view Mary Regnier – Wilson was quite correct to take offence at your tone. It is quite ludicrous that one should be expected to reference every piece of science that one has used in an argument on a website like this. Every article would be followed by long lists of references and attributions.

    I suppose I should look for a reference to what Mary was saying, but I don’t find it extraordinary to accept the idea that parents wanting their child to fit in and be accepted socially, will ( with the admirable exception of Mary), socialise them into the dominant social norms, and that includes sexual and gender norms. As an observer of the interactions between parent’s , babies and children all my working life, it certainly chimes with my experience.

  • @Chris Cory – and these are the people, I assume, who make women feel unsafe on the street.
    I think you are overthinking it.
    If you (a man) happen to be following a woman, particularly one on their own, for any distance then expect them to get apprehensive, based on just a glance or two over their shoulder they will have registered that it is a man following them. As a man, I too get apprehensive, but I assess the threat differently and so most of the time am (reasonably) happy to continue knowing there is someone behind me, possibly altering my pace and/or route to encourage them to overtake etc.

    So I suggest the challenge for Reclaim the Streets is getting to a state of affairs where women are able to perform a similar assessment and so only take evasive action for some and not all men, which would seem to require them to gain a level of trust in men that doesn’t currently seem to exist.

  • Michael Bukola 17th Mar '21 - 3:30am

    This whole situation is part of a permissive society which we as liberals have created, particularly with regard to sexual freedom. We opened pandora’s box and gave new meaning to “deviant behavior” which has led to a race to the bottom.

  • Jayne Mansfield

    Yes, a 20 year old popular science book is not the final word on anything, just as I stated above. However, it is a good basic introduction why an idea popularised in the 17th century is wrong. Particularly when it appears over and over often unstated but as a necessity of certain underlying assumptions to an argument.

    Of course many people will disagree with at least aspects of Pinkers arguments from 20 years ago, I suspect Pinker would. I certainly have changed views in 20 years but underplaying biological aspects is still counter productive.

    I agree that there is only one aspect of nature or environment we can change, but that is not a basis to ignore the nature side. I know of several people (all male) who when very young showed signs of potentially developing anti-social tendencies (similar to others who had) where environmental adjustments were made to help them develop into well adjusted (well as well as anyone is) adults, unfortunately that help is more likely to be there where there are resources in the parents hands. Of course regardless of nature there are environments where you will cause total destruction to an individual (though more likely just to themselves rather than others).

    Mary Regnier’s claim was that boys are ““nurtured” to be bold, and entitled, and violent.” That is interesting as there is great effort made by professionals like those working in child care and teaching who seek to encourage girls to be “bold” as they are told this is lacking and certainly try and teach all children not to be entitled and violent. Most parents are certainly trying to avoid making any child entitled and violent, with most just coping and trying to ensure they are healthy, happy, can occupied themselves and have basic skills.

    Even the reference Roland makes (which sounds like it is to Will, Self and Datan from 1976; this will have repeated and tweaked) was about adult behaviour choice of toys not teaching violence. Where there is “physical” play rolling around with children this is not parents teaching children to be violent but a method of learning. Parents engage in this behaviour with both boys and girls and should not be pathologized as “violence” as it is very far from the abuse that generates damaged behaviour.

    Grand sweeping claims can be satisfying but rarely generates practical answers, the same is true to grabbing a stat from a headline without looking at the basis of it.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Mar '21 - 1:42pm

    @ Chris Cory,
    No apology necessary.

    In understand the push back to purely behaviouralist theories which became popular in the 60’s and 70’s , but I would also like to point out the evolutionary psychology is a relatively new paradigm and interdisciplinary. I am sure that you are aware that it has generated considerable controversy and conflict amongst scholars of various disciplines, of which , if you don’t mind me saying , you are just one.

    It is a sunny day and too good to waste, so I will leave you with one thought. No human is born into an environment free state. Good researchers are aware of this and try as far as possible when undertaking observational studies involving human behaviour to free themselves as far as possible from bias, but the fact remains, researchers like the general population make certain assumptions.

    Women continue to suffer violence at the hands of more that ‘ a few men’.

    @ Paul Walters .
    Excellent advice, and many of us have taught our sons to cross the road when they find themselves following a woman at night.

    I had training funded by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and supported by my then employers. Whilst I was taught such techniques as how to remove the hands of an assailant from around my neck who attacked me from behind, ( grabbing holding the thumbs and pulling them outwards away from the neck ), before making an escape, , the reality is that in the real world rather than in an artificial environment , I doubt I could successfully use the techniques of minimum violence to escape stronger men than myself. At the moment, it is women who are expected to cross the road when fearful

    I agree with every thing in Pidgeon’s article. It is a shame that some have cloth ears.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Mar '21 - 4:19pm

    Michael Bukola: It’s nothing to do with “sexual freedom”. Women don’t consent to being attacked by strangers. You can’t consent to murder. If anything, modern sexual mores are *less* tolerant of sexual violence than in previous times, which is why this has become such an issue. Morality used to be based on conformity to prescriptive social norms, which often excluded certain people and groups from protection; thus sexual attacks on women were tolerated because they supposedly “asked for it”. Nowadays it’s based on consent and consequences, which is why homosexuality is now OK while rape isn’t (whereas it used to be the other way around).

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