I am not the problem.
My MP Chris Williams hit the news this week when he suggested we look at the merit of women-only carriages in response to the number of reported sexual offences on trains doubling over the last 5 years. The first thing to say is that it doesn’t follow that there are now more sexual offences, an increase in reporting usually means that people feel more confident that they’ll be taken seriously if they come forward to talk about their experiences. So well done to British Transport Police for their campaigns to encourage reporting. Transport companies are often reluctant to admit there is a problem as they believe it will put women off travelling but women tell us companies not addressing it is what puts them off.
So let’s talk about the issue of safety and how we can improve it. I don’t believe asking us to travel in a women-only area is the solution. This approach makes me feel like I’m the problem. So if I weren’t there dressing and acting like I want then none of this would happen? Because, well, boys will be boys? This victim blaming is wrong. As a society we need to address the real problem – men should respect women and not be allowed to believe it’s OK to harass us.
Did you see the recent BBC programme No More Boys And Girls? It wanted to see if we remove all differences in the way boys and girls are treated can we even out gaps in their achievement? Dr Javid Abdelmoneim, who ran the experiment for 6 weeks, says he knows there are basic biological differences between the sexes, but he believes our biology can’t fully explain why men and women’s life chances – from pay, to careers – are still so unequal in the UK. The results found boys treated their sisters better, girls spoke in front of the class for the first time and boys and girls said they thought boys and girls were equal. That’s the sort of society I want to live in.
But since we’re not there yet I think there is a place for women-only spaces and Nottingham Women’s Centre is one of them. A space where women who have been made to feel vulnerable, can feel safe while they find their voice and confidence again or maybe they just want to surround themselves with friendly female faces for a while or learn a new skill. So I’m not saying women-only spaces don’t play a role, services for women run by women are essential but we’re often repairing the damage men have done, lets address that and then perhaps I’ll be out of a job!
Helen Voce, CEO.