Just over two years ago, Sarah Everard was murdered as she walked home, the details are well-known and horrifying. Sabina Nessa was murdered as she walked across a park in September 2021 and Zara Aleena was murdered as she walked home after a night out in June 2022.
With International Women’s Day 2023 upon us, I have been thinking about these women and have been asking myself what kind of world we are living in where a woman cannot walk home on her own without the risk and the fear of being attacked? These women were someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s best friend. They were living their lives, doing good, building relationships, striving and aspiring and then, on the random, opportunistic whim of a murderer, that life is simply gone, snuffed out. I find it hard to get my head around this.
But then, I watched an extraordinary video on YouTube. It showed a woman, Nashali Alma, working out in the gym in her apartment building. A guy came to the door of the gym whom she recognised and assumed was there to work out too. Instead, moments after she let him in, he attacked her, intent on raping her. All of this is caught on CCTV. So when Nashali fights back and refuses to be beaten down by this guy, I found myself both despairing but also cheering. She turns the tables and beats him up instead and escapes from the gym. The last sight of him caught on the CCTV is of him weaving and wobbling unsteadily towards the exit in utter shock at what has happened to him.
Why am I telling you this? On the one hand it shows how vulnerable a woman is given that she can’t even feel safe in a gym but on the other hand, I am heartened because it is a story with a happy David and Goliath ending where the good guy wins and the bad guy gets the comeuppance he deserves…unlike the stories of those who weren’t as lucky as Nashali Alma. When asked about the incident, she said “I was confident I had the strength and mentality to fight back… I would tell every woman always to keep fighting, never give up.” But the truth is no woman should ever have to fight back in that way. The situation should not happen in the first place.
I know that these occurrences are not the norm and I also know that more men are murdered than women in the UK. But what I am talking about here is women who are targets because they are women and because they are less likely to be able to fight off their aggressor in the way that Nashali Alma did. This is an area where gender equality is, quite simply, non-existent.`
The International Women’s Day organisation is asking us whether we can imagine a gender equal world? A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. And surely no one, regardless of gender, would not want a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Surely no one is against a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. All of us want to value and celebrate difference.
Pupils have been asked to complete a survey on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within this school. I am keen to know how they feel our community stacks up when it comes to the question of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. If we can get this right within our school, then perhaps there’s a chance that we can influence wider society for the good, that is, the other spheres in which we each exist, be that within our family dynamic, within our wider friendship group, or within a team, club or society that we might be a part of.
We need to make sure that we live our lives in accordance with the beliefs that we hold. That means that what we think, what we say, what we do reflects what we know is right. And it is easier to uphold those beliefs and that moral code if we surround ourselves with others who want to do the same. It gives us confidence, reassurance and support. Affirmation if you like. But there will be times when that confidence and our belief is tested and the perfect example of this, comes in the form of Andrew Tate.
Andrew Tate is a very clever man. He portrays himself as a smooth talking, self-assured masculine man who believes in tradition, in being strong, entrepreneurial and resilient. But inextricably linked to this image is a self-confessed misogynist charged with rape, human trafficking and forming an organised criminal group. He is someone promoting toxic masculinity, the belief that women are property, that you take ownership of them and then you can do what you want with them.
If we believe in gender equity, we all have to be bold and courageous and reject the misogyny that Andrew Tate stands for.
Instead I believe we should embrace Positive masculinity. Indeed I know that most of us here already do. Positive masculinity is about overcoming the societal pressures and stereotypes coming from the likes of Andrew Tate that say certain values and emotions are ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Men can be strong and competitive, but they can also cry, be empathetic, emotionally authentic, and care for those whom they love and their mental well-being. It doesn’t make them weak, it makes them strong.
In conclusion, let’s celebrate the diverse community that we are by behaving with warmth, respect and integrity in our dealings with each other. Let’s be brave by standing up for the values that we believe in, by condemning those that undermine them and by promoting gender equity in all that we do.