Why the UK’s appropriate response to Sarah Everard’s death highlights it’s inappropriate lack of concern for inclusive Feminism.
The tragic death of Sarah Everard has thrown up a lot of emotions in society. For men, it seems to be evoking a need for them to be defensive for their sex and reiterate what anyone with sense knows-that, not all men are bad. For women, it has reiterated what knowledge we already have – that women’s lives are generally valued less than men’s, particularly in our western societies. And this is the general idea that many of us have rallied around in solidarity with the notion that women deserve to feel safe in their day to day lives. The fact that the person accused of committing this crime is a police officer angers us all the more because it only hammers home what our progressive 21st century society is always trying to gaslight us into denying: that even now, women are preyed upon.
But then there are those in the intersections of womanhood that feel doubly hard done by this crisis. This whole situation has illuminated, in more ways than one, that Black and poor lives really don’t matter in our society. And for anyone who doesn’t understand that, it’s because of the reaction that Sarah’s death has elicited.
The reaction of Sarah’s death: the outrage, the writings, the videos, the official statements, the anger, the distrust, have all been proportionate. These are just and correct reactions to the loss of an innocent life because there are no circumstances under which the loss of life is never a small matter.
But what this proportionate reaction demonstrates to millions of others in the UK is that other women who have been unjustly killed and not gotten this reaction, are less valued because they do not fall under the socially acceptable economic or racial profiles that Sarah did.
Shukri Abdi: Her death is still not solved and is no longer reported on.
Blessing Olusegan: I wasn’t even aware of her death in a major way save for a few thumbnails on BBC here and there and posts on Instagram- it’s practically been brushed aside.
And these are only two examples of some of the more recently relatively notorious incidents, but there are others. And history tells us that even poorer white women are not given proportionate reactions of grief.
And part of the reason for this is the ego of those protesting. Those who are speaking up, coming on TV and reporting on the Sarah’s case are those who saw themselves, or someone close to them, in her. Her passing has caused so much visible outrage because many people are thinking: “well, that could have been me or someone I love”. And as always, that is one of the major shortcomings of Western Feminism- it only seeks to protect it’s own- white, cis, and economically well off women.
But those who could have been represented by women like Shukri or Blessing are routinely excluded from Western Feminism and don’t have that vocal power to announce that their lives, and lives of women who look like them, matter also. And it just not okay. Families are grieving, and it isn’t right that some families are given more love than others. Their race and backgrounds shouldn’t matter – a life is a life
And Shabham Chaudhri’s comments on BBC news a few days ago only articulated what we all already know is a very common idea amongst white people and other non-black ethnic minorities: that valuing-and visibly appearing to value- black and poor lives is an affront to what they deem to be normal and decent. This is why Chaudhri had them vim to come on SKY NEWS, stand on national TV and imply- not so subtly- that Police brutality is justified when seeking justice for Black lives because they shouldn’t get justice anyway. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t even a Freudian slip. Chaudhri meant exactly what she said. She simply didn’t expect anyone to pick up on it because most of what she was saying was reasonable- and she thought that her BLM comment was equally reasonable.
In response to the brutality at Sarah’s vigil, Sadiq Khan is now trying to make Misogyny a hate crime. While I don’t necessarily agree with that, simply because of the logistics of implementing such a law, it begs the question: would such overt and clear action have been taken if the unfortunate victim hadn’t been a white, middle-class Londoner? And would white middle class Londoners be so effected if the victim had been an ethnic minority – especially a black woman? Would they even have noticed?
There haven’t been many women unaffected by Sarah Everard’s death. Black women, Asian women, Arab women alike have all been deeply saddened and frightened by her passing, so the media and public figures shouldn’t be trying to create a divide between those who deserve to be seen and grieved and those who apparently don’t. New protective laws, public anger and official inquiries, need be the responses to the death of any woman, just as every woman would be, and has been, effected by the lack of them.
It should never be the case that one life elicits outrage while others don’t. It shouldn’t be possible that the value of human life can be determined by public media perception. All life is important, regardless of whose it is. And that fact that people keep declaiming that the UK doesn’t have racism, but Black, minority ethnic and poorer lives keep getting trampled underfoot, speaks volumes about that state of the UK’s priorities.
I hope Sarah and her family get the justice they deserve, because no one should have to live through this. But her unfortunate passing is a tragedy for all women – not just women who look like her. That being said, I also hope Blessing, Shukri, and every other woman that has ever been unjustly harmed, get their peace too, because the media, politicians and public figures have made it crystal clear that they have no intentions of seeking it for them.
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