I’m pretty lucky here in Australia: I live less than 10 minutes from a beautiful long beach, and walk and/or jog down it at least twice a week. This morning was no different, although the stormy sky was threatening rain, so there were a lot less people than usual.
I power walked along– away from the break wall with its dots of fishing folk and pram pushers avoiding the sand- watching for the spouting of migrating whales, listening to great music, and enjoying feeling stronger and energetic again after surviving my week on refugee rations.
I passed a few dog walkers, who have to turn back after 500 metres, to protect nesting birds.; I challenged myself to run as fast as I could for 30 seconds, and felt the push and stretch of my muscles. I smiled at the rolling waves, the odd seagull, the wind whipping my hair under my woollen hat and hoodie.
It felt good to be alive, and I didn’t want to stop walking.
Then I saw a lone figure further down, coming towards me, but still a long way away. I looked back in the direction I’d come, and realised there was quite a distance now between me and the restricted dog walkers, and even further still to the break wall.
I kept walking forwards though, until I could make out that the distant shape belonged to a man.
And then I stopped. I had to. Through grinding teeth, I let out a pissed off sigh, and admitted to myself that I didn’t want to go any further, because I simply didn’t feel safe.
On June 13 in Melbourne, a 22-year old comedian called Eurydice Dixon was murdered while walking home from a gig late at night. There were comments that she ‘…should have been more careful/shouldn’t have been walking alone/shouldn’t have been on her phone…’
NO. No, no, no no!
She had a right to be safe, and to move as she wished through her world. Over the next few days, hundreds of women shared how they modified their behaviour to protect themselves (in supermarkets, carparks, beaches, nightclubs, schoolyards, pubs, parks in broad daylight, and of course even the family home…) and yes, I do it as well.
I just wanted to keep running and snapping silly selfies, all fired up listening to the Arctic Monkeys on my headphones… but because of you, damn solo beach walking unidentified male, I stopped myself.
How many times do we do this, women readers? And how many times do you men modify your movements to actively reassure us? To acknowledge the unspoken, unwitting threat you represent, and to defuse it?
How I wish this post didn’t exist. But sadly, for all of us- male/female/non-binary/fluid/whatever- it does.
And we are ALL trapped in the jaws of violence against women.