Warning: this post discusses violence against women.
The clash of hope and despair this week, between the celebration of International Women’s Day, the Meghan Markle interview and the murder of Sarah Everard, feels so stark. It is clear from talking to friends, family and colleagues that Sarah’s murder is an extreme end of a continuum that stretches from opportunities and expectations to words to harassment to emotional and physical harm and murder. This is not something from the past; it is not rare or exceptional: in 21st century Britain, 97 per cent of young women have been sexually harassed.
This is something that men must take collective responsibility for. How we choose our role models, how we raise children, what we think is funny, what we notice, what we believe and excuse, what we say and do, what we choose not to say and do… It is neither a burden nor a threat to take this responsibility. It is a burden to choose the long way home to prevent someone finding where you live. It is a burden to work harder to get to the same place. Threat is living with the possibility and reality of violence.
Reading the outcomes of and responses to the Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle also reminds me that prejudice is layered across multiple identities. There was certainly an ongoing racist component to her reception and it was also another example of treating a woman as a vessel or projection of our outmoded expectations. And there is regular violence to women of colour that does not get acted upon appropriately.
I am proud that, at Teach First, we have the privilege of working with passionate trainees, teachers, leaders and partners who are striving to raise the next generation better and to build a fairer, safer country. If there are ways that we can support you better in these tasks, or organisation whose work I should know of, please let me know.