THE SAD REALITY OF BEING A WOMAN IN MODERN-DAY UK

Picture this – you’re sat at a train station. It’s late, but not late enough for it to be deemed odd for you to be hurriedly typing away. Most can afford to get fully immersed in whatever task is on their screen, but not me, and definitely not most women.

I have to stay alert.

Keep an eye out for my surroundings, have an exit route planned for any situation that may arise just in case a man passing me decides to approach me, and a way to de-escalate the situation if things go south. Later on, I have to ensure I’m not sat in an isolated coach and that I get an Uber from the station I’m alighting at, but also share my location with someone and…

Being a woman in the UK is a full-time occupation of its own, now more than ever.

Incidents against women, especially killings, have seen an exponential increase from 2019 to present day. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns also saw a record 1.6 million women experiencing domestic abuse, with very little being done to protect those who do not have the luxury of a peaceful home environment.

Alongside the ever-growing number of attacks on women in the UK, the downplay of the severity of the situation has become a frequent occurrence, especially online. “1 in 3”, a statistic released earlier last year to represent how many women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime has turned into an escape route for some, claiming that the daunting number must be an overstatement since not all women come forward about their experiences, and not all men are like that – because some would rather pretend things are fine than to take accountability.

The situation is painfully bleak, but what concerns me the most is that I can no longer find it in me to feel anything about it. Between Sarah Everard and the other 100 murders of women that have occurred in London since March of the past year, I found my best coping mechanism to be suppressing my emotions. If I allowed myself to grieve, not only the wrongful loss of life, but also the fact that nothing has changed in the UK, I would run myself into the ground, cry rivers that would eventually put oceans to shame. So, I keep at it, pushing for change and equality by day, clutching my keys and praying I make it home by nightfall.

I’m not alone in feeling this way, a  blanket of helplessness draped over every woman in thecountry right now, but since no two experiences are ever the same, I reached out to three women with a very simple, but very loaded question.

How does being a woman in present day UK make you feel?

(Names have been changed for privacy)

Sam, 18

I think being a woman in the modern day can be extremely toxic and detrimental to mental health. Whilst we have very violent issues such as misogyny and the current spiking scandals in clubs, there is also a prominent issue of the male gaze and women still catering to social stereotypes. A woman must look or act a certain way. There are constant beauty standards which I don’t think apply to men, and thus create an injustice. Despite the many protests to normalise a woman’s most natural form, the result has been insignificant. Alongside, women must face the horrors of sexualisation in the real world; there’s also a level of it within the psyche. No matter how you present as a woman I believe there will always be a fear of not fitting a stereotype.

Alex, 20

I’m generally androgynous which I’m completely comfortable being, but I do like to dress up more feminine occasionally, which tends to be nights out when I’m with other people and can feel safe wearing things a little more revealing [but] I’m too scared to even do that now.

Most women are familiar with being told to avoid hostility with men, regardless of whether they are genuinely interested or not. Women are to be kind, docile, and compliant because lacking in any of these traits could cost you your life. Furthermore, we are simultaneously expected to look nice, and though there has been progress in making people see that women dress purely for themselves, too many people still believe women dress for the attention of men. This ideology is as dangerous as it is stupid, further pushing misogyny into a society which seems to thrive on it as of lately and objectifying and sexualising women.

In addition, clothes aren’t a reflection of consent. A woman could wear as little or as much as she wanted and it would never give someone the right to overstep any boundaries, in any way.

Sadly, women are choosing to wear more, especially in social settings such as clubs and bars; with the advances made to stop the spiking of drinks, some have now turned to injecting drugs directly into unsuspecting women.

Olivia, 22

Being a woman is tiring! On one side, I’m supposed to be this iconic sex symbol that exudes allure and mystery, but just enough, otherwise I’m considered promiscuous. On the other, I have to be the pinnacle of purity and be submissive, docile, and unquestioning. In addition to this, my sense of fashion has been entirely warped by the white, cis-male heteronormative beauty standards. Typically, I dress in a hyperfeminine way, but I have found that this is the style of clothes which attract the most unwanted attention from men. It’s sad because I never imagined that I’d even have to consider how I dress just to lessen my chances of being harassed, when that should never be the case. Nowadays, I’ve found myself subconsciously turning to loose-fitting streetwear and have noticed that I don’t attract as much attention to myself as before.

As upsetting as it may be, I have lost hope in terms of change. This was brought on by the surge charge introduced by Uber last year at the height of the nightclub injection spiking incidents, in which once it hits midnight during the weekend, fares are increased due to “popular demand”. I totally understand that Uber is a business which must make profit, but taking advantage of such a delicate situation and forcing women to opt for routes home which may be more dangerous because the prices are too high is just heart-breaking to me.

Usually, I try to wrap up my thoughts with a bow of hope, but after searching deep within myself, I can’t say I feel hopeful. For things to change, women’s safety must be approached with preventative measures, not elaborate ways to pick up the pieces after tragedy occurs. Society needs to do right by its people, regardless of their gender.

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