I wasn’t planning on writing anything for this years IWD. I think on the surface it looks a lot like we’ve taken huge strides towards equality for all, stamping out sexism and discrimination towards women, and reducing violence against women and girls globally.

The theme for this years IWD is ‘Choose to Challenge’ which when I thought about it meant that despite all the strides we have taken, we should always try and take more.

And so what will follow is my stance and opinion on ‘protective behaviours’ that girls and women are encouraged to do in order to keep themselves safe and why it’s a pile of bullshit designed to keep the spotlight solely on the failings of women, with no responsibility placed on anyone else. The following accounts are things I’ve come across this week alone. I hope they make you unapologetically uncomfortable.

Case Study 1.

A women goes out for a run along the canal, alone. If you’re thinking *well there’s her first mistake* then please let me tell you that you are part of the problem. Anyway, a women goes for a run along the canal alone. This is something she does frequently and enjoys. On this particular occasion however a man cycles up behind her, punches her in the back of the head and cycles off. Now, if we are to buy into the blame culture of women that exists literally everywhere we would decide that actually if she hadn’t been alone then it wouldn’t have happened ergo it’s her fault for not protecting herself properly. Wrong.

Case Study 2.

A women realises that she has been spiked and raped by someone she knows. She remembers vivid details of falling over, of hitting her head, of the aftermath. She blames herself for drinking. If she hadn’t drunk so much she would’ve been more aware. If she hadn’t drunk so much she would’ve been able to recall more details for the police. If she hadn’t drunk so much she would’ve been safer. If she hadn’t drunk so much she would’ve got a taxi home in stead of walking ergo it’s her fault for not protecting herself properly. Wrong.

You might think that these are extreme examples but if we are actually going to challenge discrimination and inequality and sexism then we have to face up to the fact that by attempting to equip our young girls with protective behaviours that they can employ in order to stay safe from men all we’re doing is creating a culture where women will blame themselves first, and look for justice second. Because if a women is told, or can find something that she could’ve done in order to prevent the situation from occurring then all we’ve done is blame her. And we’ve lost.

So when our children are groomed online we tell them they should’ve had more awareness of what was happening to them. They should’ve noticed and told someone. It’s their fault. And we put the responsible on children to be capable enough to spot very clever manipulation and grooming. Doesn’t make sense to me.

So when a women freezes when she is attacked we tell them if they had shouted or fought back they would’ve been safer. They should’ve reacted differently. It’s their fault.

It seems like if we want to stay safe we should never go online, never make friends, never have a relationship, never get a job or go to university, never live with someone, never go outside, never drink alcohol, never do anything alone. Because then we’d be safe.

How about we tackle the actual issue – and it’s not the fact that women bring it on themselves. But maybe it’s easier to just attempt to keep women safe.

And in amongst that, we have 3 million, yes THREE MILLION women and girls who are trafficked globally each year and it’s not even news. Why isn’t it headline news every night of the week?!

We have on average, 0%, yes ZERO PERCENT, of women on average who are promoted after having children. Because typically women go back to work part time and there aren’t many promoted posts that are offered at part time hours. What are we doing about that?!

We have an almost 1% conviction rate for rape because typically we’ll wonder what the women did to deserve it.

We have women who are called mad, or crazy, or even liars for talking about their mental health and how they were driven from a country due to deep rooted racism and sexism. Very very few people lie about feeling suicidal. Many many more are called liars for stating they feel suicidal. And to have the audacity to say it on a global scale? Scandal. So we calm her controlling, manipulative, self centred, power hungry, and disingenuous. Because women are ok when they’re in their boxes. And we wonder why mental health is still such a taboo subject?

So it might seem like we have taken huge strides into equality and acceptance for women and girls.

But have we really?

I’m not so sure…