If I die at the hands of a man, I don’t want a wake. i want a riot
I’m not going to another wake. I don’t want to stay silent in the cold holding flowers. Every time another woman is murdered, I want to run down the street and cry out in primal rage.
It’s time for this era of vigils – launched by the murder of Sarah Everard and reinforced by that of Sabina Nessa and Ashling Murphy – to end. These vigils and not the protests, the liberal love child of respectability politics and coronavirus regulations, have stifled our collective anger. We travel on currents of grief and anger to stay with our sisters outside in the cold, only to return home aching with helpless rage while the power structures that kill us remain intact.
Men kill women because our society builds men who kill women. If we have any hope of stopping more women from dying, it’s not through vigils or criminal penalties for murderers. Even if a murderer is sentenced to life, the conditions that create killers are still in effect. It’s only a matter of time before the next murder.
We must pull out the roots of the problem and recast this world built for men. Gender-based violence is embedded in our social structures, norms and attitudes, which intertwine with white supremacy and capitalism to devalue women’s lives. Meanwhile, a racialized and class-based hierarchy determines which murders make headlines and who gets a vigil.
The public vigils we saw last year were all triggered by the deaths of women killed in public places. If we mobilized every time a woman was killed by a man, there would be hundreds of events each year. Two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. To stop women dying, we need public outrage not just for women killed in public, but for those killed in their own homes. Our grief cannot be reserved only for the women the white middle-class media sympathizes with.
We must collectively mourn migrant women like Urantsetseg Tserendorj, whose violent murder in Dublin last year saw no national vigil. We must collectively mourn black women such as Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman who were murdered in a London park and abused after death by police officers.
The death of every woman, whether a teacher or a sex worker, whether at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m., whether on the street or in her home, is a political touchpoint to push for change systemic. Our struggles are linked, and so are our murders.
Police and state violence
Justice is not polite public vigils for every woman killed. It’s joining the dots between the murders of all women and acknowledging that these deaths are political. It’s time to channel our grief into political strategy. Gender-based violence operates on a spectrum, at all levels of society, from interpersonal to institutional, and is scaffolded by the state’s own violent infrastructure, from police to prisons.
As we stand and cry together in the cold, the state diverts women’s deaths to reinforce this scaffolding of control. When Sarah Everard was murdered, the government took advantage of the public panic of “stranger danger” to step up its expansion of policing and surveillance.
The Home Office invited the public to respond to a consultation on its new Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy, but it turned out to be a fig leaf to legitimize funding additional and authority given to the police – who are already drunk on the powers they have. This goes hand-in-hand with the draconian new Policing Bill (currently going through the House of Lords), which will require women planning to protest must seek permission from the police or face it themselves. to police violence.
The same police who brutalized women in Clapham Common, who are accused of rape, who ignore calls from victims of domestic violence until it is too late, and whose own partners and families come forward to report the abuses in their homes, are supposed to be at the heart of a strategy for our safety.
It’s time to release our rage because our collective grief is incendiary. The Clapham Common vigil led by Sisters Uncut was liberating in its vocal challenge to police attempts to stop women from gathering. The police violence that night shows us that the state will only tolerate our grief when we are silent and return on time, but not when we stand up and claim our right to public life in courageous resistance to the systems that are killing us.