A couple of days ago, the press reported that the parents of Rachel Manning, whose boyfriend was wrongly convicted and served 6 years in jail for her murder, said publicly that their daughter would still be alive if he had not `abandoned her’ during a night out. But is it still the duty of men to look after women? Should they act like they did fifty years ago when we were considered the weaker sex? Or has a too radical feminist movement killed off the idea altogether?
In recent years issues like compulsory numbers of women on boards (which affects the wealthy elite) has counterbalanced the general safety of women and girls alone on the streets. This matter is fast arising with the growing number of crimes against women. In the UK one in three girls are now ‘groped’ at school and sexual harassment is routine. Rape porn sites are flourishing. 85,000 women a year suffer that actual fate, and 400,000 sexually assaulted. New campaigns like the Everday Sexist Project has highlighted how women traveling on tubes and buses on their own are most at risk.
To one extreme, some Arab nations still prohibit women ever traveling alone. A fairly liberal country like Jordan only lifted restrictions ten years ago. Ask why these limits are imposed and the answer is usually `for their own welfare’. It’s not even an issue of equality. Contrary to common perception, some Arab women have been copying closely Western scholastic patterns. Girls have outperformed boys in the classroom and women outnumber men in higher education. And, undistracted by celebrity culture or the desire to marry a footballer, they’ve not had a hang-up about studying science subjects, either.
Have we got our priorities right? While our emancipation has allowed us more control over our own lives (i.e a woman can now get a job and so escape the evil wife-beater) what about outside primal forces? While men were advantaged in many ways, it was always expected that they would rise to the rescue. Not any more. Raised on a diet of `men and women are equal in every single way’ and with Hollywood unrealistically showing heroines punching men out, are we preparing young women for the stark realities of life?
It’s time we put the matter of risk into the melting pot of inequality. Do we want legislation or protection? Realistically we can’t have both.