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Theme #7 for Feminist Fact Friday

Warning: sensitive subjects will feature throughout this August’s theme, including harassment, assault, rape and murder. These are all subjects that affect many women and are therefore necessary to cover in Feminist Fact Friday. Please take care when reading on and use your own discretion – there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first if you find any of these subjects difficult to read about.

Throughout the past six months of posts there has been a clear thread tying every single fact together, but it’s been more than just discrimination or sexism guaranteeing worse outcomes for people because of their gender (and even more so if their intersectional identities make them part of BAME or LGBTQ+ communities) – rather, it’s the progression from thoughts, to words, to actions that is so insidious and hard to define that even proving the issue exists is a struggle.

For the first six months I’ve often loosely collected facts under a theme, but not made the progression above as clear. This changed a little in my sixth month – SPORT – where I demonstrated the strong interlinking influences of poor media coverage, investment and reward to make a case for how women were clearly held back. But in month 7, where I address one of the gravest themes to date, I’d like to focus clearly on the escalation from threatening language (that is often patronisingly and misogynistically labelled ‘innocent’) through to menacing behaviour, then outright violence and finally to murder.

There’s no-one who puts this better than Caroline Criado-Perez, an author and campaigner I have quoted often in Feminist Fact Friday:

There is an irony in how the female body is apparently invisible when it comes to collecting data, because when it comes to the second trend that defines women’s lives, the visibility of the female body is key. That trend is male sexual violence against women – how we don’t measure it, don’t design our world to account for it, and in so doing, allow it to limit women’s liberty. Female biology is not the reason women are raped. It is not the reason women are intimidated and violated as they navigate public spaces. This happens not because of sex, but because of gender: the social meanings we have imposed on male and female bodies. In order for gender to work, it must be obvious which bodies elicit which treatment. And, clearly, it is: as we’ve seen, ‘the mere sight of a woman’ is enough for the viewer to ‘immediately elicit a specific set of associated traits and attributions’. To immediately class her as someone to speak over. Someone to cat call. Someone to follow. Someone to rape.

Caroline Criado-Perez, Invisible Women, page 313 *

* Cikara, Mina and Fiske, Susan T. (2009) Warmth, competence, and ambivalent sexism: Vertical assault and collateral damage’, in Barreto, Manuela, Ryan, Michelle K. and Schmitt, Michael T. (eds), The glass ceiling in the 21st century: Understanding barriers to gender equality,