Being a woman means your life is always in danger - it's exhausting to live like this

Being a woman means your life is always in danger - it's exhausting to live like this

A FORTNIGHT has now gone by since Aisling Murphy was murdered and all of Ireland is still convulsed by this shocking crime.

Last week, vigils were organised here in Ireland and throughout the world.  People wanted to gather to lament this young woman’s death and to convey their sorrow to her family and friends.

But that wasn’t the only reason people gathered.

Sadness and grief may have been the prevailing sentiments expressed at these vigils, but people expressed anger too, especially women.

Why had Aisling been killed?  So far, it seems as if the only reason this happened was because she was a woman and to be a woman means your life is always in danger.

Girls learn this when they are very young.  We are told that we should never be out alone in the darkness.

Nor should we wear certain types of clothes except on the beach.  Even there, we should make sure to steer clear of any strange men.

These are thoughts that preoccupy women throughout their lives.

How will we make our way home at night-time?  What will we do if we find ourselves alone?

There can’t be a single woman out there who hasn’t been frightened out of her wits by the sounds of footsteps behind her on a dark street.

Nor can there be a woman who doesn’t feel anxious if she’s by herself in a place where there are lots of men.

We worry about what will happen if they start catcalling us or making lewd comments, even if they say it’s “just a joke”.

We plan our funny retorts while also searching for potential escape routes.

Women simply can’t trust men that they don’t know personally.  They can’t even be fully sure of trusting all of those.

It’s exhausting to live like this, constantly on the alert for danger.  That’s one of the reasons why so many gathered at these vigils.  Every single woman, young or old, wants this to stop.

It pains me to acknowledge that women won’t be able to change this situation by themselves.

Sure, we can speak out and share our stories.  But it’s the men we speak to who have to change and the society around them has to apply pressure in order for them to do so.

Legislation needs to be strengthened in order to demonstrate that violence to women is unacceptable.

Any man who assaults a woman should receive a heavy sentence and while in prison, he should be mandated to attend rehabilitation classes to learn why he is so angry and how to regulate his anger properly, without taking it out on women or anyone else around him.

Women’s domestic violence refuges need to be properly funded and society needs to stand by these women, letting men know that their violence against them is entirely unacceptable.

Children and teenagers need to be taught lessons in school.

Gendered violence needs to be discussed in sex education classes, with the message that a proper man acts to stop it wherever he encounters it.

I think that many of the philosophies that underlie our society need to change, and feminist principles need to be implemented in their stead.

For generations, while girls have been taught that they need to be careful around men, boys have been told to suppress their emotions.

They learn that presenting a front of strength is what’s most important and this does huge damage to them, while also contributing to major problems in society.

Because men grow up unable to speak about their emotions, they keep all of these emotions inside until they become too difficult to suppress and they explode.

All too often, this explosion is one of violent anger, especially anger against women.

If we allow our young boys to be vulnerable, if we encourage them to understand and discuss their emotions, they will be happier in themselves.

When they grow up, all of society will be healthier and safer because of it.

One last thing I think all women should do is to ask the men they trust to speak out if ever they hear other men talking about women in ways that are misogynistic and offensive.

If enough men were to do this, they might be able to change these men’s perspectives.  At the very least, they would show them that such views were unacceptable.

Poor Aisling.  Nothing any of us can do will bring her back.

Nor can we bring back any of the other 244 women who have been murdered by men here in Ireland since 1996.

But we should remember them, and we should try to change society for them and the women who will come after them.

That would be an appropriate tribute to Aisling and to every other woman who has suffered at the hands of a man.