The dark side of Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month occurs every March and is dedicated to celebrating and highlighting women’s contributions to history and society.

Just three days into this month, 33-year-old Sarah Everard disappeared in South London. Sadly, the disappearance of women is all too common and often does not make world headlines. However, the discovery of Sarah Everard’s remains on Friday, March 10, sparked outrage not only across the United Kingdom but throughout the world.

I watched the photographs and videos from the vigils held in South London and grieved for Sarah, who had a full life ahead of her, a family who loved her and a significant other waiting for her to get home. The tragedy of Everard being kidnapped and murdered was compounded when it was revealed that her murderer was someone who is supposed to protect the public– a police officer. How can we expect women to ever feel safe in society when the people whose sole job is to keep the public safe from harm are the perpetrators of violence against us?

On the evening of March 16 a gunman opened fire on three separate Atlanta spas. Seven of the eight victims were women. Six of the eight victims were Asian women. The white male sheriff captain who spoke following the attack said that the gunman was “having a bad day,” opting for language that empathized with and excused the murderer, rather than calling the shooting what it was: a hate crime.

On March 10, 2021, just days after Sarah Everard’s disappearance, UN Women United Kingdom released new data in a study done on 1,089 women in the UK. Only 3% of women aged 18-24 reported that they had never experienced any type of sexual harassment. This is a deeply troubling revelation, but for many women and teen girls, it wasn’t surprising.

This released statistic led many to take to social media, posting infographics and calls for action. The statistic — becoming colloquially referred to as “the 97%” of women from this study who have been a victim of some type of sexual harassment in their lifetime — exploded over many platforms. Many TikTok users made videos detailing their Instagram feeds, specifically, how they were overwhelmed with posts from women shedding light on the violence and harassment women face daily, but, for the most part, silence from men.

But to be honest, I don’t care about men posting on their Instagram stories. I saw men — men who I personally know and that are friends with accused rapists or known anti-feminists — repost infographics or quotes on violence and harassment against women. It was alarming — and I’m sure the countless other women consuming the same content on their accounts felt the same way.

Don’t feel pressured into advocating for something you don’t believe in. Speaking on behalf of my fellow women, we don’t want to see your performative feminism. If you truly want to help us, examine your personal interactions with women, and examine your friend’s actions. If you stay friends with someone who participates or has participated in the sexual harassment of women, you are just as bad. You are being a passive bystander, and therefore an active enabler.

During the month where the world is supposed to uplift and honor women, society has let us down the most. As I write this article, we are only 24 days into March. I am scared for the future of our world and the women in it.

I hope the events of this March not only shed light on the ugly treatment of women in the world but also ignite change in those who have enabled it for far too long. Instead of trying to prove women wrong constantly, why don’t we start believing them? Is the news in this article not enough for you? The women in your life are calling on you to make a change in your real-life interactions. Respect all women you encounter, not just women you like, not just women you find attractive and not just women you know personally. We often see rhetoric saying “these victims could have been your mother, sister or grandmother,” but a woman shouldn’t need to be someone’s something to earn basic levels of empathy and humanity.