Safe on the Streets?


Gender Agenda

Gender Agenda

Issue 4 Lent 2003

The magazine of


Women's Union

Safe on the Streets?

Jo Read

Amongst the throng of student protesters attempting to overturn Margaret Hodge’s car and put
an end to war-mongering plans to eviscerate the Iraqi people, more and more student attention
seems to be focusing on how they’ll be walking home tonight. This academic year has seen an
unfortunately high number of assaults and offences against students on the streets of
Cambridge and a discouraging amount of institutional support for students’ plans to do
something about the situation. This week, the Women’s Union have been publicising their
upcoming forum, ‘Can women ever be safe?’ which invites all interested parties to discuss the
effects of street crime on women and how women are affected by the social reaction to crime
and ‘victim society’.

Most people have been aware of the recently formed ‘Reclaim the Night’ campaign group in
Cambridge, which has been involved in the CUSU street-lighting campaign and organising
self-defence classes around the colleges in a bid to make people more aware of safety problems
in Cambridge but in making a stand against them. Whether or not this reflects the interest of
the majority of students, it has certainly raised an interesting question about how people
feel about safety in Cambridge; furthermore, how is this concern reflected in the female
population? Not to resort to stereotypes, but are women more fearful? Spiders and menopause
and childbirth and sweaty men aside, some fears are grounded in common sense but dismissed on
both sides as ‘weak’ and ‘sexist’ respectively. In truth though, women are more likely
[simply statistically] to be attacked in Cambridge than men. But how do women respond to
this, and how should they: not leaving college without a boyfriend, or strutting their stuff
through the mean streets of Cambridge town. I think we can all agree that people leaving
themselves open to attack in order to prove some kind of point is 1) not worth
it; 2) stupid. The question remains though, are marches and awareness campaigns
scare-mongering the majority of the population who choose not to ‘reclaim’ their night but
don’t want their female status and/or the perils of walking home at night to get in the way of
their evening. Whilst it may be liberating for the marchers themselves, perhaps everyone else
doesn’t see the point, or perhaps object to it. At any rate, Thursday’s forum looks set to be
an interesting one.

 


 

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