I have disobeyed police orders. Orders which were given expressly for my own safety. And how have I achieved this? Why by venturing out on my own after dark. Admittedly it was 5pm and I was going to Sainsbury’s, but as far as I can gather from advice given by Avon and Somerset police, it is standard for women to stay in after dark rather than go out on their own. The fact that this has put every woman in the northern hemisphere on a 14 hour a day curfew for around 6 months of the year does not seem to bother them.
Joanna Yeates’ murder has not dominated the news to quite such an extent this week though there is still plenty of feverish speculation about what happened. I am mindful of the fact that at the heart of this is the tragic story of a young life cut brutally short. It’s just unfortunate that on the periphery, and at times vying for centre stage, is a missing ski sock, a pizza and a comic turn from the boys in blue the like of which I haven’t witnessed since I saw Much Ado About Nothing in the open air theatre at Regents Park and they made the 3 policeman all wear the same cape so that in effect one be-caped beast had 3 heads and 6 legs, and all 3 heads were made to sing in unison.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know the police have to give out advice and I appreciate it. If it’s sensible advice that helps I particularly appreciate it. Since I’m the sort of person who carries a handbag with nothing in it as a foil to muggers whilst stuffing ten pound notes in my bra and doing irreparable damage to my credit card by carrying it around in my shoe I probably don’t need someone to tell me to be careful when opening the front door, but I applaud the effort. However, Avon and Somerset really did surpass themselves. To be clear, they said that lone women should avoid going out after dark on their own. There’s more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/01/03/jo-yeates-murder-detective-warns-women-not-to-walk-alone-at-night-115875-22822796/ (Yes, I know it’s the Mirror. I like to read it from time to time to remind myself why I don’t read it more often). It just isn’t practical advice, not to anybody holding down a 9-5 job in winter. Actually not to anyone since insisting that women stay in after 4pm in the winter is basically idiotic.
It’s not that I have a problem with advice to women in general, I have a problem with this piece of advice and I have a problem with the fact that whilst men are more likely to be the victim of crimes, police do not seem to think they need to be given similar advice. Somewhere in here is a good topic for a masters student, if it hasn’t been done already. After a man is killed, do the police routinely say that men should not go out alone after dark? How do they tailor this advice? If they think there is a racial motivation, do they caution everyone of a particular race to stay in? No, not generally, and imagine the outcry if they did. My guess, and yes at the moment it is just a guess, is that we are so used to infantilising women, in a way that we do not infantilise other groups, that often we don’t even know we are doing it. The only group that I can think of that receive similar advice is the elderly and again I think the motivation is similar – taking care of a group whom we consider to be slightly less than capable of taking care of themselves.
There was much else besides in the news – much of it concerning floods in various parts of the world though let’s face it none of it was funny. (Well OK, I found the idea of a shark in the streets of Brisbane wryly amusing whilst realising that it was anything but for the more usual denizens of the city. Come to think of it, I don’t suppose the shark was having that much fun either). Thinking of toothy grins, Palin tripped herself up again, perhaps even more spectacularly than when she couldn’t work out which Korea was which. I sometimes find myself wondering if Palin isn’t actually a plant by the Democrats, in much the same way that I idly wonder if Widdecombe is actually Labour’s secret weapon.
But to end the week back where we started on nonsense advice to women, I have to give a special mention to Kenneth Tong. For those of you who haven’t heard of him Tong is known (I can’t bring myself to write ‘famous’) for being wealthy, stupid, and on Big Brother, though I appreciate that might not narrow the field down too much for you. For those of you who haven’t come across it yet, Tong had a remarkable interview with Johann Hari which is available here: http://www.johannhari.com/2011/01
Now Tong did some rather ill-advised tweeting in which he put forward the idea of ‘managed anorexia’ and argued that women should be a size zero and that being plus size made women ‘sub par’. I’m not really sure I should give the obnoxious little man any more attention than he has already had so I’ll keep this fairly brief. He said some frankly bizarre things about how it’s good to starve. He has been rounded on because much of what he said was downright dangerous. In amongst all his ranting gibberish he seemed to think that women should be a size zero to be successful and attract men.
By ‘size zero’ I’m assuming that Tong is referring to American sizing, although it is entirely possible that Tong himself doesn’t know to what he is referring. A US size zero is a UK size 4. I’m a UK size 8 so in order to get down to a UK size 4, I would have to lose 4” (10cm) off my hips and bust. Given that I’m already very slim, the only way I can think of to do this is just to cut my bum off. I’m not going to do this. Mainly because it would be very detrimental to my health but also because it’s my bum and I find it quite useful. These are my main reasons for having no desire whatsoever to change my shape. Trailing away in a very distant third place is the fact that I seriously doubt that I would become more attractive to the opposite sex were I to get rid of my arse.
Frankly, I think women should completely ignore anything Tong might ever say. I know that even stopped clocks are right twice a day but I doubt he would ever manage those giddy heights of exactitude. By and large I wouldn’t take too much notice of Avon and Somerset police either although in fairness the advice they offer here http://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/community_safety/crime_reduction/violent_crime/personal_safety/on_foot.aspx
makes a lot more sense than the things quoted more generally in the media. I suppose one could follow Tong’s advice and get down to a size zero, thereby enabling one to travel safely in the dark because, should anyone appear and look murderous, you could simply turn sideways and disappear. No, scratch that. I’m off to strike a blow for feminism by going out in the dark to get more food. I would hope that by 2011 we would have got further along than this, but sadly it seems not.