Victim blaming young girls after the Manchester attack won't defeat Isis

What men seek to condemn – by questioning the appropriateness of allowing young women and girls to attend concerts – is different only by degree

Kirsty Major
Thursday 01 June 2017 15:17 BST
Ariana Grande is holding a tribute concert in Manchester
Ariana Grande is holding a tribute concert in Manchester (Getty )

Victim blaming is nothing new for young girls: dressing inappropriately, drinking and being out late have always made them fair game for rapists in the eyes of those “just looking out for them”. And now we can add leaving the house at all, especially if the destination is a concert of a scantily clad pop-star. That must make them in some way responsible for being victims of terrorism.

In a comment piece for the Spectator this week, Rod Liddle writes that although Manchester attack was caused by “the usual organised Islamic wickedness... there are indeed no caveats as such”, he nevertheless has a further question for the audience and their parents: “Should they have been there? Was it appropriate?”

They were in the wrong place – a concert of a “woman singing about sex, and little else” – at the wrong time.

Manchester attack: City pays tribute one week on

While the rest of us grapple with the issues of why a young man felt so alienated from those around that he embraced Islamic extremism, or whether short sighted British foreign policy might have facilitated his training, apparently others are pondering on something else: what could those little girls and their parents who attend that concert have done differently to prevent being killed by a terrorist?

Manchester was every parent’s worst nightmare. Their impulse will naturally be to shelter their children. But this type of heavy-handed protectionism is an expression of the very misogyny that led to the extremist attack in the first place.

A statement released by Isis claiming responsibility for the atrocity did not mention women explicitly as their targets, but instead condemned what it called a “shameless concert arena”. However the link is clear: Ariana Grande is a female pop star who sings about inhibited female sexuality, and her fan base is made up, in large part, by young women and girls. That the attack took place last Monday was not a coincidence; it represented the cultural antithesis of how Isis expect women to behave in society.

In Isis-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria, women are treated as property. They are forbidden to leave the house without a male relative, threatened with punishment if they don't wear "appropriate" clothing and are regularly denied their human rights.

What men such as Liddle seek to condemn – by questioning the appropriateness of allowing young women and girls to attend, often unaccompanied, concerts that explore such themes as liberation and sexuality – is different only by degree.

In the aftermath of the Manchester attack, parents might be scared to let their children, especially their young daughters, out to a show such as this. But allowing them this basic freedom, one that we take for granted in the West, is the only way we counter the extremist ideology of Isis. We prove that we are not afraid; that we are more tolerant and liberal than those that seek to destroy our society.

We can be proud that, in modern Britain, young women are trusted and respected enough to have a level of personal autonomy, to go out at night and be safe. They can listen to whatever music they like and wear whatever they like. They can self-actualise, become independent and be happy.

Children won’t always be children; one day, whether you like it or not, go wherever they please. Parents need to equip young women with the confidence and skills to navigate this world. That’s how you protect them, by giving them the skills to protect themselves.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in