After the Sarah Everard vigil, I’m more determined than ever to push for change

I went to a vigil to light a candle for a woman who I didn’t know – but I related to

Patsy Stevenson
Wednesday 24 March 2021 21:26
Comments

Related video: Police accused of 'heavy-handed' response at Sarah Everard vigil

When I think about the vigil on Clapham Common to remember Sarah Everard, the scene plays out in slow motion: the lights from the cameras were so powerful, striking my eyes in the few seconds while I lay on the floor. The unrest and the anger; the stirring of women’s voices – our collective pain reached a crescendo in that moment.

My uncle had passed away just a few weeks before and I had found a badge for women’s rights among his belongings – feeding a flame inside me that had always been there. As it turned out, that flame was about to become a fire.

At university, I am an ambassador for women in physics – promoting women in stem subjects at every corner and using my voice as an academic representative to create a bridge between students and their lecturers. I’ve always wanted to change the way things are done and to do what I can to help people have a voice that is actually listened to.

I’ve been called “terrier-like”, I’ve been labelled as “bossy”, or “loud”. Well, I am loud. I will continue to be loud. Women have been fighting for so long to change the patriarchal society that we live in – yet, when we look back to the Suffragettes, not a lot has changed.

When asked to list my experiences of sexual harassment or misogyny, the list is so long that I end up saying, “it’s a daily thing”. It comes out of my mouth so casually as if it doesn’t mean anything or doesn’t affect me but it does.

Read more:

With every additional experience, I have found myself becoming more compliant through sheer exhaustion. But not this time. After hearing about Sarah Everard’s disappearance, I was hit hard – all women were. But this time, I decided to stand back up. I refused to be a woman who would take things lying down. So, at the vigil, I looked straight down the barrel lenses of those cameras.

“What can we do to change things?” people ask me, since I became the “face” of women rebelling against misogyny. Well, I have always said the answer is dialogue. This is just the beginning of us fighting back.

People assume that means simply talking – but there is depth to dialogue, it gives way to debate. Debate turns into awareness, which can itself elicit change.

Talk to your mothers, sisters and friends about their experiences and you’ll soon realise that every woman has a story. Talk to your fathers, brothers and friends about the way they talk to and about women – the way they act when in clubs or at the workplace; the way they talk to their girlfriend behind closed doors.

If you remain silent, then it’s no different from standing by while the boot of the patriarchy lays heavy on women’s necks. For a while – after I realised my image had gone worldwide – I read the hate, soaked up the loathing comments and messages that exuded poison, and I thought about stepping back.

I knew that I could come away from it and let it fade into everyone’s memory I could carry on my life at university as normal. But then I read through the messages and comments again: multitudes of women and young girls trying to reach me, to tell me that I had given them the courage to say no, that I had become an image of rebellion against a misogynistic narrative that we weren’t going to stand for any longer.

I received messages from women who had decided for the very first time to tell someone about what had happened to them. I cried. I thought of my cousins, young girls who will grow up into a world where they feel unable to walk down a street at night without fear. I thought of every woman who has been trapped for too long.

I decided that I wouldn’t step down, I wouldn’t back away and I would project my voice louder. I want to listen to women who have the education and research under their belts about how the system works against us and how to combat sexism. I want to join with them and talk with them and gain strength together with them.

It’s been a week since I went to a vigil to light a candle for a woman who I didn’t know, but I related to. I’m not going anywhere – and neither should you.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

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

Comments

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