When I first heard about the murder of Asha Muneer on the news last night, my blood boiled a little bit. Obviously at the fact that someone has taken the life of this teenager, but also at the way the murder was reported on my local news in a 10 second segment. Listening to that 10 seconds, you could only take away the impression that the most important part of the story was not that a life had been lost but was instead a combination of (1) a woman was walking (2) it was dark and (3) she was alone. Why these facts taken together were deemed to be so important is a mystery. Well, it is if you discount the over-riding patriarchy commandment that women shouldn’t go out on their own and certainly not after the sun has set (cos only prostitutes do that, see? and whatever they get they deserve, OK?). Discount that and you’re left with no reason at all why. As it was the message was brief but clear: she’s been murdered but it is somehow, in a way we can’t explicitly spell out but we’ll provide the dots and let you join them up, her fault.
I let it go, though. I spend too much of my time being mad.
But then I unfortunately read this in the Guardian this morning http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/19/teenager-murdered-reading-river-footpath and again this emphasis on the actions of the victim, only this time we got the ‘expert’ opinions of local dogwalkers who expressed ‘shock’ at the death, ‘but said the stretch of footpath was considered dangerous to walk on at night.’ So, they’re shocked but not entirely surprised? If you’re stupid enough to walk on it at night, you get what you deserve, huh? One (female) dogwalker asserted that she ‘would never go down there in the dark on [her] own.’ The inference of the article is clear, viz: we have no idea about what happened or why, but we’re sure that the victim had some culpability in her own death by her own ignorance and stupidity and, unfortunately we can’t even go on about the fact that she was drunk (cos she was on her way home from work) so we’ll light upon the fact that she was ‘female, alone, in the dark’. Like that’s the real crime here.
How about this instead: a teenager was walking home minding her own business when somebody decided to brutally murder her; whilst we have no other facts at this time, we are completely certain that culpability for the murder rests entirely with the murderer.