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Being a woman in the UK in March 2021

A statement from North London Music Therapy

On this week in March 2021, which started with International Women’s Day, we discovered:

  • A survey that found 97% of young women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment,

  • A mixed race woman who married into one of the most powerful family institutions in the UK experienced such racism towards herself and her child that she moved across the world to attempt to regain some agency,

  • A woman who “did all the right things” was abducted and murdered anyway when all she was trying to do was walk home after seeing a friend.

When the statistics are that universal, how do we begin to do the work? Who needs to do the work? Hint: it’s not anyone who identifies as female.

As Nadia Whittome MP says, using passive language to describe the violence against women shifts responsibility onto women and away from their perpetrators, overwhelmingly men.

As Daniel Sloss says, no it’s #notallmen (eye roll), but even if it’s 10% of men and the other 90% are standing by, why aren’t the 90% taking action?

It may not be all men, but it is all women.

As Cathy Kamara/@thatsinglemum articulates so beautifully, every woman’s death is appalling and horrific, but there is an uncomfortable truth that the story in the news at the moment appears to be gaining wider traction as the woman in question was white, cis and able bodied. Disabled women, black women, trans women and sex workers are statistically at a higher risk of abduction, rape and murder but their stories are so often not told.

Women know already to text our friends that we’ve arrived home safely, drop a pin to show our location when out on dates or in an unfamiliar place, keep keys in our fists as we walk. Many of us have experienced speeding up when someone is walking too closely behind, holding our breath as we walk past a large group of men, checking behind us too many times to see if he has crossed the road with us, if he’s really following us or if he “just feels intimidating”.

In the music industry, 48% of musicians polled in the Musician’s Union 2019 report had experienced sexual harassment while at work.

The power dynamics endemic in our workplaces, in our society at large, are not skewed towards women. Consequences are left with women. If there is a problem in the workplace, so often the victim has to leave or make some change, not the perpetrator - instead “heads up” go round: “Don’t be on your own with him,” while a woman somewhere has lost a meaningful opportunity because she didn’t want to be groped every time she went into work, or worse.

NLMT has an all-female staff team. We are tired and we’ve had enough. The patriarchal society we live in is literally killing women, daily. And we can say this from various positions of privilege - we are white, middle class, cis, able bodied women.

Therapy itself ends up being a privileged undertaking a lot of the time because it is an expensive service - we know this, and subsidise rates as much as we can as often as we can on a case-by-case basis, but there will always be someone who can’t afford to pay for their therapy and we’re not yet in a position to offer sessions for free, especially on a long-term basis. It’s work we’re still doing.

NLMT is interested in forming partnerships with other organisations demonstrating a commitment to intersectional thought and activism. Here are some organisations doing brilliant work:

Women for Refugee Women

Muslim Women’s Network

Young Women’s Trust

And here are some organisations in North London working with women:

Manor Gardens Welfare Trust

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