ASK FOR ANGELA

By Eva Mackenzie

The murder of Sarah Everard is fresh in each woman’s mind, and with the re-opening of clubs on the horizon. We need to stop the victim-blaming and tackle the predatory behaviour within club-culture. 

On Monday the 8th of March 2021, we celebrated International Women’s Day. We shared stories about women who inspire us, we put a spotlight on the trials faced daily as women and we urged society to do better. By Saturday the 13th, women across the UK had united to mourn the murder of Sarah Everard and peacefully protest the fear instilled within them by men in our society – and they were met with violence. Each time a woman steps foot out the door the words passed down from generations of women echo in their minds. “Take the busiest route; make sure it’s well lit; wear bright clothes; stay on the phone, and keep your keys between your knuckles!” This is a routine that women have seared into their minds, a routine that could guarantee their safety. But Sarah did all of these things – she did everything ‘right’. 

Women have few spaces free from fear and it’s known that clubbing environments can leave them vulnerable to harassment and assault. In a 2017 YouGov poll, 72% of young people have witnessed sexual harassment in some form during a night in bars, pubs and clubs. It’s time for much of society to understand that just because a woman has dared to dance, she has not welcomed wandering hands.

Dance music, at its core, is about joy. It brings the vibrations of human emotion to fruition, into a universal physical experience. The community that exists around dance music is close-knit and inherently supportive, having been built from the sense of camaraderie felt in the shared ebullient experience. But this sense of camaraderie is tinged with unease for women. 

For many in this community, clubbing is an integral part of their lives. It’s an opportunity to explore new beats and be immersed in a culture based upon self-expression. For men, worry is left at the door. The anticipation of their night is not paired with the expectation of inappropriate comments, touching or predatory behaviour, but according to a 2017 YouGov poll, for 79% of women, it is. These actions are committed by men who view the community as a boy’s club, one that will provide them with protection and turn a blind eye. They see a woman who has let her guard down to enjoy the night as an opportunity, as vulnerable; not a person who, like them, has a love for music. 

This experience is not exclusive to women on the dance floor; the women behind the decks are too often met with objectification and discrimination. Miss World founder Emily Grieve has experienced this first-hand, with men approaching the stand and forcibly manoeuvring her kit. “They just wouldn’t do it if it were a man on the decks.” This is an uncomfortable reality; where the line is drawn is too blurred in the minds of certain men, when it concerns women. 

Clubs and bars have begun to take a stand against this behaviour. The ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign is becoming more widely recognised in the UK, in hopes of providing a safety net for women. It’s a discreet code word that can be used to alert staff that you are being made to feel unsafe or threatened and with the reopening of clubs on the horizon, could save some women from facing Sarah’s all-too-common fate. 

As clubs begin to re-open, we must be hyper-vigilant when we see the warning signs. Be blunt when you see your friend make inappropriate comments. Take a stand when you see someone getting too comfortable with someone who is clearly on edge. If you see it, say it. We must eliminate the behaviour that has perpetuated fear within women for too long. Especially in a community that was built from self-expression and human connection.

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