The past few days living as a 25 year-old woman in New Zealand have been extremely difficult for me. How I can even comprehend the horror that so many of us have felt with what happened to 22 year-old Grace Millane. Travelling solo on what was to be the trip of a lifetime, this was tragically cut short thanks to a 26 year-old male who thought he had the right to take her life away.
In a way, I feel personally responsible. I thought as a nation, we were better than this. Of all the countries to visit, I would advocate time and time again on my recent OE that New Zealand should be on everyone’s bucket list.
And I guess it’s even more horrific for women to process because we’ve all been there and time and time again we keep telling ourselves we’re not the victims here. Yet, that mentality always gets called into question whenever there is a boy involved. (I say boy because no man raised right would ever question a woman’s right to live.)
And Grace, she will now through no fault of her own be immortalised as a cautionary tale for stranger danger, and the risk of dating apps or travelling alone.
We shouldn’t have to do this, but we do because pretending we live in an equal, safe world doesn’t actually keep us safe or equal.
Why the hell should we have to take into account on a night out, worrying about parking in a well-lit street after dark? Or have our friends or family insist on letting them know we got home safe or walk home at night with a fistful of car keys like Wolverine, ‘just in case’.
It’s not us in the wrong here. It wasn’t Grace’s fault and it’ll never be our fault for living our lives the way we choose.
What gives a 26-year-old boy power and authority to take an innocent woman’s life? Her family’s hearts broken before Christmas and her brother and friends just having unanswered questions like “why”.
Yesterday I read an article that struck a chord. It said:
“My dad once told me that when my mum was my age she never used to pause at give way signs if she had the right of way, because why should she? She was in the right, after all.
He would tell her that was incredibly dangerous – just because you’re in the right doesn’t mean you can trust that other people will do the right thing.
He said that while being in the right is all well and good, it won’t actually matter much if you’re dead.”
Why do we have to do all of the heavy lifting here? As a country, why don’t we treat our sons, nephews, brothers and grandsons what it means to be a decent human being? Because until we shift this narrative from educating women on how to avoid being murdered, to educating men on not murdering, nothing will change.
Living our day-to-day lives has become a subconscious checklist of what comes with being a woman. Like targets for all the fuckwhits out there that threw their morals and decency in the bin along with their excuses of:
“She was asking for it.”
“It’s not my fault I come from a broken family.”
“I was drunk, I didn’t mean it.”
Over the coming weeks, these things along with other horrific tales will come out in the media. All of which are infuriatingly predictable. They’ll question why she was travelling solo, why she was using a dating app, why she was talking to strangers. Turning what would have been some of Grace’s best memories and adventures into a preventative tale of what women shouldn’t do.
These women aren’t the problem here.
Parents – raise your sons right. Teach them about the value of having morals, self respect and a decent work ethic.
Males – become ally’s for women. Call your mates out for what this stuff is – women hating. It stops with you. Show what it means to be a man.
I can recall a few tales of me doing whatever the hell I wanted, because I’m a human being after all. Spontaneous things that I didn’t check off my checklist and where I later think “Shit, that could have been dangerous.” But then when I hear a story like Grace’s, I get upset. Because that could have been me. Her story along with the 13 other women that pay the horrendous price every year in this country due to perpetrated violence from men reminds us that we are vulnerable and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Let Grace be the trigger that this isn’t the time to stand back and do nothing. It’s a time for some nation-wide soul searching. We have a long way to go New Zealand. And don’t get me wrong, most decent New Zealanders will be devastated and absolutely appalled by Grace’s death. But if we are just bystanders in all of this – by witnessing a derogatory comment or a cat call or a bruise – it all comes from the same place, and it has to stop.
The vast majority of us will feel ashamed and empathise profusely with Grace’s family, and will continue to send them all of the love and strength we can possibly muster.
Unlike Grace, I came home full of stories and memories and life experiences that would never have been achieved locked in my room and standing still. Grace won’t be able to share her story and show her friends her photos, or fulfill that dream of becoming an artist, or fall in love, or have her own family one day.
She didn’t get to make the choice.
So on behalf of New Zealand Grace, I am very very sorry that we failed you.