'Not all sharks': The words women want men to read to understand why they feel threatened

Marie Claire Dorking
·6-min read
The Sarah Everard case has prompted a divisive reaction with this post going viral on social media. (Getty Images)
The Sarah Everard case has prompted a divisive reaction with this post going viral on social media. (Getty Images)

A clever analogy shared in response to the #NotAllMen argument has resonated with many women on social media in the wake of the death of Sarah Everard.

The 33-year-old marketing executive went missing while walking home from a friend’s house on 3 March and her remains have since been found in woodland in Kent.

Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

Since hearing of Everard's disappearance, women have been sharing experiences of having felt unsafe walking home alone.

Social media has also seen an outpouring of support from men coming forward to ask how they can help make women feel safer on the streets at night.

Watch: The simple hand signal that lets people know you're in danger - and other ways to ask for help

Despite efforts to put focus on the lengths women go to when trying to stay safe in public spaces, the hashtag #NotAllMen has also been trending on Twitter, even trending above Sarah Everard's name at one point.

In a bid to get the dialogue back on track, Ellie Gibson, one half of @Scummymummies, penned a powerful analogy that perfectly encapsulates how many women are feeling right now.

The post compares the minority of men who commit crimes against women to great white sharks.

Read more: Sarah Everard: Women are sharing a simple phone trick that alerts contacts if they're in danger

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"Looks like we have to break this down again, so how about this: there are about 500 species of shark," the post begins.

"Only three eat people. So yeah, your chances of being eaten by a shark are pretty slim. But that doesn't change the fact that the chance exists.

"Nor does it mean that if you go for a swim, and a massive fish with a big f**k off fin starts swimming towards you, you can just go, 'Oh well, statistically that's probably not a great white, no need to panic'.

"Sure, most sharks are harmless! But literally every person you know has been hassled, attacked, or followed home by a shark.

"OK, it's possible we're taking the shark thing too far. But our hearts are broken today, and they are full of rage. Shout-out to the nice sharks, thanks very much for not eating us. But please stop telling us not to be afraid of the great whites."

Gibson's post certainly hit a chord, racking up more than 100,000 likes on Instagram.

Read more: Women are sharing what men can do to help them feel safer after Sarah Everard's disappearance

Speaking to Yahoo UK, Gibson says she wrote the post without giving it too much thought in a bid to better explain how women were feeling and she has been overwhelmed by the response.

"Some people took it literally and thought I was having a go at sharks, so I had to do another post saying 'look, this really isn't about sharks'," she says.

"But there were also a lot of people who are still on this 'not all men' thing.

"But I'm not saying it's all men, in fact I'm saying quite the opposite, I'm saying, we understand it's not all men, we know it's not all men, we don't need you to tell us that. What we need is for you to listen and to understand what we're saying.

"And it's been a bit disheartening that that point has been missed by quite so many people."

Watch: Sarah Everard vigil protester: 'I've never been so scared'

Despite some still not getting it, the post has received hundreds of comments of support including from Emily Clarkson, Cherry Healey and Andrea McLean.

"Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s spot on how we are feeling. We are tired of being afraid," one person wrote.

"Beautifully put. Can’t believe we’re still having to say this," agreed another.

Speaking about the reaction, Gibson says she hopes she has helped both women and men understand the issue.

"It's great that it has resonated with women and we're really grateful for all the feedback we've had from people. But it's been incredibly gratifying to get feedback from men saying they understand it now," she explains.

"Quite a lot of women have tagged men or their partners in the post saying 'this is what I was trying to say to you'."

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Gibson thinks this particular case has touched many because so many women can identify with the very real fear of trying to navigate their way home safely, and she's hoping it could lead to much-needed change.

She says: "It’s all very well saying to men 'you should behave better', and there is an argument that you can't convince the actual murderers, rapists, to be better, so I think it is going to be up to 'the good men'.

"We all know them, those who are not sexist and would never do something like that and wouldn't even laugh at a sexist joke, but they'll ignore it and won't challenge anyone on it.

"Because as a woman it is more difficult to be the one who stands up and says 'this isn't okay'."

Gibson recalls a time on holiday when she was talking to a man about how she was thinking about taking up kung fu so she could protect herself.

"He looked confused, so I explained that I couldn't just walk home from the bar at night and just not think about what might happen to me," she says.

"He told me that he'd actually never thought about that before and what it must be like to live my whole life having to worry about that.

"That was the first time I remember thinking, wow, there's this half the population that just don't get this. Not because they aren't nice men or they hate women, but because it is just not part of their everyday lives."

Read more: Why the divisive reaction to Sarah Everard's disappearance is so important

Gibson says she's also conscious that there is an issue with race, and that there have been Black women who have been murdered who haven't received the same level of attention as the current case.

"I think that is something we need to look at and needs addressing, but hopefully that question will be raised as well. It's just a shame it's taken this to raise it," she says.

Gibson believes change will need to come from the structure of society and the state.

"Cities and public spaces do need to be better designed around women," she says. "We need to think about street lighting and we need to think about, do we need to compensate women, or price the right sort of safe means of transport that's affordable for women or free.

"Because it's all very well saying it's dangerous to walk home on your own, but if you can't afford a cab, or if you have to get from the bus stop to your house, and it's 200 metres, what are you going to do?

"So we're gonna have to bring in some fundamental changes in everything from town planning to the way we behave at work."

Watch: 'I'm sorry you didn't make it home': Violinist plays tribute to Sarah Everard

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