Patsy Stevenson: campaigner arrested at Sarah Everard vigil says ‘wider problem’ of misogyny must be battled
Patsy Stevenson tells NationalWorld that no consequences for misogynistic behaviour allows women to be ‘seen as objects’
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Almost one year on from the vigil held for Sarah Everard at Clapham Common and Patsy Stevenson is still in high demand as a spokesperson for women’s safety.
You may recognise her memorable picture from the day when she was arrested. Perhaps you know her from her wider activism roles, or her many interviews on primetime radio and television.
The 28-year-old - who was in attendance on that highly documented day to light a candle in remembrance for Ms Everard - was pinned down and handcuffed by two Metropolitan Police officers.
The police’s handling of the vigil on 13 March, 2021 sparked anger at Scotland Yard.
It was condemned by politicians across the political spectrum - and later prompted an investigation by the watchdog.
Ms Stevenson was reportedly released around 20 minutes after her arrest and given a £200 fine for breaking Covid rules, which she’s now contesting.
How is Patsy still using her voice one year on after the vigil?
She told NationalWorld that sometimes she feels like she’s now living a “double life” after being given a significant platform to amplify women’s voices, particularly those who have suffered from domestic abuse.
The campaigner, originally from Southend-on-Sea, works two jobs while she studies for her physics undergraduate degree - and her phone rings non-stop from the media with daily interview requests.
She said her life has changed in a professional and personal sense, which she’s learning to juggle.
She said: “I’m actually living a bit of a double life because half of my effort is towards activism and half of it towards university so it’s confusing at times - and very hectic - but it’s something that I’m passionate about, so I’m not going to stop.
“It’s a year on and I’m still trying to deal with [the pressure], I guess. I think what pushes me is just the messages that I receive from people saying I’ve helped them.
“It just means that I know that I’m making a difference. And, as long as I’m making a difference, that’s what it’s about, and it makes it all worth it.”
What should society do about tackling sexist attitudes towards women?
Her family has paid tribute to her on the first anniversary, saying she was “wonderful and we miss her all the time”.
Her tragic death started a wider conversation around the safety of women on the streets and sexism at large, after sending shockwaves up and down the country.
Patsy said there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to tackling women’s safety, it’s complex.
She said making misogyny a hate crime and listening to women more from marginalised groups is a step in the right direction.
“A lot of times there are women from marginalised groups who are either black or brown women, Muslim women, trans women, all sorts of different groups who don’t get listened to, who have varied experiences,” she said.
“If we compartmentalise our efforts and just focus on what can we do for women’s safety - without looking at the wider picture of why these things are happening in society and why segregation is applied in society of these different groups - it’s only one small tip of the iceberg.”
What needs to be done to tackle misogyny?
This week, the government overturned proposals to make misogyny a hate crime.
MPs voted 314 to 190, majority 124, to remove the Lords amendment from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on 28 February.
Patsy said there would be a benefit to knowing the scale of misogyny in society and to enforce consequences.
“If things don’t have a consequence, people are more likely to do them,” she said.
“So for example we’ve seen that in the police force where if they don’t have a consequence for this so-called banter, it gets out of hand.”
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has said there is now an obligation on the government to bring forward alternatives that will do something positive for women’s safety.
She added: “Incidences of misogyny, no matter how small they may seem, they’re never small.”
“It will always either lead to people turning into incels or people thinking that they can get away with it and treating women like objects, seeing women as objects.
“We have to battle the wider problem and that just starts with making misogyny a hate crime.”
The term ‘incel’ is a portmanteau of the terms ‘involuntary’ and ‘celibate’. Incels are typically heterosexual men who wish to, but do not, have sexual relationships with women and lay blame at women for it, which leads to this group of men self-defining as ‘victims’.
What action does the new Met chief need to take?
Inevitably, the new Metropolitan Police commissioner will have a long list of issues to tackle once they take over from former chief Dame Cressida Dick.
Patsy said the first thing in their in-tray should be enforcing “radical” change throughout the entire force, not just Scotland Yard.
“The first steps are holding yourself accountable, understanding the wider issues, listening to activists or people on the ground to know what they’re talking about and having lived through these experiences,” she said.
“Then put forward an action plan of how they’re going to elicit radical change throughout the force and not just the Met, but the whole policing system.”
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