Rape myths are a key component of what we now call “rape culture.” “What were you wearing?” and “why didn’t you report it?” are two classic rape myth questions that “Me Too” survivors face. Rape myths also have a geography. This gets embedded into the mental map of safety and danger that every woman carries in her mind. “What were you doing in that neighbourhood? At that bar? Waiting alone for a bus?” “Why were you walking alone at night?” “Why did you take a shortcut?” We anticipate these questions and they shape our mental maps as much as any actual threat. These sexist myths serve to remind us that we’re expected to limit our freedom to walk, work, have fun, and take up space in the city. They say: The city isn’t really for you.Excerpt from Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World by Leslie Kern, Verso, London/UK and New York/USA, 2020. First published in Canada in 2019 by Between the Lines, Toronto, Canada.
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, after leaving a friend’s house around 9:00 p.m., 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard disappeared during her walk home in south London. Her remains were found seven days later in a large builder’s bag in a wooded area more than 50 miles from where she was last seen. The man charged with her kidnapping and murder is a 48-year-old Metropolitan Police officer.
Leslie Kern, an urban geographer, is an Associate Professor of Geography and Environment and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. She has a doctorate in gender, feminist, and women’s studies from York University in Toronto. She does research on gender and cities, gentrification, and environmental justice. She is the author of Sex and the Revitalized City: Gender, Condominium Development, and Urban Citizenship. Born in Toronto, Canada, she has also lived in London and New York City.