A woman who had her entire life in front of her is being laid to rest today (Tuesday).
That woman’s name, Ashling Murphy, couldn’t be more Irish. The manner of her passing – a brutal attack on a popular walkway – is now the warning, the cautionary tale for Irish men.
It is shocking to men but then men need to be shocked sometimes. We all live in a world of privilege but virtue of birth. I used to run at night and will probably start running again because of the fantastic health benefits it brings.
I enjoy walking late at night around my home town or whichever town I’m in. It’s not something I have to give two thoughts to.
Every now and then an attack on a woman is reported on the news and it makes you stop in your tracks, but this was different.
A teacher going for a run after a busy day to clear the head or get some exercise, should never be the prelude to a murder in a news story.
The news of Ashling Murphy’s killing, and videos and photos of her which flooded the internet the day after – affected me in a way no crime has in a long, long time.
The sheer randomness of it; the unspeakable horror of her killing has united everyone in grief and shock, and brought out the best in communities, who gathered in great numbers over the weekend to honour a beautiful soul whose amazing spirit was snuffed out in a random act of male one female violence.
The question on everyone’s lips at the vigils and now, is how do we, as a society, reduce the likelihood of a similar attack happening again.
The fact is 244 women have died violently between 1996 and 2022. Femicide is broadly understood as the killing of women and girls by men. It differs from male homicide in specific ways as most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners. It is a term used to describe killings of women and girls precisely because they are women and girls.
Femicide is often linked to ongoing emotional, physical, sexual and economic abuse including coercive control perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner against a woman. The understanding of femicide as the murder of a woman because of her gender is important. Women have for time immemorial been seen as the weaker sex when, in fact, they are the more empathetic, stronger and, in my experience, better placed to run organisations and countries even, than men.
The male perception of women as sex objects, powerless, easily manipulated and lesser, in some way, has not left our shores. It’s there for all to see in WhatsApp group messages, in locker room banter; it’s whispered in the corridors of power and is sadly, like racism, part of who we are as a nation.
The arrest of a foreign man for Ashling’s killing got some headlines over the weekend, but will not prevent something similar from happening again.
See, we may be a modern, world leader country, but we still have a lot to learn. In the rush to be strong, to be the quickest, to seem to be good, something has gotten lost, and that something is the ability to imagine what it is like to walk in the shoes (or moccasins – as the American Indian saying goes) of others.
I can only imagine carrying a key between my fingers while running, or having to think about bringing pepper spray with me.