Probably it’s because the media, in the UK especially, is still significantly populated by white journalists that Everard’s case got more exposure than most. Charlton McIlwain, a professor of media, culture and communication at New York University, says, “A proper victim is one who looks like a journalist.” And there are plenty of white journos in UK newsrooms – 94 per cent of staff are white, according to a 2016 study – who are either thirtysomething middle-class women or know someone who is.
Of course, news outlets aren’t solely responsible for the UK’s disproportionate response to missing women, but they are part of the conditioning that has caused a racial bias to prevail. But when a Femicide Census reports that, on average, a woman in the UK is killed by a man every three days, it’s disappointing to know that it took the death of a pretty, young white woman for our still very male-dominated society to pay attention; that we have normalised male violence to the point there have been more than 100 murders of women by men over the past year and none earned quite so much public outrage; that, actually, only six per cent of these murders were caused by a stranger, while the majority were perpetrated by a man the female victim knew. Why are we not all horrified already?
I’m glad our collective grief over Sarah Everard’s death allowed us to come together, acknowledge and better understand the continuing threat women face. I’d certainly rather it didn’t feel like her life was forfeited in order for many people to wake up to this continuing issue of safety. It’s an inequality experienced by the vast majority of those who identify as female and it’s long overdue that men took greater responsibility for it. But violence towards women is far too common an occurrence for the world to only care when a pretty, white woman is the victim.