Murder victim's sister calls for men's attitudes to change
THE sister of a teenager who was brutally murdered has met Labour leader Ed Miliband in a bid to change men’s attitudes to women.
Sasha Marsden, aged 16, was stabbed to death in Blackpool in January, “sexually defiled” by her attacker while she lay dying or dead and then set on fire in an alleyway.
Her killer, hotel worker David Minto, who police described as “evil”, was sentenced to 35 years in prison after being found guilty of her murder in July.
Her sister, Gemma Aitchison, from Westhoughton, met Mr Miliband at the House of Commonswith Bolton West MP Julie Hilling, after sending him a passionate email Lads mags, music videos, TV adverts, billboards and even tabloid newspapers all objectify women in the eyes of men who therefore are conditioned not to respect them enough, according to Ms Aitchison.
“I don’t think what Minto did could ever be normalised and I’m not for a moment saying that all men out there could do something like that,” said Ms Aitchison.
“But I would say that most men have spoken crudely about women at some point and it’s those attitudes that need changing.”
Ms Aitchison, aged 29, spoke to Mr Miliband for nearly an hour and said his response to her concerns was heartening.
“He put his head in his hands a few times at certain things I was saying,” said Ms Aitchison.
“But he said he would look into the legalities of regulating advertisers and the media which was great and said he’d be in touch.
“He seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.”
A commitment to raising awareness of the dangers of objectifying women goes back to before the death of her sister, Ms Aitchison says.
“I was a single mother raising my six-month-old son, Len, and was treated like the lowest of the low,” she said.
“Men in a similar situation seem to avoid the stigma, which is not right, so I started campaigning like this when my son was about 18 months old.
“I want to make it clear this is not about hating men, it’s simply that 96 per cent of objectification in the media involves women and that is wrong.
“The messages put out is that girls are things and men can do what they want with them.”
Mainstream media outlets help foster such dismissive attitudes towards women, according to Ms Aitchison, who cited the hypocrisy of The Sun still featuring a topless woman on page three, sometimes while condemning a rape on the front, as a prime example.
Ms Hilling said feminism needs to be redefined and that attitudes to women have worsened again recently.
She said: “Feminists now have an image of being man-haters, which misses the point, it’s about being pro-women, not anti-man.
“In the 1980s it was common to see women draped over car bonnets at showrooms, for example, but I felt we had a period after that where society changed.”
Ms Aitchison said a key motivation behind her campaigning was preventing future attacks similar to that suffered by her sister.
“I know this will be a long battle but I’ve no intention of giving up fighting,” she added.
“Even it’s just me going round Bolton talking to shops about their business or sending angry emails to TV networks, I will not give in.”