Purse Snatching Doesn’t Mean Philly Women Need Male Protection

What the well-intentioned organizers of Handbags 4 Peace get very wrong.


“Where are our men? Why are they not protecting us?”  Tyema Sanchez recently told the Daily News. “Men are failing us. I feel as though we are not being protected.”

And just like that: My brain exploded all over my desk.

Not really. But you catch my drift. I am not picking up what Sanchez is laying down.

But, first: Let’s back up a bit. Women — and men — in Philadelphia are being shot, and sometimes killed, over handbags. It’s exactly the kind of senseless, screwed up, innocent-victim type of crime that makes suburbanites wring their hands and shout about the atrocities of living in a big city. It’s bad for the victims and it’s bad for the city.

In response to this reprehensible rash of attacks, Northern Liberties resident Tyema Sanchez has organized an event called Handbags 4 Peace, which she hopes will activate city officials and community members to protect women. Her political consultant, Mannwell Glenn, thinks this movement will be successful, because “When women get pissed, they get things done.” He is nostalgic for the good old days when thieves honored a “code of the streets” and didn’t harm women and children.

Sanchez and Glenn have their hearts in the right place. Their intentions are good. Admirable, even. The end goal is one I think we can all get behind: Fewer dead women on the streets of Philadelphia.

But their rationale feels like it came straight out of the same fantasy world Glenn references (you know – the one where no woman’s purse was ever stolen in the good, old days.) Hosting an event — even a well-intentioned one — under the premise of empowering the male community to shield the female community from violence misses the mark entirely. (Cue: My exploding brain.)

First, let’s look at the idea that men are failing women by not protecting them from thieves. Even looking at the recent attacks in Philadelphia, this is patently untrue. On January 30, a 24-year-old man was critically shot in North Philadelphia after chasing down his girlfriend’s purse snatcher. Is it better that he got shot instead of his girlfriend?

Regardless, the idea that women need men to protect them from violence is, at best, imprudent. Bullets have no gender bias. Criminals with guns and malice don’t care about which chromosomes you carry. Unless every single man in Philadelphia is carrying a gun at all times — which is not something I’m advocating for – and every single woman in Philadelphia is unarmed, there’s no reason that a man is any better prepared to fight off a mugger.

But it’s not just simple logistics that make Sanchez and Glenn’s assertions troubling. It’s the premise that women need male protection at all.

Muggers, thieves, criminals, misogynists, assholes. Call them whatever you want, but these people target women because they perceive women to be weak. (And we know, of course, that women are not weak at all. See: The 64-year-old grandmother of six who beat off an attacker in Tucson last month.)

Because no matter how you look at it, the issue isn’t about whether or not men have failed to protect women from violence. Women don’t need protection from men to avoid getting shot. Women need people to stop shooting women.

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  • DTurner

    I think this hits on a major trend in Philadelphia. “Old Philadelphians” do not want to see the city reinvent itself for the 21st century, they want to see the city of the 1950s manifest itself once again. There is a subset of the population that has a nostalgia for that era of the city, when the city was cleaner, gender roles were concrete, people FELT safer, and people could get good manufacturing jobs.

    But that is not coming back. In fact, it would be terrible if this era came back because it would mean that the decades of progress that the city has made in becoming a more open and, frankly, more intellectual city would be lost. We as Philadelphians need to realize that our city, like many others, has had many booms and busts and that we will not improve our condition if we spend our time focusing on what WAS instead of what we CAN be.

    Sorry for the digression, I just think this recent movement speaks to a troubling and more deep-seated issue in Philly.

  • Catherine in Center City

    The idea that women need men to protect them is offensive, and uses the same logic as in Saudi Arabia where women cannot drive or travel in public without a man because they must be “protected from harrasment” at all times. This logic ignores the fact that the root of the problem is the crime itself, not whether women have male escorts whereever they go. I dont want to live in a Philadelphia where the solution to crime is to phone a male friend whenever I want to talk somewhere with my purse.

  • John Pettimore

    Uh, women are weak. They’re smaller and nowhere near as strong. Much easier targets, which is why street criminals go after them. However, if, in the name of feminism or whatever, you want to ignore this simple fact, and insist on defending yourselves against physical attacks like this, be my guest. Good luck. Let us unnecessary men — you know, the ones you’ve been telling have outlived their usefulness — know how this all works out for you. Second thought — check in with Hanna Rosin. She’ll know what to do here.

  • pennylaaane

    “64-year-old grandmother of six who beat off an attacker” …I’m just gonna leave that one there for all my fellow immature readers.

  • matthew brandley

    Woman. Its the type of bag you carry that makes it so easy for them to rip you off. Over the shoulder? bam! gone!. try using a bag like a back pack that makes it almost impossible for them to steal. Common sense goes a long way

  • NotFromPhilly

    Good piece. I’d like to see more Erica Palan commentaries here.

  • wildmother

    Intervening when people are bullied, assaulted, in danger or otherwise terrorized is being a good person, man or woman, if circumstances are judged safe enough to do so. When years of hate crimes and assaults started in 2006 in a City Council office and colluded with by the D.A. and police and political leadership citywide to cover up their own crimes and their cronyism, not a single soul stood up to say Stop, you are harming that woman. Interestingly, the link above these comments is titled DA WILL CHARGE VINCENT WADE with LEWDNESS. The DA did not charge the man who publicly said I should be raped and other men agreed. Of the original crimes that I found out about that ignited this City Hall hate crime campaign against me directly involved some of the DA’s best friends and political supporters. Studies prove, the more corruption at the top, the more street crime at the bottom. If City Hall and DA office had handled the crimes on the Mt Airy construction project instead of launching a hate crime campaign against me, the deaths at Market Street would not have happened. Public officials ARE suppose to protect everyone without prejudice.

  • MGTOW 4Ever

    Why should men protect women? What do women do for men?

  • Fredness

    “Where are our men” Your men?!
    If you want a service, then pay a specialist.

    “I feel as though we a not being protected”
    The specialist for that kind of service is called a body guard… look it up!
    I for one am sick and tired of your feelings.

    if she wants a service for free, first we would all like to know what she’s
    done for men lately? What service is she giving freely to improve the lot of men?