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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