This morning, a headline on the BBC announced: 3 small children were killed in a house fire. The sub-heading read: 2 adult women and 3 small children killed. There were very few details released about the incident at first. My instinctive response to this information was that the fire was started by a man to punish an ex-partner and that the two women may have been in a lesbian relationship. Clearly, this is a massive assumption based on no information whatsoever except that fire is a common weapon used by men to murder women or murder their children as punishment.
More details have been released in the last few hours and the victims are Shabina Begum, the children’s grandmother, Adhyan Nazim, 9, Amaan Nazim, 7, Anum Parvaiz, the children’s aunt, and a nine week old baby girl. The children’s mother survived the fire. At this moment, the cause of the fire is unknown.
My immediate assumption that this fire was set deliberately to punish a woman was not unusual. Many women across twitter were worrying that this was a deliberate fire. And, this is why the “die in a fire” meme constitutes VAWG. It isn’t just a random threat: it is a real and common way for women to be murdered throughout history. It isn’t just “one of those things people say”. It’s a deliberate attempt to frighten women into silence. There is no acceptable excuse to use this language. Ever.
The fire in Sheffield which took the lives of 5 people may turn out to be a tragic accident but that doesn’t change the immediate fear women had in response to the news: the fear that another family has been destroyed by male violence through the use of fire.
The “die in a fire” meme is triggering for women and it is not acceptable.