Two policewomen are murdered: are we more shocked, more horrified, than we would be if two policemen are murdered? It is always shocking when a police officer loses his (or her) life while defending us from criminals, sociopaths and no-marks. You feel humbled and grateful that someone has the courage and the convictions to stand firm against the violent and the drunk, against those who believe normal rules do not apply to them, those who refuse to sign the social contract. You are appalled when they pay the ultimate price for being one of the good guys in Gotham.
I don't hold that a man's life is worth more than a woman's, or vice versa. And yet, when a policewoman dies - there is a particular horror to it. Why is that? Are we still surprised that women are serving police-officers out on our mean streets - moreover on duty together - not with a pleasant, beefy bloke to help out if things get too rough? Does part of us still think of women as frail and fragrant creatures to be protected, rather than acting as our protectors? Do the two officers who died yesterday show how far women have come and are they the price we pay as a society for the word "equality" we bandy about so readily.
In knowing something of the women, we know something of the grief of their family and friends and their fellow serving officers. Greater Manchester constable Fiona Bone was 32 and planning her wedding. Doubtless she had flicked through far too many glossy bridal magazines and talked weddings with anyone who'd listen. Fellow officers apparently loved being partnered with her because she was calm, collected and professional, because she could defuse situations with her "calm, gentle way." Twenty-three year old constable Nicola Hughes was yesterday described by Sir Peter Fahy, her chief constable, as "a chatterbox" who was always smiling, a good listener and someone who couldn't do enough for people. Perhaps we feel their loss because we can understand who they were, because we have been who they were - on the threshold of everything wonderful, young, excited, and in Fiona's case - in love. Gentle, caring, smiling, beautiful - with these words Fiona and Nicola are made 3D women out from behind the flat and grainy photographs in our newspapers and on our TV screens.
Too often there are missing daughters and dead wives, battered bodies of women turn up in shallow graves and locked suitcases and back alleys - everyday victims of violent, predatory men. Tragically, PC Bone and PC Hughes are victims too, unarmed victims of a cold-blooded killer. The world is out of kilter when a police officer becomes a victim, more so when young women have their lives so brutally wrenched away. But I don't want to remember them as victims.I chose to remember them as professionals dying in the line of duty. I chose to remember them as women.