THEY found Kim Wall’s head yesterday. Wrapped in plastic, weighed down with metal to ensure it would become another of the sea’s grisly secrets. Then they found her legs and her clothing, similarly bound and submerged with car pipes, and the knife used to stab her 15 times. Her body has been found in stages since she went missing six weeks ago, the latest bags found near to where her naked, headless torso washed up off the coast of Copenhagen. Her arms haven’t been found yet.

She was 30. Swedish. A ferociously bright journalist, Pulitzer grantee, beginning to make a name for herself, a glinting diamond in the kimberlite. She went missing in August, profiling a Danish engineer aboard his 58-foot self-built submarine, the UC3 Nautilus. It was the sort of story she built her life around, travelled the world to seek out, and in her writing she lit up unseen places and unknown people. She should have been safe. She was close to home. People knew where she was.

As the weeks limp on, it increasingly looks like she was the victim of a man’s snuff fantasy.

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Peter Madsen, who first claimed he had dropped her off the day before she went missing. Who then claimed she was killed when a hatch hit her head. Who then changed his story to say he’d buried her at sea, intact, who sunk his own submarine out of shame. Who was then found to have videos of women being tortured, strangled, decapitated and burned.

He insists it was a terrible accident. Kim Wall’s skull showed no fractures, no blunt trauma, no slip of the hatch.

Kim lived the sort of life writers dream about – travelling to China, Cuba, East Africa, North Korea in search of something special. She went places where others would hesitate to go alone. Her work was staggeringly unique, and from everything I’ve read she seemed fearless in pursuit of those stories.

And yet this brilliance is buried by what happened to her. Instead of a long career of travel, of vibrant stories, she’s another headline. Another woman lost to male violence.

Sometimes it feels like the news has you in a chokehold. My friends and I have spoken of how soul-crushing it is to read about women right now. When we see ourselves reflected in the headlines it's so rarely something to celebrate. If it’s something positive, it’s usually confined to the women’s pages, to the lifestyle section. When we make the front pages, there’s a darkness to it. Women are so often the canvas we paint the world’s horrors on and we accept it as "just the news". The slow drip-drip that becomes a wave, washing away hope and leaving us exhausted from swimming against it.

We make the front pages because fake model scouts are tricking young women into sharing explicit photos to extort them. We make them because Irish voters have opposed liberalising abortion laws. We make them because a young woman gets rape threats for not shaving her legs. We make them because a rapist has been granted visitation rights to a child he fathered when his victim was 12. We make them because our headless torso has washed up on the coast of a liberal western city. These are just a fraction of the stories in a single news day. The whole thing feels Atwoodian. Like news beamed directly from Gilead, where women serve a narrow role and punishment is doled out to those who transgress what’s expected of them.

As women in the northern hemisphere of the Western world, we’re told to hush up about equality, while our sisters elsewhere are wheeled out to shut conversations down. Don’t you know there are women in hijabs who aren’t allowed to drive? Don’t you know Daesh keeps women as sex slaves?

When we talk about gender inequality in the west, Middle Eastern women are invoked to demonstrate our comparative freedoms to us. As if we didn’t already know they suffer patriarchy. As if liberation from it is some finite resource that can only be dished out in one location at a time. As if feminism is about point-scoring and not ending a brutal system we all feel in different intensities.

I don’t split my empathy between women far away and close to home. They’re differently oppressed, yes, but still oppressed. Women everywhere are a political class under a system of male dominance, whether they’re in burqas or bikinis. Still being underpaid, still doing the majority of the childrearing, still having their reproductive freedom controlled, still being beaten, still being raped, still dying.

It’s hard to feel like we’ve made much progress when reading Kim’s story. On the surface, everything about it represents Western women’s wins. Yes – she was a journalist because she grew up in a country where she can be educated and have a career. Yes – she could travel the world in pursuit of a story without a male chaperone. Yes – she could choose to spend time alone with a man she didn’t know because she was free to do so as a Western woman. Yes – she was pursuing a story in one of the safest and most liberally progressive countries in the world. But the end was still male violence. None of those freedoms mattered in the end.

What guts me is knowing Kim would have thought about her safety in pursuing the story. Because as women, we have to. When you spend time alone with a man, consciously, subconsciously, you risk-assess. You tell people where you’re going because in some way, in size differential alone, you are always at their mercy. Choosing to go to sea with Madsen would have meant calculating risk with different variables than if she was a man. That’s the reality of being a lone woman – not just doing this job.

Maybe this story blisters so much because like my friends and I, she was a 30-year-old journalist.

The details are easy to map across, so it feels close. We all grew up at the same time. We all saw the world changing fast, being told equality was ours and we could do what we liked. But Kim’s death is a reminder that so much of the wins are superficial, and even more of them are illusory. Whilst we go about our lives, with our relative comforts, feeling free, women live under the long shadow of violence. While today Western women hold many freedoms, they are freedoms within a system where much of the power still eludes us.

The lives we live are dictated by the choices we believe we have, are told that we have until we lose out. Every day the headlines are a sharp reminder to women everywhere: know your place. If this is what equality looks like, then women everywhere need liberation.