An incoming tide

Written by Kate Shannon on 20 December 2017 in Comment

Without a doubt, 2017 will be remembered for the exposure of widespread and endemic sexism, misogyny, harassment and sexual assault

Diversity: Picture credit - PA

At this time of year, inevitably, I start reflecting on the past 12 months. 2017 has been, without exaggeration, a humdinger of a year.

Without a doubt, it will be remembered for the exposure of the widespread and endemic sexism, misogyny, harassment and sexual assault which most women live with on a daily basis

 

What started as accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein mushroomed into the #metoo campaign – begun originally by activist Tarana Burke in 2007 – and became a way for women from all walks of life to highlight the harassment and abuse which pervades their lives.

It transpired that what many women thought was something which ‘just happened’ and which they never spoke about, was an inherent wrong in our society. 

#metoo highlighted terrible examples of just how unequal women’s lives are today, in the so-called developed world, in the 21st century.

What was striking was that almost every woman had a story: women in all industries, from all backgrounds and of all ages, had experienced being harassed, belittled or assaulted in some way.

Months after the initial allegations against Weinstein, stories are still emerging, people are coming forward and for this, I’m thankful. 

One of my favourite books is Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. Written in 2011, it is a hugely amusing memoir of Moran’s life and examines a lot of interesting themes around what it means to be a woman. 

At one point she writes that it really isn’t that difficult to spot sexism or misogyny, you merely need to ask, “Is it polite?”

In the wake of #metoo, the press was full of patronising and frankly, annoying articles for men to ‘teach’ them how to behave. 

If you apply Moran’s logic, these articles become unnecessary, all people need to do is think, “Is this polite?” 

When you keep that in mind, things become clear. So shouting at a woman in the street about the size of her breasts is really not polite, nor is sticking your hand on a stranger’s bum in a bar.

It’s not rocket science.

I sincerely hope that as we move into 2018, the incoming tide of change which #metoo has prompted will continue and that society will further examine its behaviour – and that we will all continue to ask, “Is it polite?”

Despite this subject having been explored extensively in different publications and blogs across the world, we need to keep talking about it, writing about it and keep calling it out because sadly, as women’s history shows, change won’t happen overnight. 

It was only in the late 1800s that a married woman was finally recognised by law as a separate being from her husband. 

Before that, she effectively ceased to exist separately when she got down the aisle.

Also, let’s not forget that women didn’t get the vote until 1918 and it wasn’t until 10 years later that women could vote at the same age as men. In the grand scheme of human life, that’s not very long ago.

So yes, we’ve come a long way in the past couple of hundred years but if #metoo has shown anything, it’s that we’ve got a lot further to go.

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