What better way to mark today’s International Women’s Day than with the French short film, Oppressed Majority, that went viral earlier this year with 8 million hits. It follows a man’s typical day in a matriarchal society, playing out his everyday experiences as well as a sexual assault.
The best bit for me is in the police station – the way the policewoman breezes over the attack, doubts the details of the man’s account and is more concerned with her ‘cutie’ colleague – which is so representative of the way violence against women is still treated today.
Reminds me of a great Instagram post (via make-up artist Kay Montano) from One Billion Rising which tells a story we’ve probably all heard – that one that suggests women are somehow partly responsible for crimes committed against them.
What shocked me this year is the treatment and reactions towards Bridget Harris – the former advisor to Nick Clegg – whose allegations towards Lord Rennard caused an avalanche of shocking responses from men and women. I happened to listen to her interview on Radio 2 and was completely stunned by the women calling for her to ‘stop being so silly’ and suggesting there are more important things to worry about than a creepy touch up the leg, or that reporting is simply playing the victim. Why should any level of touching or groping become something women dismiss with tut or a slap? No level should be accepted, let alone by a high powered male senior.
It’s absolutely shocking that women have not stood in solidarity against stories like this. Today the Guardian debates feminist dissent with fabulously wise words from Selma James:
“There is a new division among women…they are at best an instrument of the other side; at worst they are the other side.”
If we start judging ill-treatment against women on a scale then how, who and where do lines get drawn? Should we not complain about a colleague’s sexual advances here because there are women being stoned in Iran? If we start becoming indifferent about battles in our own yard then battles elsewhere won’t get won. As Bridget says,
“…to all these young women coming into workplaces now I just want to say: please don’t think you have to put up with that, with sexual harassment or bullying by men. Shout as loud as you can.”
And if that’s not enough to get you fired up then let’s not forget that two or more women are killed each week in the UK by violent partners – a shocking reality that still goes relatively unreported. And what about the misrepresentation of women in the media, an issue that never goes away.
That’s why we must never close our ears to what is happening to others; that’s why we must never stop seeking out stories of injustice or discrimination because even if they do not affect us, then our turned-backs just pave the way for more.
I hope the day will come when being female doesn’t play a part in our experiences of crime, careers or politics. When we’re not seen and judged by our gender. A point perfectly expressed by Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt when she was interviewed for the FT earlier this year and berated the journalist for focussing on the wrong things:
She looks intently at me: “To be honest, I don’t want to engage in that conversation. I think it’s a shame if you interview a female politician that the first half of the interview has to be spent on being female in politics. It sort of defies the object.”
Well said! When was the last time an interview with a male politician revolved around his experiences of being a man? That’s because we live in a man’s world. But imagine we lived in a woman’s world… now, wouldn’t that be good?
For more inspirations and discussion around women follow today’s Women of the World event at Southbank Centre via hashtag #WOWLDN on Twitter and check out a few of my favourite female voices:
Natasha Walter, Suzanne Moore, Helen Lewis, Hannah Pool, Bidisha
Happy International Women’s Day xx