November 21, 2019

It’s public apology from the train manager. Opinion on

It’s 2018, 100 years since women got the
right to vote, a billionaire sexist prune leads the ‘Free World’, comedians are
making jokes about sexual harassment and the BBC pays its male presenters
thousands more than their female co-hosts for doing exactly the same job.

It’s an era where calling a women honey
on a train will lead to a social media storm and a public apology from the
train manager. Opinion on the matter has been divided, with some describing the
woman who complained as a ‘whining ninny’ and ‘snowflake’, and even going so
far as to applaud the train operator’s Twitter response, which asked the female
passenger if she would ‘prefer ‘pet’ or ‘love’ next time’.

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Perhaps the train manager was being
genial (however unlikely since a witness in the carriage said ‘his response was
highly patronising’), but in a day and age where women are regularly fighting
against a tidal wave of sexism, gender pay gap inequality and misrepresentation
in almost every field, then perhaps it wasn’t a case of a woman ‘getting her
knickers in a twist’, but another fight against the immense misogyny ingrained
in our culture. ‘Everyday sexism’ the passenger described it as.

But we must not lose hope because of
setbacks like this, women’s rights has made real progress.

Last year proved monumental in creating
gender parity. Dozens of actresses spoke up when the allegations against
disgraced movie mogul 

Harvey Weinstein emerged. This unifying
front was empowering to witness and we could almost share in the satisfaction
of seeing this man who thought he was all-powerful and untouchable fall from
grace.  

Also in Hollywood, some of the top
highest grossing films – The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman –
were all led by female actors.

And lest we not forget the BBC pay gap
scandal caused a furore, shedding light on the real differences still present
in the workplace.

The Beeb was embroiled in another
scandal this month after being accused of sexism for using the word ‘fireman’
instead of ‘firefighter’ on one of its CBeebies shows. Members of the London
Fire Brigade hit out at the children’s channel for using ‘outdated’ language in
the show.

Again, it split public opinion, one
person chortled ‘when exactly will it become illegal to be a man?’, but while all
these small, everyday qualms may not seem exceptional enough for people to
object to, it’s the casual references, the body-shaming, slut-shaming,
victim-blaming – all these little pinpricks that keep on coming until the bubble
bursts and the Weinsteins of the world are exposed.

Attitudes are changing.

Already this month a new law went into
effect in Iceland requiring companies to prove they are paying men and women
equally. As well as electing its second female prime minster, Katrin
Jakobsdottir, at the end of 2017, Iceland has now become the first country
in the world to have it written in law that women must receive the same pay as
their male colleagues for doing the same work. Hurrah!

And as the UK prepares to celebrate the
marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May, let us not forget her
personal effects towards equality. Markle, a UN Women advocate, revealed she
once fought a sexist dishwashing soap advert which had the tagline “Women
all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans”. Outraged at the idea
that only women wash dishes, Markle wrote to the company behind the ad as well
as powerful women including First Lady at the time Hillary Clinton asking it be
changed. Her fight proved successful with the advert changed to ‘People all
over America’.

And Meghan isn’t the only high-profile
Hollywood figure speaking up. On New Year’s Day hundreds of women in the
entertainment industry – including Natalie Portman, America Ferrera and Emma
Stone – launched a movement to fight sexual harassment. Time’s Up aims to
address ‘the systemic inequality’ and ‘injustice in the workplace’ that have
kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.

But the responsibility shouldn’t just
fall on the shoulders of women. Let’s hope more men take the initiative and
break down the glass ceiling that they helped create.

As Reese Witherspoon, who is
spearheading the Time’s Up moment, once said: “Women make up more than half of
the world’s population and potential, so it is neither just nor practical for
their voices, for OUR voices, to go unheard at the highest levels of
decision-making.”

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