It’s 2018, 100 years since women got theright to vote, a billionaire sexist prune leads the ‘Free World’, comedians aremaking jokes about sexual harassment and the BBC pays its male presentersthousands more than their female co-hosts for doing exactly the same job.
It’s an era where calling a women honeyon a train will lead to a social media storm and a public apology from thetrain manager. Opinion on the matter has been divided, with some describing thewoman who complained as a ‘whining ninny’ and ‘snowflake’, and even going sofar as to applaud the train operator’s Twitter response, which asked the femalepassenger if she would ‘prefer ‘pet’ or ‘love’ next time’.Perhaps the train manager was beinggenial (however unlikely since a witness in the carriage said ‘his response washighly patronising’), but in a day and age where women are regularly fightingagainst a tidal wave of sexism, gender pay gap inequality and misrepresentationin almost every field, then perhaps it wasn’t a case of a woman ‘getting herknickers in a twist’, but another fight against the immense misogyny ingrainedin our culture. ‘Everyday sexism’ the passenger described it as. But we must not lose hope because ofsetbacks like this, women’s rights has made real progress.Last year proved monumental in creatinggender parity. Dozens of actresses spoke up when the allegations againstdisgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein emerged. This unifyingfront was empowering to witness and we could almost share in the satisfactionof seeing this man who thought he was all-powerful and untouchable fall fromgrace.
Also in Hollywood, some of the tophighest 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 gapscandal caused a furore, shedding light on the real differences still presentin the workplace.The Beeb was embroiled in anotherscandal this month after being accused of sexism for using the word ‘fireman’instead of ‘firefighter’ on one of its CBeebies shows. Members of the LondonFire Brigade hit out at the children’s channel for using ‘outdated’ language inthe show.Again, it split public opinion, oneperson chortled ‘when exactly will it become illegal to be a man?’, but while allthese small, everyday qualms may not seem exceptional enough for people toobject to, it’s the casual references, the body-shaming, slut-shaming,victim-blaming – all these little pinpricks that keep on coming until the bubblebursts and the Weinsteins of the world are exposed.Attitudes are changing. Already this month a new law went intoeffect in Iceland requiring companies to prove they are paying men and womenequally. As well as electing its second female prime minster, KatrinJakobsdottir, at the end of 2017, Iceland has now become the first countryin the world to have it written in law that women must receive the same pay astheir male colleagues for doing the same work.
Hurrah!And as the UK prepares to celebrate themarriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May, let us not forget herpersonal effects towards equality. Markle, a UN Women advocate, revealed sheonce fought a sexist dishwashing soap advert which had the tagline “Womenall over America are fighting greasy pots and pans”. Outraged at the ideathat only women wash dishes, Markle wrote to the company behind the ad as wellas powerful women including First Lady at the time Hillary Clinton asking it bechanged. Her fight proved successful with the advert changed to ‘People allover America’.And Meghan isn’t the only high-profileHollywood figure speaking up.
On New Year’s Day hundreds of women in theentertainment industry – including Natalie Portman, America Ferrera and EmmaStone – launched a movement to fight sexual harassment. Time’s Up aims toaddress ‘the systemic inequality’ and ‘injustice in the workplace’ that havekept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.But the responsibility shouldn’t justfall on the shoulders of women. Let’s hope more men take the initiative andbreak down the glass ceiling that they helped create.As Reese Witherspoon, who isspearheading the Time’s Up moment, once said: “Women make up more than half ofthe world’s population and potential, so it is neither just nor practical fortheir voices, for OUR voices, to go unheard at the highest levels ofdecision-making.”