This blog was first posted two and a half years ago, and things have happened since then. Reasons to be cheerful? Read on. Updates in bold
What is it about men’s treatment of women? Anglicans don’t seem too keen on women as bishops; Roman Catholics don’t seem too keen to have them as priests, and what gives with shooting a child, Mr Taliban man, just because she wants to have an education? What are you afraid of?
Malala Yousafzai, I pray you make it and fight on.
Well, there’s a reason to be cheerful. She made it and how! Nobel Peace Prize and an attack of governments that can afford to fight wars but not educate their children.
Go, Malala and more power to your elbow.
Ah, it’s all down to religion. Well, yes, and no and I’m Christian myself.
That brings us to another reason to be cheerful. The Anglicans, in Rev Libby Lane, appointed their first female Bishop.
Poor male attitudes to women aren’t confined to religious spheres. Yesterday’s Observer carried a couple of stories that make that blindingly clear. The first was about Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister, and attitudes to her based on her gender, not least from the leader of the Australian opposition. Now, I’m not sufficiently up on Australian politics to know if I’d agree with Julia Gillard’s politics or not, but I’d prefer to argue about them with her if I needed to than make silly comments about the size of her derrière or her choice in shoes.
Mind you she seems able to give as good as she gets and, I must say, in the clip below kept her cool better than I may have done given the intensely personal and cruel nature of remarks made about the death of her father. I wonder if such comments would have been made by one male politician to another?
(Update: John Pilger in the Guardian suggests that Julia Gillard is no feminist hero regardless of her resistance to the attacks on her by others.
That may be so, and Pilger makes a good case, one I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with, but noting the caveat above concerning my knowledge of Aussie politics. But, my point remains, I’d want to do battle with Gillard on her policies, on her actions, and not her dress sense or lack of it – that is a distraction and serves only to further infantilise the political scene. “Yah, boo, sucks” never got us anywhere!)
Ah, but that’s just the cut and thrust of politics. It’s a tough place, you might say. Things are different in the more liberal world of, say, the media. Well, no, actually, or so it seems. Another article in the Observer, suggested that the television industry contains a culture in which “Women must still tolerate innuendo and groping” and one which they are afraid to challenge. Young or junior workers desperate for contracts can’t be quite as feisty in response to attacks as the PM of Australia, for example.
The above article coming on the back of the allegations being made about Jimmy Savile it is salient to note that generally the people who reported concerns about Savile’s behaviour seem to have been female while those who ignored them seem to have been men and if the women couldn’t speak out, what chance for girls?
The Savile issue sems to become ever more serious as time goes by, and to involve more and more abused, and more and more who turned a blind eye to abuse by a powerful man with powerful friends. And, just a few days back, we received the report into the abuse of girls in Oxford.
One of the findings of the Serious Case Review is that various professionals possessed a mindset that allowed them to believe that 11 year old girls were consenting to the abuse they suffered.
How far is that from the situation in India in the story told in the film India’s Daughter by Leslee Udwin about the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh?
“We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman,” says one man in Udwin’s film. What is shocking is that he is ML Sharma, defence lawyer for the men convicted of Jyoti’s rape and murder. A second defence lawyer, AP Singh, says if his daughter or sister “engaged in pre-marital activities … in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight”.
Come on, chaps. What is this all about?
Well, it’s a big question no doubt, and, again no doubt, our religious stories play some part in this although certain religions are or were more accepting of women’s leadership, the Celtic Christians among them as well as certain parts of Islam. We also have to remember that holy books like the Bible were written by men, however divinely inspired we believe them to be.
Nevertheless, very early on in the Bible, in the Torah, in one of the Genesis creation myths we have this wonderful picture slipping in. What’s the matter, chaps, miss this one did we?
“So God created humankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Religion is neither the sole reason nor the sole answer to the continuing unequal treatment of women in the world but in a brief and passing comment on a large question, I just wanted to point to this subversive little text.
“Male and female God created them.” In other words, we each of us bear the divine image.
Man up, boys, and let the girls play too. The game is big enough!
(Yes, I know it’s not all men, but the rest of us just need to speak out and act now and then!)
I came back to this blog because, yes, there are reasons to be cheerful, but the story continues, and at the heart of it remains the value or lack of it that men put on women and girls (and sometimes children male as well as female). I came back to this because I read the article below from Suzanne Moore over breakfast and was left with a great sense of sorrow and anger; and the sense that it’s not just a matter of men speaking out and acting now and then but constantly until we do better, until we are better, until women and girls can be safe. So, thankyou, Suzanne Moore, for prompting me to speak again. I just wish you din’t have to.
So, again, man up boys and let the girls play too. The game is still big enough!