The battle against misogyny

 

On the day of President Trump’s inauguration  I was teaching a group of 15 and 16 year old students in the final lesson of the day.  I was due to teach them a lesson on Louis Pasteur and the impact of the Germ Theory but decided to spend some time watching the history of tomorrow happen.  We watched the BBC news coverage of the build up which included an interview with two women, in their early twenties, who were university students; one had voted for Clinton and the other for Trump.  The news reporter asked several probing questions including how the Trump voter felt about his comments towards women, in particular the 2005 conversation when he talked about how being a star meant he could ‘grab them by the p***y’.  The woman being interviewed gave a response that made me put my head on my desk in front of 30 teenagers in utter disbelief; she said that it didn’t bother her as ‘that’s just how men are these days’, finishing by saying that women just need to accept it.  I turned down the volume on the television coverage and spoke to my class about the importance of self respect, dignity and pride.

It is unbelievable that, in 2017, the battle against misogyny is still very much alive and, most importantly, that some young women accept the differing standards that can exist.  An article in the BBC History Magazine titled ‘Are women winning their long battle against misogyny?’ poses some interesting questions regarding the historic struggle that women have faced in their fight for equality.  During the Chartist movement in mid 1800s Britain the call for women to gain the right to vote on the same level as men was dismissed as the group believed they would be seen as a laughing stock.  Suffrage campaigners in the early 1900s were often portrayed as spinsters who hated men rather than the confident, forward thinking women they were.  Many men who supported the fight for equality were vilified and accused of affecting ideals of chivalry and masculinity.  Those famous  female figureheads of the suffragette and suffragist movements did not face prejudice, imprisonment and even death for women in the 21st century to accept misogyny as the norm.

2016 was a year where misogyny reared its ugly head in the American Presidential election.  The rhetoric of Trump and many of his supporters towards Hillary Clinton was abhorrent; he said that she was an enabler of her husband’s affair and that she wasn’t strong enough to take on the role of President.  The numerous sexist scandals that surround President Trump demonstrate his lack of respect for women; he belittles and attacks our dignity.  Last year also saw Theresa May become Prime Minister of Britain in rather unsavoury circumstances.  Whilst I am not a supporter, or fan, of Mrs May I have been appalled at much of the press coverage of the person who is charge of running our country.  More often than not press coverage can focus on her outfit or her hairstyle; why does the media feel the need to comment on the appearance of women in positions of power but not men?  Nobody cared about the colour of David Cameron’s suit and tie, they were busy discussing his politics.  Obama and Biden have shown that you can be a strong politician whilst also showing your emotions.  Hopefully this will pave the way for more women to enter the political sphere without the worry of the focus being on their clothing choices or their ability to emotionally deal with difficult situations.

About a week ago I received a text from my friend Helen which said ‘Please write a blog post about Trump and abortion!’.  She, like millions of people worldwide, were incensed by the photo that appeared from the Oval Office during Trump’s first day as President when he signed, in front of a room full of men, a ban on federal money going to international groups that perform or provide information on abortions.  There was outcry on Twitter that this executive order was being signed by men who would have no concept of how it would feel for a scared and worried woman in a desperate situation.  Now whilst this order does not affect women in the USA it is a sign of the Trump administration’s stance on the rights of women and other minorities in America.

When you consider all of the above it is unbelievable that any woman voted for Trump, not even to mention those that did so whilst proudly joking about his misogynistic ideals.

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