Our society and all the systems in it are and have been designed to serve men. It has been built by men with male ideas and views.
Misogyny is embedded into every part of our lives. In the workplace, where women are still not paid equally. In the judiciary system, where the laws were created so long ago, when women had no say in any matter. Those laws are still standing to this day unchanged, and it has a huge effect on the way women and girls are treated by the law and society especially as victims.
Women’s bodies aren’t even their own. They are up for grabs to be judged, shamed, picked on, told what they can or can’t do with them. This happens in everyday life when women are told how to dress what men think is sexy or what shape we should or shouldn’t be. In a more apparent and startling form of how little say we have over our bodies came recently in America. The world looked on horrified by the decision to overturn Roe v Wade stripping American women and girls the right to an abortion. As much as it is a shocking rule are we that surprised. America voted in Trump as their leader in 2016 a man who sexually assaulted women and joked about it. When the majority of a country accepts such a leader it speaks volumes on how little they must regard women and girls. The standard was set then and there, and the demise of women’s rights set in motion.
We have seen this a lot in the last few years come to light in the UK with regards to the Met Police and the Domestic Abuse Bill.
The Met police are now in special measures due to its sexism and racism. Victims are notoriously let down by police officers who are either under educated on crimes against women or simply don’t care. A scary volume of male police officers has either killed, sexually assaulted, behaved inappropriately towards women reporting crimes, raped, taken pictures of dead bodies on crime scenes – the list goes on. These are the people we are supposed to trust and look to for protection. This behaviour has been allowed by fellow officers both male and female, open sexism has been completely disregarded, again setting a standard for how women and girls should be treated, and this has awful consequences.
Despite the government recognising there is huge failings in courts particularly family court cases surrounding domestic abuse. They have failed to make the changes needed. In 2020 the Domestic Abuse Bill went into parliament to be discussed and much campaigning happened yet two years on its business as usual in the courts. We still have a lack of education on domestic abuse and the rights of perpetrators are prioritized over the safety of victims and children. The message is loud and clear victims, women, children must endure and stay quiet about it.
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you threaten the man” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
How women are seen by men has an impact on women lives. Misogyny isn’t something that just happened. Its hundreds of years of entrenched ideas and concepts which is hard to break away from. Gender roles play a part in this. We all love a Disney movie but as an adult I have re watched them with some reservations. When Ariel gives up her voice for love, when Sleeping beauty is kissed by a stranger while asleep, Belle meets the angry beast who imprisons her but she manages to change him and fix him. Most the Princesses are pure, kind, beautiful, passive, and gentle. Although this can be seemingly unharmful we send the message to our very young and impressionable daughters that this is what women should be and then send them out to a world where their rights are not yet equal to men expecting them to survive. These movies were made in a time when women had even fewer rights and it served the patriarchy for women and girls to be passive, pure and gentle.
Surely, we now want more for our girls.
Throughout history there have been clear categories set for women to fall in to either the virgin, the witch, or the whore, you can see this particularly in religious scripture, but the essence is still very much here today in our society. There’s very little room for anything in between or a variation. Men wanting women to be virgin like or to have not slept around means they see them as a possession not a person that, that woman is for their gratification and one else’s. A witch historically is any women who refuses to conform, this of course leaves the patriarch with a dilemma as more women may follow and then it messes up the control they have. A whore is what exactly? – a woman who has sex like a man, what hypocrisy.
These categories are then used by men to place women in to, to serve a purpose. It has also been designed to pit women off each other. The whole purpose is to keep women in their place.
“They didn’t burn witches they burnt women”
My Grandma would always say “Keep some money away, put aside in secret – because you never know”, this was said to the girls not the boys. The feeling of vulnerability has been passed down through generations because we all know that as women, we are more vulnerable especially when it comes to pregnancy or having children. We become far more reliant financially on a man often with less job opportunities or wage cuts when facing going back to work. Economically we are vulnerable due to inequalities and bias that leave us at a disadvantage. It gives the impression that us as women and the roles we play are lesser and seen as not as important. Weather that be as a mother or career woman.
What women are expected to do in the home as care givers, cleaners, cooks, childcare props up the family and society. We are seen as natural care givers so that should be the role we assume. Yet women are still not respected within this role and as it is unpaid work, we are left with being financially unsecure and reliant on our husband or partners. It becomes something that is expected and rarely appreciated. I strongly believe that women should chose weather they have children or not, decide to go back to work or not but they shouldn’t be taken advantage of or be placed at a disadvantage whatever the choice they make. Again, we must ask ourselves who does it benefit from women being at such a disadvantage and being placed in such a bias and unsupported role.
“The truth is, a man can chose to objectify a women whether she’s wearing a bikini or a burqa. We don’t stop lust by covering up the female form; we stop lust by teaching men to treat women as human beings worthy of respect.”- Rachel Held Evans
For centuries men have seen women as something for them to possess. So much of how we are expected to look is to get the attention of men and men have become entitled to feel they can glare, heckle, catcall, grope or even worse to women if they feel.
In March 2021 research found that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually assaulted. That’s astonishing. What’s more shocking is that not many men what to address this issue with such a high percent of women being harassed or assaulted it means there must be a pretty high number of men doing the harassing and assaulting. 97% of women can’t be being harassed by only a few men statistically that doesn’t make sense. If you ask most women, they will all have had a story or a few where they have been on a train or at a bar and someone has brushed too close or felt them up. We have all been catcalled down the street or by men passing by in cars or van, felt the unwanted stare of a man in public. On three occasions in my life aged 17, 22, 26 I had men try and take pictures of me whilst on the train. I have been flashed on a train. I have on so many occasions had men glare, squeeze my bum, pester me, the list goes on. If you say you don’t want this attention then your either frigid, a prick tease, or you should be grateful for the attention. There are very few women who find any of this flattering or ok. It confirms that we are seen as something for men to use for their entertainment. 64% of schoolgirls are sexually harassed while in school by boys. From a very young age boys are taught by their elders that this is acceptable. It is well overdue that we tackle this horrific view on girls and women.
We can empower women and girls from young and I absolutely suggest this done so that girls learn to never just accept this behaviour, but we shouldn’t be responsible at such a vulnerable age or ever to have to do this it is Men that need to take responsibility and call this out wherever they see it.
To be honest if you don’t then you become complicit in this behaviour and therefore part of the problem.
What would it be like to feel free, to walk alone and not in fear, not to have to look over your shoulder to see if your being followed, or walk down that dark road, always cover your drink when out, not to have to worry about my daughter being sexually harassed while she should be learning, to be able not to be catcalled or shouted at or touched when you really don’t want it?
Whilst women are seen as objects, we remain seen as lesser than men. That is a dangerous stance for women. It means no respect, it means no equality it means when you report crime it won’t be taken seriously, it means even what we are good at gets weaponised because we are seen as not as important to our male colleagues, partners, siblings, peers. As much as women have been feed the narrative that they must endure men have had it ingrained that they are entitled to behave how they like. With all the statistics we are aware of we must question why the government are so reluctant to make misogyny a hate crime and why they are not prepared to make a stand for all women and girls.
We still live in a man’s world but it’s time to change that.