Women, How often Do YOU Speak Up?

The latest statistics on rape in the UK (let alone anywhere else in the world) make for grim reading. Research by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics suggests that about 1,000 rapists are convicted every year despite up to 95,000 people being subjected to rape.

How does that happen in a civilised society? When I was a probation officer at least 2 decades ago it was well known that the courts treated women much more harshly for committing the same crimes as men. Things have changed for the better but when it comes to sex crimes it seems not that much; women are still fearful of reporting such crimes. They don’t think they will be believed and the statistics bear that out.

Most people reading those articles on rape will be angry and incensed but probably feel helpless. It is a lot easier now to sign petitions, to support movements like No More Page 3 (See Feminists of all Genders Please Sign Here) but that’s only half the story.

I think as women (and men) we need to do a bit more. Why don’t we speak out more often? Having worked with hundreds of women I know why. Women are fearful of being called humourless (why is speaking out against sexist behaviour indicative of a lack of a sense of humour?), or told they are imagining it, or being over sensitive, or discriminating against men (!), or have no grounds for what they are saying. We need to challenge sexism in all it’s forms, whenever we see it, however uncomfortable that makes us feel, or results in us being called ‘humourless’:

  • when we’re passed over at work for promotion
  • when we realise that male colleagues are being paid more than us for the same job
  • when company policy is designed to penalise women having children
  • when we’re tempted to categorise or judge a woman because of how she’s dressed
  • when we see women being treated badly
  • when casual sexist remarks are made to us or other women
  • when we’re bringing up our sons
  • when we’re bringing up our daughters

We all have to speak up. What stops you?

If you need a little inspiration do read this Miriam O’Reilly’s Speech at Ageism & Sexism in Media And if you’d like a chance to speak up with others, take a look at Eve Ensler’s (Vagina Monologues) article here and join in on February 14th 2013!

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Posted on January 14th, 2013 by

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